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Electric Cruze a Volt out of the blue

Cruzing by: Don't be fooled by the Volt livery - the car is a Cruze with plug-in hybrid technology.

GM boss rolls out plug-in Cruze at new US battery lab opening

15 Jun 2009

THE first evidence that technology from General Motors’ forthcoming Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid will soon emerge in mainstream models surfaced last week when president and CEO Fritz Henderson arrived at the launch a new global electric vehicle battery systems laboratory in a Cruze.

Despite being described as a ‘Chevrolet Volt engineering development mule’, the photographs clearly show that the vehicle presented on stage and driven around the new facility at GM’s technical centre in Warren, Michigan, was the Chevrolet/Holden Cruze.

Holden sources have also confirmed to GoAuto this week that the vehicle has Volt underpinnings.

As well as demonstrating that development of a Cruze using technology from the range-extending Volt hybrid is well underway at GM, the emergence of the car again raises the prospect of an Australian-built version.

While the conventionally powered Cruze now entering Australian showrooms is built in South Korea, Holden will – as GoAuto has revealed in recent weeks – manufacture the sedan in the second half of 2010 alongside a hatchback based on the same Delta II architecture.

13 center imageLeft: GM president and CEO Fritz Henderson arrives at the GM battery lab opening in a Cruze engineering mule. Below: Inside GM's new battery lab.

This architecture also forms the basis of the Volt, which Holden has committed to selling in Australia – badged as a Holden – from 2012.

The Australian manufacturer is still to reveal whether it will be given the green light to build the hybrid version, confirming only that is has the ability to produce it – and any other model based on the Delta II platform.

Housed in a facility previously occupied by an internal combustion engine research laboratory, GM’s new Global Battery Systems Lab – the biggest in the US – is designed to accelerate US development of battery technology and to lead GM’s existing battery labs in New York State and Germany.

According to GM group vice-president of global engineering Jim McQueen, the lab is dedicated to testing electrochemical battery cells (a capability not available in GM's previous battery lab) and to evaluating completed battery packs.

The facility will work in partnership with LG Chem, with whom GM has contracted to supply lithium-ion battery cells and related electronic components for the production Volt, which goes on sale in the US from late 2010 ahead of volume production in 2011.

GM announced at the Detroit motor show in January that it would establish its own lithium-ion battery pack plant – a first for a major car-maker – in Michigan next year.

The test lab is expected to be critical to the new manufacturing plant, which will take the LG Chem battery cells and assemble them into packs for the Volt and other future models. The packs can be charged from mains electricity, powering the Volt for up to 64km before a small petrol engine-generator takes over to extend the range by hundreds of kilometres.

GM claims the Volt will use 1842 litres less fuel than a comparably sized petrol-powered vehicle that returns fuel consumption of 7.8L/100km, based on US research that shows 75 per cent of commuters average less than 64km daily.

GM has more than 1000 engineers working on battery technologies, which also include nickel-metal hydride developments.

Mr Henderson said the new lab would help to put cleaner, more efficient cars on the roads more quickly. “Our new lab improves GM’s competitiveness by speeding the development of our hybrid, plug-in and extended-range electric vehicles, including the Chevrolet Volt,” he said.

Holden used the Melbourne International Motor Show in March to reveal the first images of what its version of the Volt would like when it reaches Australia in 2012. At the time, GM Holden chairman and managing director Mark Reuss said the vehicle had the potential to “change the game in Australian motoring”.

“Since we announced our plans to introduce the Volt to Australia, we have been overwhelmed by public interest in the car and the technology that makes it work,” he said. “There is no doubt that Volt’s advanced propulsion systems represent some of the most exciting alternative-fuel developments in motoring.

“At Holden, we believe Volt will play an incredibly important role in our efforts to make motoring better for the environment.”

Read more:

First look: Holden Volt emerges

Opel Ampera emerges from GM's Volt

Local Cruze to join new Holden hatch

GM puts squeeze on Volt batteries

GM confirms Chevrolet's electric Volt for Oz

GM jump-starts battery plant

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