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Volt and Its Battery Pack Converging on Product and Process Validation in February 2010; Fine-Tuning in Preparation for Start of Regular Production in Nov 2010

The Volt and its Li-ion battery pack have proceeded in parallel through GM’s development and manufacturing process. Next up is the PPV (product and process validation) stage (Feb-Aug 2010) prior to the start of regular production (SORP) in November 2010.

Both the Chevy Volt extended range electric vehicle and its battery pack are converging on the beginning of the product and process validation (PPV) stage of GM’s development and manufacturing process, scheduled to start in February 2010, according to an online status update given by Andrew Farrah, Volt Vehicle Chief Engineer and Bill Wallace, Engineering Group Manager, Voltec Battery Systems.

Both the vehicle and the pack have undergone some expected tweaking on the run-up to PPV based on the testing to date. On the vehicle side, these have included adjustments to address NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) issues when running in electric mode. On the pack and cell side, GM has made minor adjustments in the chemistry (LG Chem’s Li-ion manganese spinel) in collaboration with LG Chem for improved life. The current cell chemistry for the Volt, now in its fourth generation, is the one that will head into production.

Relative to tweaking [the cell], these are very small adjustments. Remember, this application is not a cell phone, we use this [cell] in a significantly different way. The adjustments are primarily for life. That is one of our largest challenges, but also one of the biggest assets for our battery. We think we’ve done some good things...this will be out production chemistry.

—Bill Wallace

GM’s fleet of 80 pre-production Volts has logged more than 250,000 miles of testing so far, and has undergone hot weather testing in Death Valley, as well as mountain testing at Pike’s Peak and Baker’s Grade. During a briefing on the OnEVLAB in October (earlier post), Tony Posawatz, GM’s Vehicle Line Director for the Volt, noted that some Volts are also heading out overseas for testing under other harsh conditions.

GM Battery Technology Evaluation
In a briefing on Li-ion battery chemistries provided in October, Andrew Leutheuser, GM Lead Battery Systems Engineer said that GM uses a four-phase evaluation process that resulted in the selection of the LG Chem cells for the Volt:
  • Phase 0, pre-screening: more than 155 chemistries evaluated on paper.
  • Phase 1: cell screening: more than 60 chemistries tested in GM Labs.
  • Phase 2: cell qualification (resulting in two).
  • Phase 3: pack qualification (resulting in one).
  • Volt battery development. The cells and packs have hit a number of testing milestones of their own, at the cell, module and pack levels.

    More than 50,000 cells have been on test, all without failure, and GM has built more than 300 prototype battery packs. There have been more than 300,000 miles of customer use lab testing to date. Twenty of the 60 Battery Systems Lab pack channels are fully dedicated to Voltec.

    The Volt team has access to another 20 channels on a shared basis, and the remaining 20 are for other GM technology programs, Wallace said.

    (In a tour of the Battery Lab in October, about 10 the Volt T-packs were visible, showing four different configurations of interfaces and connectors. Asked about the differences, Andrew Leutheuser, Lead Battery Systems Engineer, explained that they reflected generational learnings to optimize pack function over the course of the pre-production process.)

    Battery module impact test. Source: GM.

    GM’s new Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant, where the production Voltec packs will be made, is installing its production equipment and is currently in process tests developed in the Battery Systems Lab prior to plant launch.

    GM has conducted more than 150 tests (abusive and in-use) on the prismatic battery cells themselves, including cell penetration; crush; life cycling; thermal stress; overcharge;and performance characterization.

    The battery modules have gone through high dynamic impact testing; static crush; sustained pressure; short circuit; thermal stress; and seal integrity tests.

    Result of a 30° forward impact at 65 km/h (40 mph). The orange T is the battery pack (the vehicle is tipped up to expose the bottom), and appears protected from the impact by the vehicle structure. Source: GM. Click to enlarge.

    The packs have undergone more than 20 tests, including crash; mechanical vibration (a shaker table); corrosion; thermal cycling and shock; and customer use lifecycle. Vehicle crash testing has shown that the pack is well protected by the vehicle structure.

    One learning from the process to date is that the pack internal environment conditions are somewhat different than initially expected. The in-use evaluations, however, have shown that the cells are performing as expected.



    Let's hope it has better marketing support than the EV1.


    Won't need much marketing if it's priced right.

    After all incentives, if it's 35-40K it will have very low sales, if it's 20-25K they will sell as many as they can make.


    It's slated for 35k MSRP. Less the $7500 credits the out of pocket cost will be $27,500. But we all hate GM so much here that it's gotta suck at any price, with any technology, cause it's GM.

    And we hate them.


    Reel$$, good one!
    If they get the Volt into dealer showrooms i won't hate them, even at $37k. At least they will have a REAL product for sale. So tired of waiting for something under $100k.
    The first couple of years the Volt probably won't be very impressive, considering all the new tech and processes. But if they can sell enough to keep it in going a while it might get pretty good.
    If nothing else, it lights a fire under other manufacturers (like toyota) to make a real EV.


    The learning curve for Toyota on the Prius was over 10 years-and their learning process is far from over. A GenI Prius is now an antique. Toyota with its vast resources was able to subsidize Prius from the beginning; some rumors as high as $20k per car early on. GM will have no such luxury.


    DanM: If you're tired of waiting for the Volt, you can do I what I did and put a lithium battery in a Gen-II Prius. That's available now and costs less (even considering the 1K incentive for the battery vs. the 7.5K incentive for the Volt), and the Prius has a very good track record for reliability. Even when the Volt is released, it will take time for GM to work the bugs out. By the time GM rolls out the Volt, Toyota will have its own production model PHEV Prius with all the advantages of a decade of customer experience with the platform.


    My attitude is if GM GAVE me a Volt free of charge - before I drove away... I'd spit in the face of the GM capitalist pig that gave it to me! That's how much we hate em.


    But we all hate GM

    Because they make it so easy to.

    But seriously nordic was right about the learning curve; you can say whatever you will about the EV1 but if GM had just let all the leaseholders keep the cars instead of crushing them the learning curve would be over now and the Volt would be a much better car.


    "The learning curve for Toyota on the Prius was over 10 years". What's to learn?
    They always knew that battery prices would delay profitability for years - but they knew they would get valuable, well deserved credit for marketing the Prius.

    "Even when the Volt is released, it will take time for GM to work the bugs out." Oh yeah, right.
    So meanwhile those twits at Puget Sound Energy buy 1000 Leafs.


    What's to learn?
    They learned to put the electricity thru wires long ago.
    EVs need wheels on the bottom - we already knew that that.

    Use the motor/generator to acelerate AND slow down - got it.
    Make room on the inside for 2 people - NO, wait, for 4 or 5 people they DID learn that from the EV1, and again from the Insight I - years ago.

    How simple do you have to be not to copy whatever EV leads the parade - whenever the parade starts.
    Doesn't every poster on this site think they know exactly how to configure an EV?


    The Volt will have to compete with the less expensive Nissan Leaf. If I had the choice, I'd go for a Leaf anyways. Range isn't an issue with portable little range extending gensets coming out soon.

    It seems fitting that GM will have to work bugs out of the Volt, because they can't seem to do anything right. When I was 13 years old I bought one of the Tamiya radio controlled cars and put it together myself. What is so complicated? The Volt is basically a glorified version of these with a Honda generator in the back for charging up the batteries. This is not ground breaking technology.

    The only issue that might cause problems is safety in a crash. Other than that everything has already been solved 20 years ago by radio controlled car manufacturers!!! Maybe they should hire a few engineers from them!!


    What is soo complicated?

    Well for one thing the same pack you start with has to still be FULLY working when you finaly sell the car.

    Will the leaf do that? No fricken way.


    Q:How much will the LEAF cost?

    "A:At this point, we're unable to give an exact price, but we're targeting a price in the range of other typical family sedans."


    Nissan is leasing the batteries, it's not the customers' problem.


    Um yes it is a problem as the battery lease is the same cost as a car lease so the dang car wides up costing the same as two cars...


    Not true, wintermane2000.

    DOE is getting 4700 Leafs.

    They do NOT pay for TWO cars for every one.

    They do not pay anything for them.

    We do.

    And we don't even know the price.


    Please, don't lay all of the blame on GM for dropping the ball with the EV-1. Save some of the blame for yourself and others who voted for Bush or Nader in 2000. That simple act set the clock back on alternative propulsion development in the U.S. for 8 years. Without regulation and mandates form government, what would you expect from greedy capitalists who are looking to make a fast buck? What do we have to show for the past 8 years? We have lots of environmentally useless Flex Fuel vehicles built solely to help automakers achieve lax CAFE regulations. (By the way, a lot of those flex fuel vehicles ended up in government fleets.)



    We all realize Bush wasn't a good President, but I'm not sure you can blame him for everything that falls short of what your mind would envision as a perfect world. In fact, in 2005 Bush did allocate a good chunk of public money towards research for alternative propulsion technology. To imply that Gore would have been able to delicately balance free market research principles (optimal solution) with his personal agenda seems logically flawed. I'm not sure Gore would have handled the 2001 recession any better than Bush.

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