GM has announced a partnership with over 30 electric utilities, who belong to the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), to accelerate the introduction of plug-in electric vehicles.
GM is working to bring a Saturn Vue Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehilce (PHEV) and the Chevy Volt to the marketplace. The Saturn Vue PHEV should be first in 2009, but GM seems to be betting heavily on the Volt (more on that later). But before they get here, they need to answer some tough questions.
According to studies done, the utilities are capable of handling the load put on them by the oncoming fleet of plug-in hybrids, but there questions.
- Can the cars be set to re-charge overnight, when the load is lowest and the charge to "re-fuel" will be lowest for the customer?
- What about those who live in apartments? How will they able to plug-in?
- What about at workplaces, or on trips (hotels)?
- Will local substations need help in providing power at night, when they expect lower needs?
- Can they stagger charges somehow to avoid that.
- What about some sort of recharging station?
GM is also putting together six groups to handle these questions. One group will focus on codes and uniform standards for recharging. They will also be working to encourage the government to set aside some tax incentives, just as they did with hybrids. McCain has already stated he would want a $5,000 tax credit for plug-ins.
GM and the EPRI received a federal grant from the Dept of Energy (DOE) to create a demonstration plug-in Vue to the tune of $10 million. The University of Michigan Transport Research Institute and Michigan Economic Development Corp. are also involved. They won the money for a project to enhance lithium-ion battery packs, charging systems, powertrain development and vehicle integration.
GM Betting Heavily on the Volt Succeeding
The Chevy Volt, due out in 2010, will be a plug-in hybrid vehicle and GM is betting quite a bit on its success. Although the cost of the Volt is predicted to be in the upper $30K range, GM will lose money on each Volt sold.
GM has termed the Volt an EREV, Electric Range Extended Vehicle. The small gas engine will not power the vehicle, it will be used to recharge the battery pack. The electric motor will provide the power. After being plugged in overnight, the Volt will be able to travel 40 miles (or at least, that's the promise) on electric power alone. After that the gas engine will kick in to recharge the battery pack. If your commute is less than that, you may never need to refuel according to GM.
The Volt will need about 8 kilowatt hours to re-charge. If a utility charges 10 cents per kilowatt hour, then you would only pay about 80 cents to go 40 miles according to Britta Gross, a GM engineer.
GM Press Release Follows:
San Jose, CALIF - General Motors announced today that it will collaborate with the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) - more than 30 of the top electric utilities in the United States and Canada -- to accelerate the introduction of plug-in electric vehicles.
General Motors will work with EPRI and the utility companies on everything from codes and standards to grid capability to ensure that when the Volt goes to market, the infrastructure is ready - and customers can realize the full potential of these revolutionary vehicles as soon as they leave the showroom.
Details of the alliance, which is by far the largest and most-comprehensive between an automaker and the electric utility industry, were announced today in San Jose during the Plug-In 2008 Conference.
Among the many things the coalition will address include ensuring safe and convenient vehicle charging, raising the public awareness and understanding of plug-in electric vehicles, and working with public policy leaders to enable a transition from petroleum to electricity as a fuel source.
"Together with EPRI and the utility companies, we can transform automotive transportation as we know it, and get our nation and the world past oil dependence - and heading toward a future that is electric," said Jon Lauckner, GM VP of Global Program Management. "This group is taking significant steps toward making electric vehicles a reality and in helping our customers enjoy the tremendous benefits these vehicles will provide."
Using electricity to power vehicles such as the Volt and the Vue Plug-in is attractive to GM because it can simultaneously reduce the industry's dependence on petroleum and vehicle greenhouse gas emissions. Consumers will also see a tremendous benefit as the cost per equivalent mile of a vehicle powered by electricity is roughly one-fifth of the cost per mile when powered by gasoline.
The coalition of utility companies plays a critical role in developing universal technical standards that will facilitate ease of use and commercial feasibility of electric vehicles.
"EPRI is pleased to collaborate with GM and utility leaders in electric transportation to work together in advancing plug-in hybrid electric vehicle transportation," said Arshad Mansoor, Vice President of EPRI's Power Delivery & Utilization sector. "This collaboration is critical in the development of standards that will lead to the widespread use of electricity as a transportation fuel."
Last month, GM, along with EPRI, received a conditional award from the U.S. Department of Energy to create a plug-in demo program using the Saturn Vue.
In June, GM's Board of Directors committed to production of the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle -- due in showrooms in late 2010. And, at the 2008 North American International Auto Show, GM announced its intention to produce a plug-in hybrid electric version of the Saturn Vue. Given the huge potential vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt and Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid offers for fuel economy improvement, these programs have emerged as top priorities at GM.
"This coalition shares a vision of bringing plug in vehicles to market so we can accelerate the use of electricity as a substitute for gasoline," said Lauckner. "We are focused on creating affordable, highly desired vehicles that will take advantage of the grid - and providing accessible, reliable, convenient low cost electricity to plug-in customers. Collectively, we can realize all of the benefits of the plug-in revolution."