“The automobile industry simply can no longer rely on oil”

The news from Bob Lutz’s opening keynote address for the LA Auto Show was that GM would be working with some California utilities to test a fleet of 100 Volts. But there was a lot more delivered in that speech and, in the best Lutz-ian tradition, the message was clear and simple: the Volt is GM’s most important product. Oh, and he would not be addressing the abrupt resignation of GM CEO Fritz Henderson.

[Poisonally, I think Henderson blew up the Saab sale]

At times, Lutz sounded like a regular ABG reader, name dropping Fisker and Coda and saying he was thankful to Tesla Motors for “furnishing the proof that was needed by those of us who championed the Volt in the corporation that other people believed in lithium-ion technology as well.” Now that pretty much every automaker has at least a small li-ion project, he feels vindicated for his early support of the Volt, even though he apparently took some heat for it back then.

How confident is he? He said that he predicted that the market for plug-in vehicles would be about 250,00-300,000 in five years, with maybe half of those being GM vehicles…

At GM, we deeply believe that, in an energy-constrained world marked by dramatic growth in developing markets, it is critical that the global automotive industry – as a business necessity and as an obligation to society – develop alternative sources of propulsion based on diverse sources of energy. … Going forward, the automobile industry simply can no longer rely on oil to supply 98 percent of the world’s automotive energy requirements…

Three years ago, when the Volt was announced, there were many critics (especially the Japanese competitors, he said) who said that li-ion would never work in an automobile. Now, three calendar years and countless testing years later, Lutz said that GM is confident that the 16 kWh pack in the Volt will be more than up to the task of powering the Volt. The batteries are being designed to perform as advertised for ten years, but if the battery fails in the 11th year, the customer would need to bring it in and have it replaced, which will likely cost about as much as an engine overhaul on a traditional gasoline-powered car, Lutz said. “I don’t see why it should cost more than that.”

RTFA to see the details. It contains links to a recording of the keynote.

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2 comments

  1. Jägermeister

    The batteries are being designed to perform as advertised for ten years, but if the battery fails in the 11th year, the customer would need to bring it in and have it replaced, which will likely cost about as much as an engine overhaul on a traditional gasoline-powered car, Lutz said. “I don’t see why it should cost more than that.”

    If he believes that, then why not sell an insurance to the owners that will cover the cost for the new battery?

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