In a response to a recent study by researchers at CMU on the cost-effectiveness of different sizes of battery packs for plug-in hybrids (earlier post), Jon Lauckner, GM Vice President Global Program Management, wrote on the GM Fastlane Blog that the current cost of the Volt Li-ion packs is “many hundreds of dollars per kWh” lower than the $1,000 kWh figure used in the study.
Moreover, our battery team is already starting work on new concepts that will further decrease the cost of the Volt battery pack quite substantially in a second-generation Volt pack. Unfortunately, the impact of dramatically lower battery costs (to $250 per kWh) was treated only as a “sensitivity” in the CMU study when it probably should have been highlighted as THE critical element that would dramatically change the cost-effectiveness of plug-ins with greater electric-only range.
...The bottom line is there isn’t anything in this study that would change the decisions we made for the Chevy Volt. We think a plug-in offering 40 miles of gas- and emissions-free driving like the Volt is the sweet spot for the majority of customers because nearly 80 percent of drivers can drive their daily commute and return home for an overnight recharge that avoids inconvenience for them and additional daytime load on the electric grid.
Actually, as I read the conclusions of the study I had a feeling of déjà vu. Some years ago, GM didn’t introduce hybrid technology as quickly as we should have because it wasn’t considered “cost effective” at the time—and we aren’t going to make that mistake again. In fact, the more vehicles powered by the Voltec system we can put on the road, the faster we’ll see the costs for batteries, power electronics and electric drive motors come down due to economies of scale and innovation. This will lead to even greater adoption of plug-ins and a new way forward for our industry.