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GM Has Second E-Flex Program Underway for Opel

GM has a product program in place working to develop a series production E-Flex extended range electric vehicle for the Opel brand, according to GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner.

The program is based on the Volt program, Wagoner said, and most of the development currently is underway at the GM Development Center in Warren, Michigan, leveraging the Volt work. Wagoner made the remarks after a speech delivered today at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club.

On Tuesday, GM Europe announced it will invest a total of €9 billion (US$14 billion) into Opel through 2012 with €6.5 billion (US$10 billion) to be spent on the development of new vehicles and propulsion systems. The product rollout is to include 17 new passenger cars, including an extended range electric vehicle based on the E-Flex system, and 3 light commercial vehicles.

Opel unveiled a diesel concept variant of the E-Flex architecture at the Frankfurt motor show (IAA) last year. (Earlier post.) Using a 1.3-liter engine coupled with a 16 kWh Li-ion battery pack, the concept at the time offered up to 55 km (34 miles) of all-electric range. In the announcement about the funding, GM said it is looking at a 65 km (40 miles) electric range for the Opel E-Flex vehicle—i.e., in line with the specifications for the Volt.

Comments

SJC

This is great. If the batteries are still expensive, they can go for 20 mile range. As long as the engine/alternator do not run full time, you can save fuel.

Harvey D

SJC:

If batteries were more modular, one could start with a single 5 KWh pack/module = (PHEV-10) and add a similar pack/module every year or so, up to a 20 KWh complement or PHEV-40+.

This way, you could spread the initial (battery) investment over 3 or 4 years and benefit from much lower battery price as mass production gears up.

Some marketing genius will pick it up one of those days.

Elliot

They seem serious, lets hope they follow through and the 2010-2015 period looks like it may be an automotive renaissance.

SJC

Yup, modular batteries make sense. GM does not want to spend a fortune on batteries that they have to buy from someone else.

Mike L

Harvey:

Reminds me a lot of RAM for computers. Initially as long as manufacturers used the same bay or connectors, you could utilize however much RAM was physically possible to fit into the computer.

Same concept would be great for vehicles as a whole. As time goes on and batteries get smaller and more powerful, as long as users can swap out or add to their current battery "bays" then they can continue to expand upon their current investment.

Potential issues:
1. Car companies wanting all the $$ they can get, so why offer this and instead you would need a new car to go from 10 to 20 or 20 to 40 AER.
2. Much like DVD/Blu-Ray, VHS/Beta, etc... standards within any industry are tough to set and see through properly. Having a spec for batteries to follow would allow all manufacturers to utilize the appropriate battery size/type for their configuration and allow future upgrades. However, a GM only battery vs a VW only battery would only complicate matters and slow overall adoption. It could be another hook for auto makers to hang their hat on as to why they can't deliver yet.

I like your thinking on this one.

tonychill

I read today that Lutz is hinting at an EV Volt, maybe even sooner than the PHEV Volt.

GreenPlease

While we are at it, the vehicle could be engineered initially as a PHEV with the ability to easily pull the engine and replace it with battery packs.

At $0.50/W, a 5kw/hr battery would only cost $2500, which, considering that the genset would be a cheap I3/4, isn't really that much for HEV/PHEV capabilities.

IMO, I wouldn't mind purchasing an inefficient series hybrid that only got 35-40mpg when running on gas as long as I knew I could convert it to a pure EV at a later date.

Herm

I'm sure aftermarket people will offer extended range packs you can tuck here and there in the car.. lots of room in the engine compartment if you leave the engine out :)

The M1 A123 cells can be recharged in 15 minutes to 100%easily, dont know about these new versions but should not be too far off. Amazing cells, they just dont warm up when being discharged.. they do warm up when fast charged and that may ultimately limit the fast charge rate if no cooling is available.

Fast charging may reduce cell life, but it is not something you will do everyday.. only on long trips.

gr

I too like modular stuff, but we have yet to see any major sector adopt standards for batteries. Consumer electronics continue to use lots of proprietary battery designs. This lets them limit warranties and even control small items like chargers. The design issue would probably be that as form factors rapidly shrink, the 2011 module will far outsize the 2015 unit. The other element is designers like flexibility - they may want to move to Li-polymer in sub-compacts or add ultracaps into battery packaging.

In any case a $14B investment indicates 1) GM has plenty of financial clout, 2) E-Flex diesel is a part of their EU market plan. And this all started for "real" a year and a half ago...

SJC

Case in point, laptops. They could standardize on one voltage and one form factor, but they do not. Diskettes had to be standard to able to transfer files, but battery packs do not. USB is a standard because all the PC makers got together and hammered out a standard, which is never easy.

I guess the point is that there has to be a compelling reason for a standard. Disks are obvious. DVD format is obvious. Batteries, not so much. So CarCars and other groups like this one have to push for those standards. The car makers do not want to be constrained and have not worked together like the computer industry. It is not a matter of antitrust, but more a matter of habit.

John

After decades of lead acid starting batteries, we do not have 1 size for internal combustion vehicles. Don't expect a standard for *EV batteries even within an OEM.

What you can expect is that as soon as there is money to be made in the aftermarket, companies will spring up to fill the desires that the OEMs didn't meet.

A/C in vehicles is nearly standard in the US today, but it didn't start out that way. It started as an expensive aftermarket retrofit, then a dealer installed option, and finally OEM equipment.

SJC

Even though tires and batteries are relatively standardized, you still have lots of sizes of both. If we said you MUST have a size 34 battery and you must have a 195 65 15 tire, I don't think it would last long. Designers would say the battery does not fit, the capacity is wrong. The tires are too large or too small and the gearing a suspension will not work properly. Designers and engineers do not want to be constrained. The accountants and managers would love it, less to keep track of. Buyers would like it unless it compromised the style, performance or cost.

doggydogworld

If batteries were more modular, one could start with a single 5 KWh pack/module = (PHEV-10)

You can't arbitrarily downsize the battery. A smaller pack delivers less power. You can get around this by using more expensive batteries or a battery/ultracap combo or something, but that kills much of your cost savings.

Take the Prius pack as an example. Size and cost are the same as a "regular" 2.5 kWh NIMH pack, yet Prius has EV range of only a mile or so and only at very anemic performance levels.

SJC

The obvious problem with PHEVs is that you are hauling around an ICE. Even if you could get speed up to 50 mph and range of 20 miles, you are still carrying a lot of weight in case you need the charging. That does not make a lot of sense if the range could be farther without the weight.

They had some info on the Loremo, which weights only 1000 pounds. They made it super strong and very light right from the start. Amory Lovins has the Fiberforge idea and even has a car built with carbon fiber. He gave the reporter a piece and a sledgehammer and said try to break it. After 3 or 4 blows, he gave up.

The rule of thumb that I heard was reduce weight 10%, increase mileage 5%.
So, if you made a 3000 pound car weigh 2400 pounds the car would go from 20 mpg to 22 mpg. That does not seem like much if that is the case. Yes, you could streamline it and do other things like low roll resistance tires, but the point is what does each percent increase in mileage cost?

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