Something might be amiss in the world when bringing battery technology up to par is considered a “game changer” as GM CEO Dan Akerson described it in an employee meeting, but then again maybe not.
Envia Systems, one of the many small companies GM works with to explore new battery technology, has made a reported breakthrough to offer a new lithium ion battery capable of 100 or even 200 miles of range to future EVs. Anyone who follows the industry will likely scoff after reading that because a 100-mile range is anything but a breakthrough, at least purely by the numbers. Currently automakers like Nissan, Honda and Ford all have 100 mile range electric vehicles that are either already on sale or about to be.
“I think we’ve got better than a 50-50 chance,” Akerson said, “to develop a car that will go to 200 miles on a charge. That would be a game changer,” said Akerson to the Associated Press.
Offering 100 miles of pure electric range is the current industry standard, which is why it seems silly to think of that as anything but making par. A story by the Associated Press discussed Akerson’s speech, but failed to find any conclusion as to why or how this announcement could be so important. In a conversation with GM, AutoGuide might have uncovered what exactly is so important about the new development.
Currently, the Chevrolet Volt can run roughly 35 miles on electricity before its gasoline engine kicks in to add juice. GM hasn’t made it any secret that it plans increase the Volt’s range. A far cry from jumping to 100 miles, the 2013 model will raise its electric range by three miles to a total 38, but that’s without whatever the new technology was that Akerson mentioned during his speech.
We’re always looking for increased energy density and lower cost.,” General Motors Hybrid and Battery specialist Kevin Kelly said in a phone interview. “That’s the holly grail of providing customers with increased range and lower cost and that’s what we’re focused on.”
That, combined with Akerson’s announcement about a battery with improved range would seem to suggest that the company is aiming to offer a Volt with drastically improved electric range. If that were the case, the car’s combined gas and electric motor drivetrain could carry the car between 450 and 550 miles.
“Look at the Volt. The Volt has now been in production for two years. In 2013 we’ll increase battery range by three miles,” he said.
Kelly declined to comment on product specifics, but when pressed he reiterated his point that GM is always trying to improve range and reduce costs for consumers, hinting that the Volt is set for further future range improvement.
When pushed on specifics for increased battery range, he said “I think you’ll see things like that happen,” though on which product and in what timeframe, he couldn’t specify.