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GM News: GM May Redesign The Volt's Battery *UPDATED*


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#1

William Maley

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 03:37 PM

William Maley
Editor/Reporter - CheersandGears.com
December 1, 2011

In a interview today with Reuters, GM CEO Dan Akerson said the company may redesign the Volt's battery in response to a NHTSA investigation.

"We want to assure the safety of our customers, of our buyers, and so we're just going to take a time out, if you will, in terms of redesigning the battery possibly," Dan Akerson told Reuters.

Back on Monday, GM announced they would offer loaner vehicles to 5,500 Volt owners after NHTSA opened a investigation into Volt's batteries last Friday.

In addition, Akerson said the Opel Ampera would not go on sale until engineers and safety regulators had worked out how to deal with the 400-pound battery pack after any accident.

Akerson also reiterated that the Volt is a safe car, pointing to the safety ratings the car has received.

Source: Reuters

UPDATE: Dan Akerson told the AP today that the company would be willing to buy Volts back from their owners. Akerson also said that if necessary, GM will recall more than 6,000 Volts on the road in the U.S. and repair them once the company and safety regulators figure out what caused the fires.

"I think in the interest of General Motors, the industry, the electrification of the car, it's best to get it right now than when you have - instead of 6,000 - 60,000 or 600,000 cars on the road," said Akerson.

Source: The Associated Press

Further Reading:
NHTSA Opens Investigation Into Volt Batteries
GM Offering Free Loaner Cars to Volt Owners During Battery Investigation
Chevy Volt Tops Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction Survey

Click here to view the article
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#2

CanadianBacon94

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 06:42 PM

This is definitely going to add fuel to the fire with anti GM people,


any chance a new battery will be more power?
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#3

SAmadei

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:51 PM

This tells me that GM's secret safety procedures are insufficient so far... and yeah, this is really not the time GM needs to give ammunition to the anti-GM press and enthusiasts.
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#4

ocnblu

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 08:46 PM

It's time to kill the electric car.
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#5

CanadianBacon94

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 11:09 PM

Im thinking their going to put something in it as a safety to de-power it upon an accident.

wasn't the first volt that burned found next to a significantly more burned home built electric suzuki car?
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#6

Camino LS6

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 07:22 AM

The buy-back thing seems a bit premature to me.

Probably not too smart to announce that idea.
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#7

Drew Dowdell

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 10:15 AM

What I am more interested in is how many people take GM up on these offers. The buyback offer could be a really big PR coup for GM. Consumer reports says that 93% of Volt owners would buy another one.. That makes them rather unlikely to want to give their current Volt back to GM. That leaves only 503 out of 6,300 Volt owners as even remotely likely to be interested in a buyback. How many of those are going to want a buyback.... 1%?
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#8

Camino LS6

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 10:23 AM

I have no argument with that.

But I still think that the announcement is premature and over-reacts.
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#9

Drew Dowdell

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 12:32 PM

better to be proactive than reactive.... always.

I mean.... it's better than being hauled in front of a Congressional Inquiry about "what you knew, when, and what are you going to do about it?" like Ford and Firestone.
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#10

Z-06

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 01:17 PM

I think I see where Camino is coming here from. As a skeptic of anything GM does, asking for a buy back after quick succession of concessions shows that GM does not have faith in Volt, despite of the so called proactive steps. Here the intentions may have been right, but the move may be wrong.
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#11

Camino LS6

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 03:14 PM

Not so much wrong, as too early - and possibly unecessary.

The loaner option was just announced, and well received, they should have waited a bit for things to clarify before saying anything about a buyback.

The press will spin this into an ugly thing that could damage the Volt (and GM) needlessly.

Reactions to things like this require proper timing, that's all.
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#12

hyperv6

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 03:54 PM

I agree the buy back should have come if there people coming back and just do it on a case by case base. I really don't think many will take up on this as I have seen most defend the car. They are a very loyal group.

As for the battery update it is just one of many running changes we will see. Things are going to happen that no matter how much testing you do, the real world is the real test.

If it was easy to build a car like this everyone would have one.

The key is for GM and those like us here to keep this in perspective and not over react like the press. GM needs to prevent the media from doing a 60 min hack job on this. GM handled the Truck fuel tank issue the one network was setting them up with. Remember they were using toy rocket engines because they could not get a truck to go up in flames as claimed.

GM I think will let them investigate and will publish the facts on this and that will keep them in the clear. It is not like these things are just going off driving down the road.

Like I have stated this car has enemies out there and there are other MFG's and media people who would love to make sure it fails. Some other MFG's know this car could kill their investments into their own EV programs they alread have started. It could make them change direction and cost them millions. That is on top of those who would love to see GM fail anyways.

Edited by hyperv6, 02 December 2011 - 04:01 PM.

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#13

SAmadei

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 07:15 PM

Im thinking their going to put something in it as a safety to de-power it upon an accident.

wasn't the first volt that burned found next to a significantly more burned home built electric suzuki car?


Disconnecting the Volt power supply in an accident is not real difficult. It has the MSD... manual service disconnect. I suppose it could be modified to automagically disconnect service if, say, the air bags were triggered... but the problems with fires will not be solved by this problem because the battery pack is still live.

Removing this charge from inside the battery pack is not a trivial task. You can't just short the battery... and whatever you use to provide a load needs to discharge the battery at a rate which does not overheat the battery... and the load itself needs to be robust enough to dissipate the energy that is in the battery, which is quite a lot in a fully charged Volt battery pack. I imagine building something like this into the battery pack would easily add a hundred pounds of weight and would eat more space in the battery pack that would do better with more lithium cells.

Many forget that in order to fit the energy in Li Ion cells that would fit in a traditional gasoline tank, you are starting to play with chemistry that is highly reactive. The lithium metal is reactive to water, so the electrolyte or coolant cannot be water based... and you can't even let the lithium metal be exposed to air, as there is water vapor in it. Not only is the lithium dangerous, but the electrolyte is highly reactive... and in the case of the Volt, very flammable. If it wasn't flammable, it would still be nasty stuff.

It all suddenly makes gasoline look quite safe.

And while many people think that batteries will get safer and more powerful, I see this as a inverse relationship. More powerful batteries will use more reactive chemistry and will be nastier when damaged... and will have higher electrocution risks due to the massive energy stored and the rate at which it can be discharged. The batteries in your cell phone, laptop and car will be rated as munitions. Luckily, we never had to figure out how to power cars with C4. ;-)

That said, I still look forward to new battery technology... as I want an all electric '68 Bonneville that can do the 1/4 in 9 flat and a Droid that can remote control it all day while streaming Slacker radio without dropping into the yellow battery zone.

Edited by SAmadei, 02 December 2011 - 07:16 PM.

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#14

CanadianBacon94

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 12:08 AM

what i think would be an good way to go with batteries, is if all cars used a universal battery. Say you pull up to a gas station, old battery slides out- new one slides in, you pay for the electricity in the battery and there you go.

While i think this could work, i don't think it is practical in the real world, as batteries are very expensive, while the electricity in them is cheap.
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#15

SAmadei

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 06:12 AM

what i think would be an good way to go with batteries, is if all cars used a universal battery. Say you pull up to a gas station, old battery slides out- new one slides in, you pay for the electricity in the battery and there you go.

While i think this could work, i don't think it is practical in the real world, as batteries are very expensive, while the electricity in them is cheap.


There has been talk of systems like this... but I doubt the manufacturers would ever agree on a standard... even if they could, considering that different cars may have different battery needs. Lets say was use the sizes analogous to common alkaline batteries... A Smart might need 2 AAAs, whereas the Volt uses 2 AA... maybe the Volt CUV 3 AA... but a fullsize SUV needs a C and a tractor trailer gets a monster load of 8 Ds. ;-)

That said, its true the electric is cheap... but the lithium is not. Even a dead battery pack has a lot of value... so either the price of eventual recycling is built into the electric refill cost, or the manufacturers get involve to eat some recycling cost in order to build more electric cars... in which case the cost is piggybacked onto the vehicle cost.
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#16

hyperv6

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 07:00 AM

Noting is cheap at this point but the more they make and advance these systems the price will drop.

As for the problem with the battery we need to know more about what happened and what they are doing to change it. Also was the onstar hooked up and did GM even know these cars were sitting crashed?
Was it the NHTSA not letting GM dischage the batteries or did GM not respond or did they even know?

There are many unanswered questions and from what has been stated GM seems to have a way to deal with the batteries if they know or respond. The question is why was it not discharged?
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#17

SAmadei

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 04:43 PM

Noting is cheap at this point but the more they make and advance these systems the price will drop.


No it WON'T. Unless their is a MAJOR development which reduces the need for lithium, or we discover Greenland is a huge lithium deposit, lithium will remain expensive.

We only recently learned of a large deposit, and its in Afghanistan... so we're going to be making a new group of tin-pot dictators into a major player and battery prices will fluctuate depending on their mood.

Saying that advances will make the batteries cheaper is like saying in 1974 that advances will make catalytic converters cheaper. Well, aside from one advancement (going from pellet to mesh), cats have gotten more expensive... because platinum is still very rare.

Luckily, lithium is not nearly as rare as platinum... but it also has more competition for its use. Only 23% becomes batteries. Plus there is mounting evidence that increasing lithium production is not ecologically sound.

Granted, this chart does not cover 2009-2011, but I assure you, the prices have not plummeted.
Posted Image
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#18

hyperv6

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 07:59 AM


Noting is cheap at this point but the more they make and advance these systems the price will drop.


No it WON'T. Unless their is a MAJOR development which reduces the need for lithium, or we discover Greenland is a huge lithium deposit, lithium will remain expensive.

We only recently learned of a large deposit, and its in Afghanistan... so we're going to be making a new group of tin-pot dictators into a major player and battery prices will fluctuate depending on their mood.

Saying that advances will make the batteries cheaper is like saying in 1974 that advances will make catalytic converters cheaper. Well, aside from one advancement (going from pellet to mesh), cats have gotten more expensive... because platinum is still very rare.

Luckily, lithium is not nearly as rare as platinum... but it also has more competition for its use. Only 23% becomes batteries. Plus there is mounting evidence that increasing lithium production is not ecologically sound.

Granted, this chart does not cover 2009-2011, but I assure you, the prices have not plummeted.
Posted Image


My statment was not just batteries but motors and all other parts in the system that are expensive today due to start up cost and low volume. With higher volumes the price will drop on these parts with compitition and voulume.; Yes the Battery is the most expensive part and who's is to say future power will be Lithium 10 years from now?

Demand is high for a cheaper more efficent power system and not just in the auto segment. This means a lot of investment is being made here and someone will find other options in time. There is a lot of interesting work going on right now in this area and many are showing great promise.
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#19

SAmadei

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 10:03 AM



Noting is cheap at this point but the more they make and advance these systems the price will drop.


No it WON'T. Unless their is a MAJOR development which reduces the need for lithium, or we discover Greenland is a huge lithium deposit, lithium will remain expensive.

We only recently learned of a large deposit, and its in Afghanistan... so we're going to be making a new group of tin-pot dictators into a major player and battery prices will fluctuate depending on their mood.

Saying that advances will make the batteries cheaper is like saying in 1974 that advances will make catalytic converters cheaper. Well, aside from one advancement (going from pellet to mesh), cats have gotten more expensive... because platinum is still very rare.

Luckily, lithium is not nearly as rare as platinum... but it also has more competition for its use. Only 23% becomes batteries. Plus there is mounting evidence that increasing lithium production is not ecologically sound.

Granted, this chart does not cover 2009-2011, but I assure you, the prices have not plummeted.
Posted Image


My statment was not just batteries but motors and all other parts in the system that are expensive today due to start up cost and low volume. With higher volumes the price will drop on these parts with compitition and voulume.; Yes the Battery is the most expensive part and who's is to say future power will be Lithium 10 years from now?


The motors are relatively cheap, already... However, they also depend on a fairly expensive metal... copper. Not long ago, I was reading how the copper supply was scheduled to run out in 5 years... which has had the result of convincing people to start removing long abandoned (for fiber) wiring and upgrade plumbing to PEX/CPVC and selling their old pipes as if it was jewelry.

I still maintain that generator/motor tech is nothing radically new... and either is the controller systems. In general these are similar to forklifts... but the motors are somewhat repackaged.

The only thing 'new' to this stuff are the fact that they have GM part numbers... and need to go through the typical GM part inverted bell curve for pricing.

Who says the future is Lithium? Well, most electric engineers would. It took Li Ion cells from 1979 to 1996 to come to market... and until 2003 to become mainstream... over 20 years. If you read about tech on a regular basis, you will see techs in the news for years before they are ready for the consumer. Where are the flexible solar panels? Foldable/rollable LCD screens? Flying cars? These have been around for roughly 10, 6 and 35 years, respectfully... and are still not here. There is nothing on the horizon that appears to be supplanting Li Ion in the next decade. Even if we invent Mr. Fusion TOMORROW, it would take 10 years of testing and fireproofing before the lawyers let it hit the streets.

Demand is high for a cheaper more efficent power system and not just in the auto segment. This means a lot of investment is being made here and someone will find other options in time. There is a lot of interesting work going on right now in this area and many are showing great promise.


Demand is high for gold, as well. But you still can't turn lead into gold, regardless of the alchemists that claim that "there is a lot of interesting work going on right now in this area and many are showing great promise."

Companies developing any new technology are out to claim being first (to get patents) and to draw in additional investment... and love to spout off lots of promises that don't really pan out. Sure, advances are coming... the laws of physics are putting a brake on the rate of advancements... regardless of demand.

I'm not discounting the possibility that something earth-shattering will develop tomorrow (like Mr. Fusion)... but when you pinpoint the most earth-shattering developments, most occurred long ago... and we live in a time of slower incremental improvement. The only exception to this is Moore's law... but even that is coming apart. Battery development severely trails even the currently busted Moore's law.
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#20

hyperv6

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 05:20 PM




Noting is cheap at this point but the more they make and advance these systems the price will drop.


No it WON'T. Unless their is a MAJOR development which reduces the need for lithium, or we discover Greenland is a huge lithium deposit, lithium will remain expensive.

We only recently learned of a large deposit, and its in Afghanistan... so we're going to be making a new group of tin-pot dictators into a major player and battery prices will fluctuate depending on their mood.

Saying that advances will make the batteries cheaper is like saying in 1974 that advances will make catalytic converters cheaper. Well, aside from one advancement (going from pellet to mesh), cats have gotten more expensive... because platinum is still very rare.

Luckily, lithium is not nearly as rare as platinum... but it also has more competition for its use. Only 23% becomes batteries. Plus there is mounting evidence that increasing lithium production is not ecologically sound.

Granted, this chart does not cover 2009-2011, but I assure you, the prices have not plummeted.
Posted Image


My statment was not just batteries but motors and all other parts in the system that are expensive today due to start up cost and low volume. With higher volumes the price will drop on these parts with compitition and voulume.; Yes the Battery is the most expensive part and who's is to say future power will be Lithium 10 years from now?


The motors are relatively cheap, already... However, they also depend on a fairly expensive metal... copper. Not long ago, I was reading how the copper supply was scheduled to run out in 5 years... which has had the result of convincing people to start removing long abandoned (for fiber) wiring and upgrade plumbing to PEX/CPVC and selling their old pipes as if it was jewelry.

I still maintain that generator/motor tech is nothing radically new... and either is the controller systems. In general these are similar to forklifts... but the motors are somewhat repackaged.

The only thing 'new' to this stuff are the fact that they have GM part numbers... and need to go through the typical GM part inverted bell curve for pricing.

Who says the future is Lithium? Well, most electric engineers would. It took Li Ion cells from 1979 to 1996 to come to market... and until 2003 to become mainstream... over 20 years. If you read about tech on a regular basis, you will see techs in the news for years before they are ready for the consumer. Where are the flexible solar panels? Foldable/rollable LCD screens? Flying cars? These have been around for roughly 10, 6 and 35 years, respectfully... and are still not here. There is nothing on the horizon that appears to be supplanting Li Ion in the next decade. Even if we invent Mr. Fusion TOMORROW, it would take 10 years of testing and fireproofing before the lawyers let it hit the streets.

Demand is high for a cheaper more efficent power system and not just in the auto segment. This means a lot of investment is being made here and someone will find other options in time. There is a lot of interesting work going on right now in this area and many are showing great promise.


Demand is high for gold, as well. But you still can't turn lead into gold, regardless of the alchemists that claim that "there is a lot of interesting work going on right now in this area and many are showing great promise."

Companies developing any new technology are out to claim being first (to get patents) and to draw in additional investment... and love to spout off lots of promises that don't really pan out. Sure, advances are coming... the laws of physics are putting a brake on the rate of advancements... regardless of demand.

I'm not discounting the possibility that something earth-shattering will develop tomorrow (like Mr. Fusion)... but when you pinpoint the most earth-shattering developments, most occurred long ago... and we live in a time of slower incremental improvement. The only exception to this is Moore's law... but even that is coming apart. Battery development severely trails even the currently busted Moore's law.


With such high demand for better battery power in many products today there is more development money being spent now than ever. It is just a matter of time before someone will find a much better, efficent and cheaper power cell. The Prize for the winner or rights holder in this case will be high.
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