The car batteries of the future will be made where the automobile was first perfected, right here in Metro Detroit.

State officials have approved tax incentives that will allow General Motors and Ford to develop and build lithium-ion batteries here in Metro Detroit. The two corporate behemoths will invest tens of millions of dollars and create hundreds of jobs thanks to $61.8 million in tax incentives.

Ford received $55 million in tax incentives to advanced battery and electrical vehicle development in Metro Detroit. Think hybrids, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles.

Ford plans to bring four new electric/hybrid vehicles to market by 2012. These include a full battery commercial Transit Connect van-type commercial vehicle in 2010, a full battery electric passenger car by 2011 and plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2012.

GM is considering buildings its lithium ion batteries for the Chevrolet Volt in southeast Michigan. The company would invest about $43 million and create 140 new jobs if and when it makes it happen. GM is still considering other locations, but the state hopes the $6.8 million in tax incentives will convince Mother Motors to stay close to home.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Writer: Jon Zemke

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              The GM EV1 is considered to be the first modern production electric vehicle

As both General Motors Corp and Chrysler are about to submit their detailed restructuring plans in hopes of securing additional bailout billions, it is natural to wonder what would have happened if GM had not killed the EV1?

 

“I think that they would be sitting pretty,” says longtime automotive journalist James Raia.

It was 1996 and Los Del Rio – Macarena was the number one song blaring from American car radios. General Motors had spent an estimated 1 billion to build first modern production electric vehicle.

According to Wikipedia:

 “The EV1 electric cars were available in California and Arizona in a limited (3 year/30,000 mile) “lease only” agreement. EV1s were marketed at first only in Los Angeles, CA and Phoenix/Tucson, AZ.”

The lucky few drivers who were able to get their hands on the EV1 loved the cars. These included some of Hollywood’s biggest stars at the time.  

But Wikipedia reports, “The EV1 was discontinued after 1999, with all examples subsequently removed from the roads in 2003 by General Motors and crushed, except for a select few for educational purposes or museum pieces.  GM stated that it could not sell enough of the cars to make the EV1 profitable.”

According to GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, his worst decision of his tenure at GM was “axing the EV1 electric-car program and not putting the right resources into hybrids. It didn’t affect profitability, but it did affect image.”

That’s putting it mildly to say the least.

“If they had developed the car they would have a distinct advantage in the world today,” Raia went on to say.

The initial EV1 used lead acid batteries, but the later models had NiMH batteries as an option. The car was able to go about 160 miles on a full charge and a total of 1,117 units were built.

What really outraged the public and created a publicity backlash for GM was that the car manufacturer crushed all most all of the cars—partially due to advice from their legal department.

According to the March 13, 2007, issue of Newsweek, “GM R&D chief Larry Burns . . . now wishes GM hadn’t killed the plug-in hybrid EV1 prototype his engineers had on the road a decade ago:

“If we could turn back the hands of time,’ says Burns, ‘we could have had the Chevy Volt 10 years earlier.”

Which brings this story full circle to today’s headlines. It is now up to the Obama administration to decide if they can trust a company that foolishly killed the future of automotive development for short term gain with billions of tax payer dollars.

But then again we were all listening to Los Del Rio – Macarena back in 1996, and many of us could not wait for GM to start selling the tamer civilian version of the Hummer.

ETROIT (CNNMoney.com) — Ford wants to roll out a fleet of hybrid and plug-in cars over the next several years, but it does not want to go down the road General Motors is taking with the Chevrolet Volt.

The Volt, which is expected to go on sale late next year, will use purely electric power to drive the wheels, and a gasoline engine will only be used to generate electricity for longer range. But Ford engineers believe that using a gas engine that way won’t deliver both the fuel economy and performance customers want.

Instead, Ford wants to build fully electric vehicles – with no gas engine at all – as well as advanced hybrids, including plug-in hybrids, where the gas engine drives the wheels directly. Ford believes vehicles like these will better meet real-world needs.

“We just felt that regular hybrids, along with plug-in hybrids and full electric were just better alternatives for our customers,” said Barb Samardzich, Ford’s vice president for global powertrain engineering in an interview at the Detroit Auto Show.

Customers who want all-electric drive can simply buy one of Ford’s upcoming electric vehicles, she said. The automaker plans to introduce a new battery-only electric commercial van in 2010 followed by a new all-electric small car in 2011. The electric car is expected to travel about 100 miles on a charge.

Drivers who want longer range can buy a hybrid or plug-in hybrid where gasoline power pushes the wheels much of the time. Fuel economy for a plug-in hybrid, according to Ford, would be about 120 miles per gallon.

Ford has said it would introduce several “next-generation” hybrids, including a plug-in, by 2012. “Next-generation” hybrids will have more advanced battery technology than today’s hybrids, Ford said, allowing for more efficient performance and less reliance on the gas engine.

Plug-in hybrids will operate like today’s hybrid vehicles – with both gasoline combustion and electricity driving the wheels – but they will be able to take in additional electric power by plugging into an outlet, which allows for such extremely high fuel economy

Electric plan

Ford experimented with its own prototype extended-range electric vehicle, like the Volt. Ford’s was called the Edge with HySeries drive. It used a hydrogen fuel cell instead of a gas engine to generate extra power, but the principal was essentially the same.

But to provide acceptable performance once plug-in power is depleted, Ford engineers believe a gas engine would have to be too large to provide the kind of long-range fuel economy customers want, Samardzich said.

The alternative, she said, would be to use an engine so small that performance would be compromised.

Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for Chevy’s Volt program, disagreed with Samardzich. He insisted that the Volt will perform fine even when electric power was being generated by the car’s fuel-efficient 1.4-liter engine.

“The only minor issue is in an extreme elevation,” he said, “somewhere in Colorado, up a steep grade.”

Posawatz called that a “less than 1% of the time issue” and said it was comparable to what drivers would feel with any small-engined car.

The Volt will by driven by pure electric power and will be able to travel up to 40 miles on plug-in power alone before needing to generate electricity on board. Chrysler has also said it is planning to have a line of such vehicles beginning next year.

Because 40 miles is farther than most Americans drive on the average day, GM and Chrysler boast that their vehicles could potentially go weeks needing little gasoline at all – if any.

Also, by starting with an extended range-electric vehicle, GM is maintaining maximum flexibility to follow where the market leads, Posawatz said. A vehicle like the Volt can easily be sold as a pure-electric vehicle by simply taking out the engine.”

“It’s much harder to go the other way,” he said.

A conservative approach

Ford’s plan for a purely plug-in electric vehicle by 2011, followed by a plug-in hybrid in 2012, would put it behind the plans of GM and Chrysler. Those carmakers, as well as Japan-based Toyota and Nissan, have already announced plans to have plug-in electric vehicles on the market as early as next year.

“Ford, I think, is playing a bit of a card game,” said James Bell, editor of the automotive Web site Intellichoice.com.

Ford is betting that gas prices probably won’t rise sharply in the next few years, Bell surmised. In the near term, the carmakers’ so-called EcoBoost engines – turbocharged engines with highly sophisticated fuel injection systems – will provide the greater fuel economy Americans want as gas prices rise gradually.

“If gas prices go down, Ford’s going to look like the cat with the canary in its mouth,” Bell said.

Ford also simply tends to be more conservative, by nature, than GM, said Michele Krebs, a columnist for Edmunds.com’s AutoObserver.com Web site.

All of these plans are driven by future, stricter federal fuel economy standards, not by natural consumer demands, she said. Despite a lot of media buzz around electric vehicles, consumers would ordinarily only buy them when the price and capabilities genuinely met their needs.

“We’re moving into that era when it’s going to be legislated, so consumers will have to get on board,” she said. To top of page