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G.M. Opens Its Own Battery Research Laboratory

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the under-pressure dept.

Power 173

Al writes "Bankrupt automaker G.M. has taken a significant step towards reinventing itself by opening a battery laboratory in Michigan on a site that once churned out internal combustion engines. The new facility lets G.M. engineers simulate all kinds of conditions to determine how long batteries will last once they're inside its vehicles. Battery packs are charged and discharged while being subjected to high and low temperatures as well as extremes of humidity. Engineers can also simulate different altitudes by placing the packs in barometric chambers. The facility has also been designed so that engineers located in New York and Germany and at the University of Michigan can perform experiments remotely. Despite its financial troubles, G.M. has committed to producing the Volt and is already working on second- and third-generation battery technology at the new lab."

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Too little too late (1, Insightful)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284303)

Yeah, they're back on the bleeding edge!

Now actually take it in a positive direction... (2, Interesting)

Romancer (19668) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286749)

Now actually take it in a positive direction for once.

Many companies have these testing facilities for green sources of energy. How about you do something novel for once.

Make the battery discharging a lot more real world and practicle. Have them discharge to the power grid.

Have it help the plant at least by powering some lights or machines when you discharge the energy instead of creating waste heat in simple electrically resistive or mechanical resistance dummy loads.

Rant/
Show us that you can actually think on your own in front of the others and you'll get some respect. Or keep following the pack in the back and get left behind for dead. It's the little decisions that got you here, the ones that unnervingly followed the most greedy and predictable paths that lead to the american people finally being forced to give your company money. Not for a product that was better or a service that they chose over others. You got the money because we hate seeing our symbols fail. The ones that are supposed to prove that America can produce the best because of our market and our freedoms. So instead of seeing it fail, we nail the coffin closed ourselves by proving that if a business can't earn the market share, the government will buy 60% and keep it alive rather than admit that it has failed. /Rant

Significant step towards reinventing GM... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284345)

Bankrupt automaker G.M. has taken a significant step towards reinventing itself by opening a battery laboratory in Michigan

I've never been a fan of smilies or sarcasm symbols but for the first time I feel I see the need for them. This was joke, right?

I never thought... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284347)

...I'd own part of a battery research laboratory!

Re:I never thought... (4, Funny)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284449)

So you didn't expect the battery inquisition?

Re:I never thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284717)

NOBODY expects the battery inquisition!

BTW, sure is nice that GM was so busy building SUVs for the last eight years they couldn't be bothered to do research like this.

Re:I never thought... (2, Insightful)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285221)

Sure is nice that you spent your money on SUVs for the last eight years, that they didn't have any financial incentive to do research like this.

Re:I never thought... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286311)

We could hardly buy what they don't sell.

Fixed that for you... (5, Informative)

tlambert (566799) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286337)

Fixed that for you...

"Sure is nice that you spent your money on SUVs for the last eight years, that they didn't have any short term financial incentive to do research like this."

Maybe if they thought a little longer term and remembered "the energy crisis" from 1973 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_oil_crisis [wikipedia.org] as they were designing their vehicles, people would want to buy them now.

Or maybe if GM hadn't discontinued the EV1 in 199 and then taken all the EV1's and crushed them in 2003 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_EV1 [wikipedia.org] , they'd have something to sell that people want to buy.

Or maybe if instead of discontinuing them in 2001, they still sold Suzuki G10 XFi engine based Chevy Sprints / Geo Metros which got 51MPG highway, 43 MPg city, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzuki_Cultus [wikipedia.org] , they'd have non-hybrid cars that exceeded the new CAFE standards already.

GM had the products and manufacturing capability for success in the current economy, but they squandered it all on short term thinking, like investments in GMAC (which got about 7% of last Novembers TARP bailout money after declaring itself a bank, or $5 billion http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GMAC [wikipedia.org] ).

-- Terry

Re:Fixed that for you... (2, Interesting)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286661)

There's some interest in small cars with small engines in the US, but you've got to admit that it isn't that substantial. Small cars sell in Europe and Japan, but larger cars sell in the US. A large part of this is due to perceptions of safety; your family will be perfectly safe if they're encased by a 4-ton steel cage.

The Top 10 Best-Selling Cars of 2008 [cars.com]
* Ford F-Series: 515,513
* Chevy Silverado: 465,065
* Toyota Camry: 436,617
* Honda Accord: 372,789
* Toyota Corolla: 351,007
* Honda Civic: 339,289
* Nissan Altima: 269,668
* Chevy Impala: 265,840
* Dodge Ram: 245,840
* Honda CR-V: 197,279

Three large trucks, and a crossover SUV make the list. Notice also that the Accord outsells the Civic, and the Camry outsells the Corolla. Large cars sell.

Personally, I believe that maneuverability is more important to safety than structural integrity, so my personal choice for less than $50k would be a Lotus Elise, but I don't have kids, and I realize I'm not in the majority.

Re:I never thought... (2, Funny)

Rufty (37223) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286233)

No, it was a shock.

Re:I never thought... (0, Offtopic)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284585)

If you're old enough I'm sure you did through the old AT&T. Bell labs might as well have been publicly owned since it was created by government mandate and supported through backdoor taxes of monopoly pricing.

Re:I never thought... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28286633)

Don't worry: If it ever turns a profit, you won't see any of it.

Oh really? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284371)

I'd like to make a safe bet that this research lab is going to be used exclusively to butter up Congress with tours for more bailout money.

Re:Oh really? (2, Interesting)

dammy (131759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284991)

We don't call GM Government Motors for nothing! I expect to see large Government matching funds on down payments for Volts to counter the 50% increase we are going to see on the Cap and Trade scam. Guess the Cap and Trade is the secret weapon for the Volt, the national power grid couldn't handle that type of additional load of Volts being plugged in unless the demand for power dropped by equal amount because people can't their power bills.

Re:Oh really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285417)

I feel ya' bro. I can't my power bills either.

Re:Oh really? (2, Interesting)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286019)

Guess the Cap and Trade is the secret weapon for the Volt, the national power grid couldn't handle that type of additional load of Volts being plugged in unless the demand for power dropped by equal amount because people can't their power bills.

Read?
Pay?
Eat?
Fondle?

The power grid has baseline generation, and then supplemental generation. Increasing off-peak usage might cause some supplemental generators to remain on all night, sure. But with a more balanced day/night load, it would make more sense to bring online more baseline generation, which in general is more energy efficient and cleaner, too.

And if the grid can handle mid-day August, it can handle charging Volts at night. I'd have no problem requiring houses with car power stations to be Smart Grid capable, so their use can be cycled off in the rare case that too many people try to recharge their cars in the afternoon.

Re:Oh really? (4, Interesting)

Artifex (18308) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286787)

I'd like to make a safe bet that this research lab is going to be used exclusively to butter up Congress with tours for more bailout money.

I suspect that, myself. GM already had at least one battery research facility; Charlie Rose was taken on a tour of it, LAST YEAR.

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/9226 [charlierose.com] (Part 1, or maybe it was in Part 2)

One word (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284411)

Cobasys

Back to step 1. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284425)

GM was so far ahead of everyone else with the EV1. Sure it was a money loser, but had they kept that line of cars around in limited production they could have worked out all sorts of problems with mass producing electric cars and they would have owned all the patents and know how in the area for 20 years. Instead, they killed the program, dumped all the IP they gained from it and went back to building SUV's and pickup trucks.

Insane.

Re:Back to step 1. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284473)

And so they will die a slow well deserved death, oh wait, bailout!

Re:Back to step 1. (4, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284637)

They looked at the EV-1 as a solution to a legislative (not economic) problem. Once they got California to back down on the zero emission requirement and bought federal laws that said noone could be more restrictive than California they figured there was little need to keep the program around. Since 51+% of passenger vehicles sold were light trucks and SUV's I would say their reasoning was fairly sound.

Re:Back to step 1. (4, Insightful)

MrLogic17 (233498) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284757)

Exactly.

A question for the conspiracy theory crowd:
If the was so much demand for an electric car back in the 90's, why did GM, Ford, Honda, and Toyota all end production? If there's money to be made selling 100% electric cars, why didn't someone, somewhere on this very large globe make them - thus making a killing being the only supplier?

At the very least, why hasn't someone made a fortune refurbing used cars into electric?

My theory is that it's the same reason my laptop dies after about 60 minutes....

Re:Back to step 1. (2, Insightful)

lavacano201014 (999580) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285001)

You forget to charge it?

Re:Back to step 1. (2, Insightful)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285301)

If his notebook is from the 90's, the battery cost well over $100 and it would be a fluke if it held any charge at all.

There are plenty of cars from the 90's, many of them worth less than the replacement cost of a battery for his notebook computer.

If that's too vague, I think what we're trying to say is that battery technology was *REALLY BAD* in the early to mid 90's

Re:Back to step 1. (1)

AioKits (1235070) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285025)

My theory is that it's the same reason my laptop dies after about 60 minutes....

Full screen hardcore transgendered nazi eskimo midget porn? ... Just saying, not like I know...

scuttled by Chevron (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285215)

Read up on the Toyota RAV4EV electric vehicle first sold in the US in 1997. It was based on the RAV4 body and could travel 120 miles per charge.

The RAV4EV was sold direct to consumers in 2002 in California and cost $33,000 after rebates.

The car was discontinued when Chevron gained rights to NiMH battery patents and forced Toyota to stop producing them for their cars.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rav4ev

Re:scuttled by Chevron (1, Informative)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285401)

source snippet:
Discontinuance
Toyota discontinued the RAV4 EV program one day after the passing of new air-quality requirements by CARB. CARB eliminated most of the Zero Emissions Vehicle requirement, substituting a greater number of partial zero-emissions vehicles (PZEVs) to meet the requirement.


Um, seems to me that the reason it was discontinued was because the law made it no longer necessary for car makers to produce them. They only did produce it in the first place because CA required it of them.

The part you probably mean to cite refers to the fact that Chevron discontinued production of the battery. This just meant that Toyota would need a new supplier; no small task indeed. But hardly the reason it was discontinued. The law still stated they had to produce zero emission vehicles, that is until the law changed. The very next day they stopped offering the RAV4EV.

But nice try anyway.

Re:scuttled by Chevron (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285963)

from the same wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rav4ev

Whether or not Toyota wanted to continue production, it was unlikely to be able to do so, because the EV-95 battery was no longer available. Chevron had inherited control of the worldwide patent rights for the NiMH EV-95 battery when it merged with Texaco, which had purchased them from General Motors. Chevron's unit won a $30,000,000 settlement from Toyota and Panasonic, and the production line for the large NiMH batteries was closed down and dismantled. This case was settled in the ICC International Court of Arbitration, and not publicised due to a gag order placed on all parties involved.[1][2] Only smaller NiMH batteries, incapable of powering an electric vehicle or plugging in, are currently allowed by Chevron-Texaco.

Re:scuttled by Chevron (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286095)

Irrelevant. If they were a hot seller, they wouldn't ahve been discontinued. American automakers ahve tried electric cars many times. The market just wasn't there for mas production.
That was until gas prices hit 4+ per gallon.

Re:Back to step 1. (2, Funny)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285251)

A question for the conspiracy theory crowd:
If the was so much demand for an electric car back in the 90's

[starts singing]
Who keeps back the electric car? Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star? We do! We do!

Re:Back to step 1. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285373)

If there's money to be made selling 100% electric cars, why didn't someone, somewhere on this very large globe make them - thus making a killing being the only supplier?

1) GM didn't actually sell them. They came up with some horrible stupid and mangled "you can only lease this car" scheme.
2) GM only made the car available in a very small amount of markets and even those people who lived in the market never heard about it.
3) The patents for the large automotive NiMH batteries that would be used for such cars had it's controlling stake bought out by an oil company. It doesn't take a conspiracy to see that an oil company isn't going to let their business dry up.

At the very least, why hasn't someone made a fortune refurbing used cars into electric?

Because no one except on a huge scale, and even then it's hard, can buy Cobasys' NiMH batteries?

Finally, it's amusing to hear two big executives at GM commenting on how canceling the EV1 was actually one of the biggest mistakes that GM made if we are to believe you and the GP.

According to former GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, his worst decision of his tenure at GM was "axing the EV1 electric-car program and not putting the right resources into hybrids. It didnâ(TM)t affect profitability, but it did affect image."[17] Wagoner repeated this assertion during an NPR interview after the December 2008 Senate hearings on the U.S. auto industry bailout request.[18]

According to the March 13, 2007, issue of Newsweek, "GM R&D chief Larry Burns . . . now wishes GM hadn't killed the plug-in hybrid EV1 prototype his engineers had on the road a decade ago: 'If we could turn back the hands of time,' says Burns, 'we could have had the Chevy Volt 10 years earlier.'"[19]

read up on the Toyata RAV4 EV and Chevron Patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285425)

The Toyota RAV4 EV was an electric vehicle with about an 80 to 120 mile range.

Toyota stopped producing them after a combination of these two things happened:

1) Selling the EV's no longer helped Toyota meet it's U.S. CARB averages
and
2) Chevron aquired the patent for the NiMH battery technology and sued Toyata and Panasonic winning $30 million.

Toyota sold less than 1600 of them, so it was not profitable, but damn, they had a 120 mile range vehicle that did hwy speeds in 1997.

Re:Back to step 1. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285551)

If the was so much demand for an electric car back in the 90's, why did GM, Ford, Honda, and Toyota all end production?

Stupidity, caused primarily by short sightedness and the easy availability of cheap gas due to the HUGE amount of subsidies given to the car industry.

Re:Back to step 1. (2, Interesting)

TClevenger (252206) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285769)

They looked at the EV-1 as a solution to a legislative (not economic) problem. Once they got California to back down on the zero emission requirement and bought federal laws that said noone could be more restrictive than California they figured there was little need to keep the program around. Since 51+% of passenger vehicles sold were light trucks and SUV's I would say their reasoning was fairly sound.

Actually, that's not quite true.

The mandate came about because of the EV1. GM showed California that an electric car was feasible, and California decided to start mandating manufacturers to produce them. This caused GM to panic and do everything in their power to shut down the EV1 program.

Interesting, BTW, that GM is planning their own battery research facility. One of the reasons the EV1 was so expensive was that GM's partially-owned subsidiary parts manufacturers (Delco and Delphi) insisted that they be allowed to develop and manufacture the parts of the car (controller, motor, batteries) that GM had already sourced elsewhere for much lower cost. Rather than using better quality and cheaper batteries from elsewhere, the original EV1s came off the assembly line using essentially custom-built one-offs from GM's suppliers.

Re:Back to step 1. (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284667)

I heard that there was actually reasonable demand for the EV1.

Obligatory conspiracy theory movie. [wikipedia.org] I wouldn't mind the GM bailout if they devoted more research to hybrid and alternate-fuel vehicles.

Re:Back to step 1. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285061)

you're just echoing the same shit other clueless fucktard repeats when the topic of electric car comes up.

Re:Back to step 1. (2, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285439)

That's the point, I'd hoped that people would provide more information instead of just wasting space like you and I just did.

THIS IS WHY WE CANT HAVE NICE THINGS.

Re:Back to step 1. (2, Insightful)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284697)

So instead of losing money on the EV1, they built other money losing cars.

Re:Back to step 1. (1, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285349)

Well cars lost them money. Their campaign contributions, on the other hand, talk about return on investment !

If I give Obama a dollar, do I get 6000 back from the government too ?

Re:Back to step 1. (1)

jeff4747 (256583) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286857)

Sure it was a money loser, but had they kept that line of cars around in limited production they could have worked out all sorts of problems with mass producing electric cars

Um....notsomuch.

For example, the EV-1 couldn't be driven anywhere that gets cold in the winter. Hence it was only available in Southern California and Arizona. It was not a vehicle that was ready for "prime time". It only came to market due to CA's emissions laws.

Next step for GM.... (1)

Zibben (1451167) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284525)

flying cars that fold up into suit-cases. Seriously though it's good to see this happening, even if it took a bankrupcy to wake them up.

Re:Next step for GM.... (1)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284639)

No no, you're right, we're just six years away [bttf.com] from real flying cars, so I guess 10 years away from foldable ones!

Re:Next step for GM.... (1)

Loko Draucarn (398556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284891)

Fortunately, we're only 8 years from personal car-suitcase lifter robots.

"Of course it's heavy, Marty, there's a car in there!"

Re:Next step for GM.... (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284885)

It took Q four suitcases to fit a gyrocopter in...although I suppose without the anti-air defenses we could shrink that to three...

I'm not impressed...no need for research... (4, Funny)

PalmKiller (174161) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284529)

China makes lithium batteries that can release large amounts of energy all at once...the fireballs are spectacular.

Re:I'm not impressed...no need for research... (2, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285779)

Awesome! Then all we need to do is devise a system whereby these batteries are loaded into a cylinder, compressed, exploded, and the force of the explosion used to drive the cylinder piston and perform the other stages of the process in the other cylinders. Then we could build a bunch of battery stations where you go to fill up your batter tank with fresh batteries. The earth is saved!

Re:I'm not impressed...no need for research... (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286527)

[...] stations where you go to fill up your batter tank [...]

Mmm, Terminator waffles!

This lab has been there for years (5, Informative)

Mr.Zuka (166632) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284533)

This lab has been there for some time.
I saw it on PBS comparing the old EV1 battery to the new Volt pack.
Apparently it was recorded in 2005.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1046766/ [imdb.com]

Change I Can Believe In (0, Offtopic)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284543)

Obama will Eruo Jr. into the ground.

Financing? (1, Insightful)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284551)

How can GM afford such an expensive, long-term research facility? Oh, that's right: the money they saved by stiffing workers, pensioners, and their families in bankruptcy.

Re:Financing? (4, Insightful)

swb (14022) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284587)

I'm sorry, but you misspelled "the money they're fleecing from the taxpayers."

Re:Financing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284649)

The really sad point you both missed.... is that you are both right.

Re:Financing? (3, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284659)

In all honesty, if we end up spending $100 billion and end up with some amazing battery technology as a result, I will consider it worth it. Better than a lot of the other trillions we've been throwing around.

Re:Financing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284801)

I voted for the other guy, but McCain wanted to give $300 million to a company (or researcher) that came up with a next generation battery that met specific requirements.

Then again, maybe GM should buy back A123 that the acquired in the great 'growth is everything' stock market bubble, then had to sell to Texaco/Chevron to raise money back in the late 90s/early 2000s.

The real battery research is on radiation batteries from spent nuclear fuel. It is out of Los Alamos labs, but we spend tax money on that as well (and it would be a good thing if they would sell their inventions directly to pay off the national debt)

Re:Financing? (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285037)

That's the problem. Even if it's public money used to bail out GM they'll still claim the patents as theirs, their own, their preciouses.

Re:Financing? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285379)

Still worth it.

Re:Financing? (1)

Manchot (847225) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285479)

Are you aware that the federal government is now the majority shareholder in GM? Therefore, any patents that GM obtains will now be owned (indirectly) by us. If the federal government successfully sells its stock through an IPO in a couple years, as they are planning to do, we'll get that money back.

Our last $800 billion bought us... (2, Funny)

Burning1 (204959) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285433)

Very true... Our last $800 billion only bought us a bunch of dead Arabs.

Re:Our last $800 billion bought us... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28286889)

Very true... Our last $800 billion only bought us a bunch of dead Arabs.

Dead Arabs who are _not_ flying planes into our buildings. Or worse.

In all honesty, if we end up spending $800 billion and end up stopping some amazingly evil plan to dirty-nuke a city as a result, I will consider it worth it. Better than a lot of the other trillions we've been throwing around.

I don't like the odds (2, Insightful)

Nerdposeur (910128) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285863)

In all honesty, if we end up spending $100 billion and end up with some amazing battery technology as a result, I will consider it worth it. Better than a lot of the other trillions we've been throwing around.

Yes, IF. On the other hand, maybe GM will produce mediocre batteries, but will use its government subsidy to undercut and crush a great battery-producing startup. Or maybe batteries are a dead end, and fuel cells are the answer, but GM/Congress are not astute enough to figure it out.

Why are we betting on a proven loser? Why not just create an X-Prize for energy storage and let the best company win?

Re:I don't like the odds (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286549)

Are you seriously asking me to try to defend government spending? The government that just spent $700 billion directly to bailout banks? The government that nearly has a deficit approaching the size of its GNP? I don't think it's a reasonable task. In fact, you seem to have completely missed my main (unwritten) point, that this at least has a chance of being better than a lot of the other government spending I've seen in the last year.

Re:Financing? (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286257)

Fine. You pay for it, then.

Re:Financing? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286989)

Sadly enough, I am. My part of it, anyway.

Re:Financing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28286587)

...end up with some amazing battery technology patented by GM...

Re:Financing? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284705)

Oh, and I would mention, the GP is 100% right (as are you). Not only are they fleecing the taxpayers, the retirees got a really bad deal out of the thing. The UAW has around 50% ownership in GM now........sounds great, right? Maybe now the unions will take some responsibility in making sure the company runs well? Not a chance. They shifted their ownership to the retirement fund. That ship is sinking.

Re:Financing? (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285169)

And their bondholders!

Re:Financing? (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285317)

Its a common type they keys are right next to each other.

Re:Financing? (1)

Shooter28 (1564631) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284675)

It's not entirely GM's fault, but then again they did allow some crazy things to be negotiated into contract with the UAW.

Example: One of the benefits negotiated by the the United Auto Workers was the jobs bank program, under which laid-off members received 95 percent of their take-home pay and benefits.

Not to mention the $70+ an hour they get when you factor in benefits, according to the NY Times.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UAW [wikipedia.org]

Re:Financing? (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285107)

Are you going for "I did not RTNS"? (Read The Next Sentence)
You might want to

Source snippet:
In a November 18, 2008, New York Times editorial, Andrew Ross Sorkin claimed that, counting benefits, each UAW worker receives $74 per hour while Toyota workers receive about $44 per hour.[13] The UAW asserts that most of this labor cost disparity comes from legacy pension and healthcare benefits to retired members, of which the Japanese automakers have none.

The UAW itself says the bulk of the difference is benefits PAID TO OTHER PEOPLE; i.e. all retirees. Current workers do not receive those benefits therefore the entire idea of $70/hour is completely fabricated.

Re:Financing? (1)

Shooter28 (1564631) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285713)

Unions generally place money in your retirement fund directly, without you seeing the money. If you really believe Unions workers are accepting the 14 dollars an hour claimed by the UAW, you are insane.

Re:Financing? (1)

JordanL (886154) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284803)

They built this facility early this decade.

Re:Financing? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286029)

Except this was prbably budgeted and paid for 2 years ago.
The projects take time to get to this stage.

And what do you want them to do? not look at ways to innovate? lts see where that gets the workers and retirees.

Stupid (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284601)

Another waste of resources for the inept fools at GM.
Electric cars are not viable. If we start to charge vehicles off the national grid, electricity will almost certainly loose its tax exempt status.
Prices would definitely rise to the point where electricity would become more expensive than hydrocarbon alternatives are projected to be in the future.
Also, generating capacity is already under pressure, batteries can not hold sufficient charge to travel useful distances (and there is little hope of significantly improving power density of current battery technologies).
Additionally, many new types of battery use scarce, expensive, and polluting to produce heavy metals, have massive total lifecycle production and disposal costs, and add massively to vehicle weight - particularly when combined with an auxiliary engine (eg. in a hybrid). They also pose thermal management problems, vehicle weight distribution problems, packaging problems, add substantial weight, and suffer from shorter than vehicle lifespan (ie. will need replaced within course of the life of the vehicle).
Anyone with no vested interests in electric cars can mock this foolish folly.
Ever wonder why GM is bankrupt? The inability to comprehend technical facts. American cars have always been terrible. Even Eastern Bloc countries produced better quality vehicles, albeit with considerably less character, and interior refinement.

Re:Stupid (1)

jeff4747 (256583) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286917)

You might want to consider moving along with the rest of us into the 21st century. The majority of your technical gripes are not true, and the others are just baseless speculation.

Ultracapacitors (3, Interesting)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284623)

Batteries are a dirty, nasty hard to recycle oldschool technology that dies after a few 100 charges, or maybe a few thousand if you're lucky. More research into ultracaps is needed - using better nano-tech to increase the surface area, testing of ultracapacitor-based systems and that sort of thing.

Re:Ultracapacitors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285057)

You need both. Ultracaps for quick discharges, and batteries to recharge the ultracaps. Not only will this give better automotive performance, but it could extend battery life.

Re:Ultracapacitors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285153)

So the fundamental difference between an ultracapacitor and a battery is that the ultracapacitor stores electric charge directly, while a battery stores charge in a reversible chemical reaction?

Re:Ultracapacitors (5, Interesting)

Nautical Insanity (1190003) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285321)

Umm...what batteries are you referring to that are dirty, nasty, and hard-to-recycle? Lead-acid batteries, sure, I'll grant that. But that's not what is being proposed for electric cars.

This http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/03/tesla-electric-car-batteries-non-toxic-recycled.php [treehugger.com] is closer to it.

With regards to life, I recall hearing that the newest generation of lithium batteries last far more cycles than your laptop's battery, though I cannot provide a link at the moment.

As for ultracapacitors, yes they're neat and could work. But the battery tech we have now is much closer to reality than our current ultracapacitor tech. Should ultracapacitors work out, we'll be grateful we started building the infrastructure to support our battery-powered cars.

Re:Ultracapacitors (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286039)

They're recycled alright, but i read the whole thing on how they recycle those batteries and they're not used to make new batteries. The stuff ends up being used to make stainless steel.

Lithium mining is a dirty business. The batteries don't last very long. -20% per year @ 20 degrees C regardless of use for some of them.

Lithium ion will do for now, but the ultimate goal should be something more sustainable. something that doesn't wear down as fast. even throw in a mini gas turbine that runs on biofuels for long-range trips if that becomes a problem.

Even if we don't have fully ultracap-powered cars they should work as a good buffer for hydrogen powered ones, gets rid of the battery buffer requirement

Re:Ultracapacitors (1)

alphajim (1254080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286281)

Current Ultracaps can still be used. They're used to "frontend" battery packs. They work great at providing bursts of high current needed during acceleration because of low internal DC resistance. Batteries hate having those loads thrown at them and they accelerate the cell decay. By designing in ultracaps, you should be able to reduce the cell count (lower peak loads), and extend their service life (better managed charge/discharge patterns). I don't know the economics of it though.

Re:Ultracapacitors (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286007)

Yes, because magic technology that doesn't exist in production will improve ultra capacitors and not batteries~

GM or USGov? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284707)

So is this a GM project or a US Government project? Will other auto manufacturers such as Ford be able to use the results of this research without paying an exorbitant licensing fee?

The blend of government and private business is going to cause problems.

Boycott Government Motors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284723)

Who cares.. until they are no longer owned by the Federal Government and the UAW - I won't be buying anything from them.

The same goes for GE as it tries to use it's MSNBC network to convince the world to put in public policies that will benefit GEs bottom line.

E.g Cap and Trade, Single Payer Nationalized Healthcare, etc.

GM is doing something innovative? (1)

wilsoniya (902930) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285159)

GM's new battery technology could be quite shocking.

Re:GM is doing something innovative? (0)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285429)

Except this lab is not making batteries. It's producing tax increases. Those things have to be manufactured too, you know.

Not really that important... (5, Interesting)

Ceseuron (944486) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285183)

I'm not seeing how this story or any other story about GM and their "Volt" is noteworthy. The Volt is not a marvel of engineering. It's not innovative. It's the same crappy "hybrid" concept that every other auto maker has tried to push. The Volt only goes 40 miles on a charge before rolling over to the gas engine. And at the nearly $40,000 price point, why bother buying it? If you spent a bit more money, you can buy a Tesla Model S [teslamotors.com] , priced at about $50,000 (assuming you can get the rebate). The Model S doesn't even have a gasoline engine, goes over 7 times farther than the Volt on a single charge, can go from 0 to 60 in under 6 seconds, and looks a hell of a lot better than the Volt IMO.

If GM uses this new laboratory to produce cars with no gasoline engine (all electric), I'm on board. But if they use it to push this ridiculous Volt and other similar hybrids onto the market, it'll be just another waste of our taxpayer dollars.

Re:Not really that important... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285329)

If GM uses this new laboratory to produce cars with no gasoline engine (all electric), I'm on board.

Not me. How was it that the Tesla people were able to do this already without billions from the taxpayers and their grandchildren?

Re:Not really that important... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28286491)

Because they charge a fortune for their car?

It's easy to make an electric car. Making a *cheap* electric car is the hard part.

Re:Not really that important... (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285339)

I'd LOVE to have a Volt. With a 40 mile range I'd practically NEVER need to buy gas with my driving habits. Maybe after a night of bar hopping I'd hit 40, but my life revolves around a small area of town. And, it still has a gas tank for my rare road trips around the country.

Re:Not really that important... (1)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285883)

The Volt is nothing like current hybrids, and the Tesla is still as much a pipe dream as the Volt right now.

Re:Not really that important... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285977)

40 miles on a charge means I would seldom burn fuels.
I drive less then 30 a day, me wife drive less then 15.

The occasional trip[ to the coast and camping are the exceptions.

Look at any base price 35K acr and compar to the base price 50(58) K car and you will see a similar jump in quality.

Of course, if the idea is to reduce admission, then you really need a 15K car.

Re:Not really that important... (1)

jae471 (1102461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286015)

The volt is not a hybrid.
The IC engine is decoupled from the drivetrain. You can put any power plant you want in, be it diesel, gasoline, LPG, Hydrogen fuel cell, gas turbine, solar cell, wind-up spring, water tank, hamster wheel ... You just need something to spin the generator.

Re:Not really that important... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28286135)

It's not innovative. It's the same crappy "hybrid" concept that every other auto maker has tried to push.

No it isn't all that innovative, but it's not the same as other hybrids at all. As far as I know, it's the only in-line hybrid for consumer use that's in the pipe. And that makes a big difference. First, you can make your daily commute on pure electric power. Second, since the only function of the gas engine is to charge the batteries, not provide power to the wheels, this means that it can be smaller, more efficient, and optimized to run at a fixed RPM which is highly advantageous for an ICE.

40 miles on pure electricity, with a gas tank that extends your range to as far as your typical car, gives you something that no other hybrid or EV can give you. Neither the Model S nor the Roadster have the range of a gas car, and the Prius won't get you out of your neighborhood before it starts burning gas. If, like me, your usage model is short daily commutes and trips across town with occasional thousand-plus mile road trips, then this is an exceptional model and I'm pretty excited about it just from the design standpoint.

And at the nearly $40,000 price point, why bother buying it?

Now THAT is a big problem. They really do need to get the price down, or it's just not going to look very appealing. I sure won't jump on the bandwagon at that price.

I'd imagine one of the goals of the battery research facility would be to find ways to drive the price of batteries (the biggest cost) down.

The Model S doesn't even have a gasoline engine, goes over 7 times farther than the Volt on a single charge, can go from 0 to 60 in under 6 seconds, and looks a hell of a lot better than the Volt IMO.

7 times further, as in a measly 300 miles, then you have to stop and find a plug and wait 45 minutes. Which don't get me wrong is cool and very good for a wide range of uses, but it's not going to let you go on road trips (even short ones like to the coast from where I live, forget driving back to visit family). That's why the ICE-as-range-extension concept of the Volt is novel -- it basically makes the Volt a drop-in replacement for everything you used your car for today, except most of the time you don't need to use any gas. Batteries may eventually let you do that, but not soon.

And yeah, electric motors have crap-loads of torque at 0 rpm, so they have rockin' 0-60 times. I don't think Chevy has released any performance specs on the Volt, but I'd be surprised if it was a slouch in the quarter mile even if the Model S beats it. Models S looks better too, I give you that.

If GM uses this new laboratory to produce cars with no gasoline engine (all electric), I'm on board.

Not me. It simply wouldn't work for things I use my car for, or expect to be able to use it for. Like, drive to a camp ground 150 miles away with no electricity, and be certain that I'll be able to get back home.

Re:Not really that important... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28286713)

The plug-in Prius has an all electric range of 12 miles. By the time the Volt ships, Toyota will have a Prius shipping that goes farther than 40 miles per charge, costs a third less than a Volt, and will operate for twice as long before it falls apart on you.

*That* is why GM is bankrupt.

The Volt is not a hybrid (1)

MikeMo (521697) | more than 5 years ago | (#28287035)

The big difference between a hybrid and the Volt is that a hybrid's gasoline engine is hooked to the drive train, and is the primary means of locomotion. The electric motor is used to enhance the gasoline engine, primarily by using energy captured during braking, to improve efficiency.

The Volt is a pure electric vehicle. The only means of propulsion is via the electric motor. The gasoline engine is actually an electric generator, that runs at a single, highly-efficient RPM, and only runs when the battery runs low. With a hybrid, you WILL use the gasoline engine once you reach a certain speed (which varies by model). With the Volt, you may never use the gasoline engine at all, if you drive 40 miles or less, and you will recharge that battery at home from the grid.

The big attraction of the 40 miles is that 80% or more of the population of the U.S. commute that far or less for their workday. Most of those folks will not use the gasoline engine during normal use. BUT, the generator is there to extend the range of the vehicle whenever necessary.

Interesting business plan... (1)

stewbee (1019450) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285271)

I would think that any company that is or headed toward bankruptcy would scale back on some of its R&D. I understand you need some to stay competitive, but I would think that GM would use its time and money better by initially refocusing itself,its product line, cutting costs, etc. Once they have all that under control, then they could research newer technologies.

I think that GM would do themselves a favor by focusing on only two main goals. Improve reliability and make more efficient combustion engines. I know that I personally will not buy a GM because of my own experience with a GM product[1]. They have the right idea here with reducing fuel costs by having the battery lab, but that is not their expertise. Combustion engines are their expertise, so why go into a divergent field? It is too risky for a company that is already on the edge of going out of business. In particular, I mention these two topics since it seems that is the main reason people buy Hondas for example.

[1] The one year that I owned it (used with 44k miles when purchased) I had to take it to the shop 3 times to be fixed, each for different reasons (once an oxygen sensor, the next because of strange interlock between the gear shifter and pulling the key out of the ignition, and finally the transmission). This was only in 2004, btw.

Government Motors is investing in itself! (2, Funny)

elkto (558121) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285353)

Government Motors is investing in itself
I wonder if they are eligible for any tax credits.

Clearly, they started implementing this (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285821)

before the current melt down happens. These things can take a few year to get going.

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