Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

The ride: General Motors will make its own battery packs for the Chevrolet Volt (shown here) and other electric vehicles.

Ann Marie Sastry, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan, says that the battery program was started in 2007 because “we faced a serious shortage of engineers in the industry. There weren’t enough people well versed in electrification to flip the vehicle portfolio to electric vehicles. We’ll need hundreds and hundreds of engineers.”

Although GM will build its own battery packs, it will continue to buy battery cells from outside suppliers, since developing new electrode chemistries and manufacturing the cells themselves require expensive equipment, says Kruse. Experts have long predicted that GM would turn to LG Chem, a large, experienced battery company, rather than to startup A123 Systems. Although LG Chem will supply the first-generation battery packs, GM is already developing its second- and third-generation packs, which could use cells from other manufacturers, including A123, with which GM has a development contract.

One of the biggest priorities at the company’s new laboratory will be assessing and extending the lifetime of batteries. Lithium-ion batteries (commonly used in cell phones and laptops) lose their ability to store energy in just a couple of years. The Volt battery has been engineered to last eight to ten years, so that it doesn’t have to be replaced during the lifetime of a vehicle, but to achieve this, the company had to oversize the battery pack to compensate for a loss in storage capacity. The pack stores 16 kilowatt-hours of electricity, but only 8 of these will be used for the car’s 40-mile range. In the future, the company hopes to use far fewer batteries to achieve the same range.

9 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credits: GM, John F. Martin for General Motors

Tagged: Business, Energy, electric cars, battery, electric vehicle, GM, Volt, lithium-ion, A123, NAIAS, LG Chem

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me