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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
 |  Feb 06 2012, 3:02 PM

Despite the hype and sometimes controversy surrounding the Chevrolet Volt, one aspect that’s been decidedly overlooked, is the fact that from the outset it was designed to incorporate future upgrades.

During a three-day teardown by Munro & Associates at their Troy, Michigan based headquarters, representatives from the news agency Reuters were invited to witness the process and discovered some interesting facts about the Volt, specifically relating to its battery pack.

Examining the circuit boards, Munro’s CEO, Sandy Munro, remarked “this is, without doubt, the most advanced board I’ve seen General Motors put on and it’s got room to grow.”

John Scott-Thomas, an engineer with UMB TechInsights, also present during the teardown, said, in reference to a board containing 32-bit Freescale Semiconductor chips from the Volt’s battery inverter, ”there are places here where you can see that it looks as though you should be able to put an integrated circuit and there’s nothing there.”

Such commentary clearly indicates that down the road, GM plans to add additional circuits, with the goal of improving both range and performance, in fact, that was exactly what company engineer Doug Parks told Reuters during a recent interview.

However, Parks also said that despite the Volt employing double the number of Freescale chips found in a conventional internal combustion engined vehicle, GM deliberately played it safe when designing the car, with the view that future batteries would be considerably more efficient.

Although the Volt has come under recent criticism, following a NHTSA probe that showed coolant leaking from the battery pack could cause fires, GM is introducing a strengthened structure around the battery pack to prevent it from happening in the future.

It’s also likely, that given the amount of time and money invested in the Volt so far, it probably won’t be surprising if many of the features incorporated into the car’s battery pack show up in other GM electric and Hybrid vehicles, since not only will it make the technology more profitable, but having the ability to upgrade battery systems will also go a long way to addressing consumer concerns about EV/Hybrid longevity and practicality.

[Source: Auto News]

 |  Jan 20 2012, 4:15 PM

The Nissan Leaf just got a little greener. Nissan is exploring ways on how to reuse the electric car’s lithium-ion battery packs once it can no longer power the emissions-free car.

Partnering with ABB (a power and technology group), 4R Energy and Sumitomo Corporation of America, Nissan is looking for second-life storage applications for lithium-ion battery packs that can be used for commercial and residential purposes. The automaker is testing to see if these reclaimed battery packs can be used as back-up or energy storage systems that can store power from the grid during times of low usage. When the grid is operating at peak demand, the reclaimed batteries would feed the stored electricity back into the grid. The plan is to develop a LEAF battery storage prototype that can store at least 50 kilowatt hours (kWh) – this would be enough energy to power 30 homes for one hour.

It’s interesting to note that after a lithium-ion battery pack has powered an electric car for 10 years, it still has 70 percent capacity remaining. That means it’s viable to power something like a smart-grid community energy management system or for battery energy storage after it can no longer be used in an EV.

“It’s important to Nissan that we manage the complete lifecycle of the electric vehicle battery pack, even beyond its use in a Nissan car,” said Ken Srebnik, senior manager, NNA Corporate Planning. “Innovations in energy storage systems are becoming more viable as the electric grid gets smarter, and Nissan is proud to work with ABB, 4R Energy and Sumitomo to help bring these possibilities to market.”