Could this be the reason John McCain offered government prize money for someone to produce a battery?Submitted by kipload on Sat, 06/28/2008 - 19:54
Could this be the reason John McCain put forth government prize money for someone to produce a battery?
Prize Money dicussed here:
(Story source: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/general-motors/)
-Originally found on Huffington Post-
"When one of the world’s mightiest corporations throws everything it’s got at a project, and when it shreds its rule book in the process, the results are likely to be impressive. Still, even for General Motors, the Volt is a reach. If it meets specifications, it will charge up overnight from any standard electrical socket. It will go 40 miles on a charge. Then a small gasoline engine will ignite. The engine’s sole job will be to drive a generator, whose sole job will be to maintain the battery’s charge—not to drive the wheels, which will never see anything but electricity. In generator mode, the car will drive hundreds of miles on a tank of gas, at about 50 miles per gallon. But about three-fourths of Americans commute less than 40 miles a day, so on most days most Volt drivers would use no gas at all.
Because it will have both an electric and a gasoline motor on board, the Volt will be a hybrid. But it will be like no hybrid on the road today. Existing hybrids are gasoline-powered cars, with an electric assist to improve the gas mileage. The Volt will be an electric-powered car, with a gasoline assist to increase the battery’s range.
Electric drive is as old as the automobile itself. Anyone who has ridden in a golf cart has experienced it. Compared with the fire-breathing internal combustion engine, an electric motor is simple, quiet, and clean, and it provides marvelous acceleration and torque. For a century, though, the deal-breaker has been the battery. Any battery with nearly enough power to drive a full-size car was prohibitively large and heavy, prohibitively expensive, unable to go more than a few miles on a charge, or (usually) all of the above. Only recently has the advent of lithium-ion batteries brought a full-range electric car into the realm of the practical. Even so, the battery for the Volt doesn’t yet exist, at least not at a mass-market price, and building it poses formidable challenges. Loading enough energy into a sufficiently small, lightweight package is hard (the battery isn’t much good unless it fits in the car); keeping it cool lest it burst into flames is harder; making it durable enough to last 10 years on bumpy roads is harder yet; manufacturing it in high volumes and at mass-market prices may be hardest of all.
Given the challenges, standard procedure dictates first building and testing the battery, and only then designing a car around it. That process, however, would take until 2012 or 2013—time GM does not have if it wants to beat Toyota. The only hope of meeting the 2010 deadline is to invent the battery while simultaneously designing the car. Just-in-time inventory is common now in the car business, but just-in-time invention on the Volt’s scale is new to GM and probably to the modern automotive industry.
Many in the industry will tell you there’s a good reason car companies don’t do things this way. Toyota, which is proceeding much more cautiously with its own plug-in car, has made no secret of its belief that neither GM nor anyone else can keep the Volt’s promises. When I called Menahem Anderman, a prominent battery consultant in California, he said the lithium-ion battery will be expensive—far too expensive to make sense as a business proposition as long as gas is $3 or $4 a gallon. (“At $10 a gallon we can have a different discussion.”) Its life is unproven, and unprovable in the short time GM has allotted. To deliver tens of thousands of vehicles in 2010, Anderman said, “they should have had hundreds of them already driving around for two or three years. Hundreds. Not everybody can say it publicly, but everybody in the high-volume industry is saying, ‘What are they thinking about?’” An executive with a GM competitor, after making some of the same points, offered forthrightness in exchange for anonymity: “They’re making a huge mistake.”
The people at GM understand very well the reasons they’re not supposed to do what they’re doing. They offer a variety of retorts. Batteries will improve and get cheaper. Gas prices will rise. They have two decades’ worth of experience with electric drive. They have smart algorithms to test the battery. Strict new fuel-economy standards will vindicate the business case. But, at bottom, what they say is that the challenge is part of the point. They have something to prove."