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back to article GM talks up EV battery longevity tech

With some of our media colleagues giving the distinct impression that the current cold snap is on a par with the one that stopped the Wehrmacht at the gates of Moscow in 1941, Green Fuels Forecast have had a timely chat with some senior General Motors staffers about battery lifespans and operating temperature issues. Temperature …

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Boffin

A familiar figure

"In an effort to prolong the life of the Volt's battery pack, Kruse explained, it won't charge to above 80 per cent of capacity, nor will it deplete to below 30 per cent."

And when did the Tesla Roadster - which uses the same battery technology - run out of steam on the Top Gear test track? Why, with 30% charged batteries, whined the makers.

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BOFH turns his hands to traction batteries

"We'll believe that when we see it, drive something powered by it, or get an electric shock from it."

KZZZZZZZZZZRRRRRRRTTTT!

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Gold badge

"Inside the Ampera"

It's got a seperate chassis / running gear assembly? How quaint.

Nice to see that GM are enhancing their "core competancies" though. That'll be two of them then, the other being "pissing money on the wall" of course.

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Bronze badge

worst decision

was letting opek vauxhall call it the ampera.

waggoner was just saying that about the EV1 to be cool. no-one wanted the EV1! Now they have the Volt, which is a much better car.

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Bronze badge
Boffin

Capacity

So, that means that they only actually use 50% of the nominal capacity of the battery. That seems rather low, considering how much effort has gone into wringing all that mileage out of it in the first place...

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Bronze badge

Solution to cold battery packs is trivial

Cover the battery pack with a layer of high tech insulation (R30 per inch foam). Provide a method to control the access of necessary cooling air. Add some small, low power electric heaters set to turn on at, say, -5C. It won't take much power at all to keep the battery pack above the low temperature limit most of them time. Some smarts in the system would allow the system to give-up when appropriate (obviously can't drain the batteries). For very cold overnight parking at home, aren't you going to be plugged in anyway? If so, then who cares if it sometimes needs 40 to 60 watts of heat to fend off the depths of cold.

In summary - think "well-designed house in a cold climate" and you'll know what to do.

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Only?

Only a 1.4L back up engine? Why no V8?

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Alert

Its Simple Make Cars and Sell them

Google 'Smith Electric Vehicles' And see how EV 's are done properly.

Admittedly these are commercial vehicles/minibusess etc but theres not a huge difference to a car!

The Ford HiPa F150 is worth looking at too.. again not for the public?

Come-on manufactures pull your fingers out. SELL some products...

Note SmithEV have a chioce of battery tech... Mmmm Lithium-Ion Iron Phosphate..

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Alert

Next...

I dont want a friggin engine and transmission what I want is in wheel motors and a phat battery pack. GM is right to 'get into' batteries this is crucial. but so is efficent drive and KERS.

PS its never -10 or +60 in the UK? so why the fuss?? If it was -10 I dont mind it not running.. seriously I can stay at home one day in 5000.

Now I would want emergency service vehicles to run though!

Now why am I thinking two cars? one for commuting shopping etc and one for driving longer distances?

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Anonymous Coward

Why Electric Cars are slow coming to market

Email received from an American:

Why Electric Cars are Slow Coming To Market - You'll Never Guess!

If GM could build the EV1 to go up to 150 miles on a full charge 10 years ago, why can the Volt only go 40 miles on a full charge today? Excellent question. Surely, battery technology has advanced in the past 10 Years, right. Yes, but that's not the real problem. The battery pack powering the EV1 was NiMH (nickel metal hydride). The Volt will be powered by lithium ion batteries like the ones in laptops and cellphones.

So, yes, battery technology has advanced in the last 10 years, but the problem of reduced battery range goes beyond that. The "regression" in battery capability is intentional. Here's why:

In 1994 General Motors bought a controlling stake in ECD Ovonics. By doing so, GM gained control over the development and manufacturing of Ovonics large NiMH batteries. This move also provided GM with all the patents on the batteries. These NiMH batteries were used in the final examples of the EV1 in 1999, and reportedly worked flawlessly. Fast forward a couple of years to 2001, and a relatively unpublicized transaction took place. GM sold its share of ECD Ovonics (and the patents) to Texaco. Yep, the oil company. Six days later, Chevron completed its' purchase of Texaco. So now the battery technology that allowed the EV1 to run for 150 miles without a single drop of gasoline is in the hands of one of the largest oil companies in the world.

In 2003, Texaco Ovonics Battery Systems was renamed Cobasys, a 50/50 joint venture between Chevron and ECD Ovonics. Independently, Chevron owns a 20% stake in ECD Ovonics.

By now, you are probably guessing that an oil company with the patents to a very effective battery technology would never let that technology see the light of day. It could very well put them out of business.

To state that the technology was buried is not entirely true. But what Cobasys did is extensively limit the ability for any one to get their hands on NiMH batteries. Anyone found utilizing the NiMH battery technology that Cobasys had the patents on were sued and sued often, such as Panasonic. In essence, Cobasys controlled the market for NiMH batteries, and they were doing their best to make sure none of the batteries made it into any electric vehicle.

That brings us nearly full-circle to the current crop of electric vehicles, including the Volt. The Volt will run on costlier lithium ion batteries, which will drive up the cost of the Volt. GM could have used the cheaper and proven NiMH batteries, but alas, they sold the patents to Cobasys (Chevron). Do you think Chevron would allow the Volt to be produced with NiMH batteries, eliminating the need for a gasoline engine to supply power after 40 miles? Not a chance.

Cobasys is allowing their NiMH batteries to be used in the Chevy Malibu Hybrid, the Saturn Aura Hybrid, and the Saturn Vue Hybrid. But all of those vehicles are hybrids, so they still rely on gasoline. Not one

vehicle is utilizing Cobasys batteries as the sole source of power.

It gets better. The company chosen to supply the Lithium Ion batteries for the Volt is called A123Systems. Guess with whom they are partnered? Cobasys.

Great. So, to bring this all together the battery technology from 10 years ago that powered a car 150 miles, is now controlled by an oil company, and any new hybrid vehicle in production now relies on batteries from an oil company. Is it any wonder that we are 10 years down the road from the EV1, but have yet to see a true mass market electric vehicle? Not when the technology is owned by an oil company.

I guess we can only sit and wait until 2014 when the patents expire.

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