Future of GM Volt in Question, Chinese Coda Enters Field
To meet growing demand for fuel-economy vehicles, auto makers including General Motors and newcomer Coda say they are moving ahead with plans to build compact, fuel-efficient electric vehicles for the U.S. market.
However, since General Motors filed for bankruptcy, there has been a lot of speculation about the fate of GM’s long-heralded electric car, the Chevy Volt, reports Scientific American’s 60-Second Science blog, written by Katherine Harmon. The car, previously scheduled for release in the fall of 2010, will run on an electric battery and a small back-up gas engine.
The blog cites William Holstein, author of Why GM Matters, in a Washington Post Q&A, who said he doesn’t know whether GM will be able to produce the Volt. “It would have been, and could still be, a real breakthrough vehicle.”
As General Motors Corp. works to restructure to become profitable again, many hope the Chevy Volt will jump start that effort, reports ABC WJRT-TV Mid-Michigan news. GM has plans to build the 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine (for the Chevy Volt and Cruze) in Flint, Michigan, although the car maker is still in the process of developing the battery technology.
Aaron Bragman, an automotive analyst, at Troy-based Global Insight told the news station that GM has a lot riding on the success of the Volt. “They don’t even have some of this technology even ready for production yet. The thing is supposed to be in production less than two years from now. That kind of shortened development cycle has GM working hard now,” Bragman said in the article.
A recent press release from GM states that it has plans to build a future small car in the United States using an idled UAW-GM facility, adding to its portfolio of U.S.-built, highly fuel-efficient cars including the Chevrolet Cruze and Volt. GM says the re-tooled plant will be capable of building 160,000 cars annually, which can be a combination of both small and compact vehicles.
In April, GM requested $2.6 billion in additional government loans to support the development of three new hybrid vehicles. This was GM’s third loan request, under a U.S. Energy Department program designed to support the development of fuel-efficient vehicles. It was also the first time GM has confirmed that it intended to move ahead with production of variants of the battery-powered Volt.
But GM is not the only car maker looking to launch a new electric vehicle in the near future. Coda announced a new electric car — with a range of 90-100 miles on a fully-charged battery — that will be available in California in fall 2010. The company estimates that it will cost less than $3, on average, to drive 100 miles.
Reuters reports that the Santa Monica, California-based auto maker formally announced a global joint venture between Coda and battery manufacturer Lishen Battery Co., in Tianjin, China during a recent webinar. Lishen is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of lithium-ion cells for companies like Apple, Motorola, Samsung, and Vodafone. Coda will maintain a 40 percent stake in the partnership, reports Reuters.
The global battery partnership has also teamed up with a U.S. company to file a DOE application for federal funding. If selected, the partnership would build a battery manufacturing plant in the U.S., reports Reuters.
Coda has also partnered with a European OEM engineering firm and major automotive assembly plant in China to design and build the vehicle chassis, allowing them to cut major manufacturing costs, according to Reuters. CODA told Reuters that the fully electric sedan will be safety certified for the U.S. market.
Scheduled for delivery in the fall of 2010 in California, the four-door, five-passenger sedan will be priced at $45,000 (mid-$30,000s after a $7,500 Federal tax credit and additional state incentives), which will be about the price of a GM Chevy Volt.
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