A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... Actually, no--fairly recently and not so far from home, the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory patented a battery technology known as nickel manganese cobalt (NMC).
Discovering and patenting new battery technology in an era so reliant on battery-powered goods is a serious business and can potentially be hugely profitable for any company using the tech. Realizing this, General Motors have put their foot in the door early and signed a non-exclusive licensing agreement with Argonne for the NMC technology, along with South Korea's LG Chemical.
The General and LG are already intertwined, since the South Korean concern produces a battery in Michigan that's used in the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. GM are now interested in using the NMC technology for its next stage in the Volt's development. Seth Fletcher at Popular Science has discovered that the NMC tech is already embedded in the Volt, so GM and LG are clearly lucky that Argonne was willing to license the technology.
The agreement is important for all parties though.
For General Motors, it allows them to use a high technology not yet adopted by other manufacturers, and in a burgeoning marketplace this potentially gives them a competitive edge, and according to Jon Lauckner, President of GM Ventures, "[allows] GM to continue to work on next-generation battery systems to reduce cost and improve performance". Reduced cost and improved performance are attractive to customers, so the tech bodes well for future GM electric vehicles.
Not least, the importance of new battery technology in a new era of electric cars has been brought into focus by the recent industrial espionage scandal at Renault, where employees as far up as executive level have been suspended for sharing technology secrets with Chinese companies.
The licencing agreement is important for LG because it allows them to continue their partnership with General Motors - the largest domestic automaker in the largest auto market in the world. Likewise, GM can continue their partnership with LG, benefiting from the rapidly increasing Far East market.
The partnership also puts America on the map as a force to be reckoned with in battery technology, and more automakers are sure to follow GM's lead to benefit the car industry and national economy as a whole.