At the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, General Motors unveiled an eye-catching -- in more than one way -- concept. The Volt's futuristic looks caught the public's attention but it was the technology underneath the concept's skin that was truly noteworthy. It featured a lithium-ion battery pack that enabled the concept to travel 40 miles on a single charge and had a 1.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine to act as an electricity generator after the battery pack was depleted.
Fast forward three years and a few things have changed from the concept but the Volt is a reality -- or shortly will be for customers in select regions around the world. The Volt launches in select U.S. markets this November and its siblings, the Vauxhall and Opel Ampera, will be sold across the pond in Europe. GM also announced it will send the Volt to the Far East as a Buick next year.
When the Volt concept appeared, lithium-ion battery technology hadn't yet been used in automotive applications, but was much more promising for the future of electric vehicle transportation than previous nickel-metal-hydride and lead-acid batteries. Here's a look at GM's battery research lab that, in three short years, made the technology behind the Volt -- and its series-hybrid Voltec architecture -- possible.
General Motors is proud of its battery lab, and it very well should be. Located in what used to be a conventional internal combustion engine powertrain research facility built in 1950 at GM's Warren Tech Center, the exterior of the building doesn't portray the advanced technology located inside. It's one of the most advanced battery research facilities in the world with over 33,000 square feet dedicated solely to battery research. This past April, GM announced it was adding on to the existing facility, almost doubling it in size. When the addition is complete, the battery lab will measure over 63,000 square feet.
Currently, the lab is split into two separate sections, one used for testing battery packs and the other primarily for testing individual cells. For those unfamiliar with battery technology, each battery pack in a Chevrolet Volt consists of a set number of cells wired in series and parallel to achieve the desired output (in voltage and amperage). The key figure to come from the battery pack wiring is the battery capacity, a total of 16 kWh in the Volt.