Chevy Volt – one of GM’s late entries into the hybrid market and the first mass produced “plug-in” hybrids – will have a battery approved for use in residential and commercial utility grids at the end of its useful life-time in the car. Unlike earlier hybrids, the Volt uses a small gasoline engine just to charge the battery, not jto drive the wheels. As a result, drivers going distances under 40 miles or so will rarely use any gas.
The bankrupt auto giant has partnered with ABB, a multinational power storage and automation supplier to design and test a prototype battery.
The Volt battery currently comes with an 8-year or 100,000 mile warranty, its useful life being estimated at 10 years. After this time, according GM, the battery will have 70% of its capacity remaining. Not enough to power a hybrid vehicle, but significant for other applications. For example, 33 of 10-year old Volt batteries will have enough storage capacity to power up to 50 homes for about four hours during a power outage.
The used batteries will be assembled into packs for storing energy, including renewable wind and solar energy, and feeding it back to the grid. The system could store electricity from the grid during times of low usage to be used during periods of peak demand, saving customers and utilities money. The battery packs could also be used as back-up power sources during outages and brownouts.
Behind the idea for the new battery, GM quotes “pull” for sustainable technologies from both the primary buyers and the utility companies. The potential secondary market for batteries includes over 3000 US utilities.
According to Pamela Fletcher, Chevy Volt’s chief engineer, the team will plan an entire lifecycle for the battery – the hybrid vehicle’s largest part – including the repurposing for secondary use and the eventual recycling of the materials and used parts.
Do you know the history of hybrid cars in America?
In 1900 American car companies made 1,681 steam, 1,575 electric and 936 gasoline cars. In a poll conducted at the first National Automobile Show in New York City, patrons favored electric as their first choice, followed closely by steam.
In the first few years of the twentieth century, thousands of electric and hybrid cars were produced. This car, made in 1903 by the Krieger company, used a gasoline engine to supplement a battery pack. Henry Ford’s assembly line and the advent of the self-starting gas engine signaled a rapid decline in hybrid cars by 1920.
And you thought Apple Computer took a long time to win market share….