Friday, April 30, 2010

Tesla Ramps Up For Model S, Production Site To Be Named

The Gorgeous Tesla Model S

Tesla Motors Inc. expects to announce in the next several weeks that it has chosen a plant to produce its electric vehicles, CEO Elon Musk told Automotive News yesterday.

He also said that Tesla is hiring 50 to 60 people a month, focusing on vehicle engineering and production specialists, and that it has chosen companies or has two finalists to supply 80 percent of the parts for the planned $49,900 Model S sedan, due to be launched in 2012.

Tesla's first mass production plant will be on the West Coast and will build both the Model S and the next-generation Roadster sports car. Tesla will convert a factory, but Musk declined to say whether the plant previously had been used by the automotive industry.

“It hasn't yet been finalized,” he said. “We've almost fully negotiated the deal, but it has not been signed yet.”

‘Spartan army'

Tesla has “a fairly significant team” put together for manufacturing, Musk said. He said Tesla has recruited people who have worked with BMW AG, Land Rover and Toyota Motor Corp.

“We're really trying to put together a world-class manufacturing team,” Musk said. “We're trying to create a Spartan army of expertise.”

In February, Tesla named Gilbert Passin, who was a general manager of production engineering at Toyota's recently closed plant in Fremont, Calif., to head manufacturing. Passin also previously worked at Toyota's plant in Cambridge, Ontario, the only factory outside Japan to build a Lexus vehicle.

The West Coast plant will include stamping, paint shop, body and chassis, and doors. A powertrain factory will supply both Tesla and other automakers, Musk said.

Control manufacturing

Currently, England's Lotus provides “gliders” -- partly assembled vehicles -- to Tesla for its $109,000 Roadster, its only vehicle currently. Tesla then adds the electric powertrain. But the company plans to take greater control of manufacturing.

Musk said many people think they can outsource production, a sentiment he categorized as “wishful thinking.”

“I think manufacturing is something that needs to be a core strength of Tesla's,” he said. “And as we apply innovation to the car business, we're going to need to apply it to the manufacturing process as well.”

Musk said Tesla prefers to deal with local suppliers where possible because the automaker wants to innovate with them. He said the company has turned down the lower bid from one supplier in favor of a higher bid from a supplier that the automaker thought it could partner with.

Short list

For 80 percent of the parts for the planned $49,900 Model S sedan, Tesla either has chosen a supplier or has two possible suppliers, he said.

The transmission may be outsourced, Musk said. The current Roadster uses BorgWarner Inc.'s eGear transmission.

The lithium ion fuel cells will be made by Japan's Panasonic Corp.

Musk said Tesla will outsource certain portions of production of the Model S interior and exterior, including wiring harnesses, skeletal mechanisms for the seats, and glass for the windows. Tesla will integrate the interior components and door assemblies, Musk said.

Tesla has no firm policy guiding whether to outsource production of a part or do it in-house, he said.

“It's not hard-core one way or the other,” Musk said. “It's what deal can be done and whether we can do it internally.

GM Chevy Volt Promotional Video

Here is the latest promotional video from GM. Are they actually reaching out to former EV1 lessee's?

Source: GM

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Eaton and Takaoka Electric Manufacturing Company Join Forces For Electric Vehicle Charging

Eaton Corporation will collaborate with Takaoka Electric Manufacturing Company, Ltd. to develop and launch DC Quick Chargers for electric vehicles. electric vehicle (EV) battery packs. The collaboration will enable Eaton to provide a complete line of charging stations across residential, commercial and industrial applications in North America.

Tokyo-based Takaoka Electric is a leader in the installation and operation of EV chargers. The company most recently announced its participation in an electric vehicle demonstration project in Osaka, sponsored by METI, and is one of the companies working with Tokyo Electric on rapid charging.Eaton, a global power management leader with comprehensive facilities, field service and support, is currently working to advance the electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Burlington, Ontario, and many other communities across North America.

Eaton has a wide range of expertise in other markets that use free-standing electrical charging, including truck-stop electrification, ports, marinas, recreational vehicles, government, and major public-sector infrastructure.

Takaoka Electric manufactures and sells electrical equipment primarily to the Japanese market. The company was founded in 1918 and employs 1,086 people. The revenue of fiscal year 2008, ended March 2009, was $438 million. The company offers power transformers (gas-insulated and oil-immersed), on-load tap changing transformers (gas-insulated and oil-immersed), distribution transformers, mobile transformers, and mold-type transformers; horizontal break, vertical break, and pantograph disconnectors, as well as on-load switches; and gas-insulated switchgear, cubicle-type gas-insulated switchgear, and gas circuit breakers.

Source: Green Car Congress

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Toyota Continues Its Plug-in Hybrid Testing With EDF and City of Strasbourg

Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Powertrain

Toyota, French energy provider EDF, and the City and the Urban Community of Strasbourg launched a large-scale, 3-year Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle demonstration in Strasbourg. The project involves about 100 Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHVs) as well as a dedicated charging infrastructure for the use of public and private partners in Strasbourg and its region. It has received support via the Research Fund managed by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency ADEME.

Based on the third-generation Prius (earlier post), the new Prius Plug-in Hybrid (earlier post) is equipped with a lithium-ion battery pack. The plug-in has an electric range of up to 20 km (12 miles) at speeds up to 100 km/h (62 mph). CO2 emissions in the European homologation combined cycle are 59 g/km.

Cutaway of the battery pack. Click to enlarge.
This project is part of a global Toyota project involving 600 Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles that will also be deployed in Japan, the US, Canada and Australia. Toyota’s main objective is to further investigate the technology and performance of PHVs.

In the context of the EDF-Toyota partnership, European road trials of Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles started in France in the autumn of 2007 and were expanded to the UK in 2008.

EDF’s objective is to evaluate different operational options for the charging infrastructure. The demonstration will allow receiving feedback on the consumers’ acceptance of this new driving concept, in preparation for broad commercialization in the future.

For this demonstration, EDF, with the operational support of its subsidiary Electricité de Strasbourg (ES), will ensure, within the context of a technical and financial partnership with all stakeholders, the set-up of more than 150 charging points at users’ homes, at the private parking of partner companies, in public parking lots and on public roads.

Some vehicles use an innovative charging system developed by EDF, able to control the communication between the plug and the vehicle, while ensuring safe charging. The objective is to facilitate the identification of the vehicle and invoicing of the consumed energy. In addition, German energy provider EnBW (Energie Baden-Württemberg AG, EDF Group), will extend the program to Baden-Württemberg, Germany, by demonstrating ten PHVs and their dedicated charging infrastructure.

As partner of the demonstration project, the City and the Urban Community of Strasbourg will lease five PHVs. They have ensured the set-up of public charging points and charging points along public roads and provide a subsidy to the local car sharing company to lease three PHVs. The remaining vehicles will be leased to various public institutions and private companies.

For ADEME, this project is part of its research demonstrators program, the purpose of which is to test future technologies allowing the reduction of greenhouse gases. This programme is one of eleven projects selected in a call for interest in the Demonstrators Fund on low-emission vehicles launched by ADEME in 2008.

The question remains, "How long until Toyota offers this vehicle to the public"?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Opel Ampera On Track For Production Release Next Year

2012 Opel Ampera

The Opel Ampera—the Chevy Volt’s European cousin--passed an important milestone on 23 April when the first pre-production Model Year 2012 Ampera rolled off the line at GM’s Pre-Production Operations assembly line in Warren, Michigan.

Assembly workers will build more pre-production Amperas in the coming months. These pre-production vehicles will be used instead for testing and validating the production intent design as well as developing the final vehicle software and controls.

Engineers in Europe and the United States also use them to tune the vehicle’s overall driving experience. Some of these Amperas will have very short lives as they will be used in safety and structural integrity testing.

We’re right on target for producing the Ampera for European markets later next year. There’s still work to be done, but being able to drive an Opel Ampera off our pre-production line is a great accomplishment for the teams here and in Europe.

—Andrew Farah, Vehicle Chief Engineer for the Ampera

The Opel Ampera extended-range electric vehicle delivers up to 60 kilometers 37 miles) of pure electric driving before an engine-generator kicks in to sustain the battery charge and seamlessly extend the range to more than 500 kilometers (311 miles). It is scheduled to go on sale end 2011.

Source: Green Car Congress

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Chevy Volt: Around Town and Beyond - VIDEO

Here is a promotional video from GM trying to simplify the Chevy Volt and make it understandable to the masses. In reality, the plug-in hybrid vehicle is not that complicated and would be even more simplistic if it was all electric. Maybe one day.

Think! Rebuts Ten Myths Surrounding Electric Vehicles

Thumbnail image for Think-City-EV.jpg

Norwegian electric-vehicle maker Think wants to set the record straight as it prepares to start selling its City EV in the U.S. later this year.

In honor of Earth Day, the former Ford Motor Co. division posed what it says are the 10 biggest myths about EVs, and set out to "bust" them with simple rebuttals that Think CEO Richard Canny uses to support the cause of the EV - especially its own.

Myth #1: "You are just moving the pollution out of the cities to the countryside."

Think CEO Richard Canny: "Electric vehicle motors are three-to-five times more efficient than gasoline-powered vehicles...Efficiency of EVs makes them cleaner, producing less carbon - even when they are charged using coal-fired electricity."

Myth #2: "Customers will never buy a car with less than a 200-mile range."

Think: "So-called 'range anxiety' diminishes when people get used to driving EVs on a daily basis. It's just like charging a cell phone overnight. You plug it in, and in the morning it's ready to go, fully charged..."

Myth #3: "The battery won't last."

Think: "EV batteries are designed to last at least 10 years and more than 100,000 miles..."

Myth #4: "You'll need to build a lot more power plants."

Think: "There's enough off-peak electricity in the U.S. to power 79 percent of U.S. driving demand. As more EVs are deployed, it's important to ensure that the smart-charging (time-based charging management) and vehicle-to-grid connectivity progresses as well..."

Myth #5: "We're going to run out of lithium - and isn't it poisonous?"

Think: "...The industry will not have a shortage of lithium for the next decade. It is also possible that new battery technologies will be based on other light metals like zinc or nickel. Lithium from used batteries will be recycled in dedicated recycling plants. Lithium batteries contain no poisonous heavy metals like lead in lead-acid batteries or cadmium in NiCd batteries."

Myth #6: "The infrastructure has to come first."

Think: "In our experience working with more than 20 cities across Europe, the best way to deploy EVs is to get cars on the road first, then add infrastructure..."

Myth #7: "They're not safe."

Think: "Highway-certified EVs like the Think City meet all the same safety and crash test requirements as regular production cars with some important extras..."

Myth #8: "The technology is too complicated."

Think: "A modern electric car has only about five main moving parts compared with hundreds in an internal combustion engine. There are no regular visits to the dealership for an EV. No oil changes, no filters - even brake pads last two-to-three times longer than in conventional cars, because EVs like the Think City use regenerative braking to recapture the energy that would otherwise be lost while braking."

Myth #9: With plug-in vehicles in their relative infancy, it's too early judge how re-charging habits are affecting battery life, but just like most drivers fill up at a gas station instead of getting a couple of gallons at a time, sheer convenience would dictate that EV owners are far more likely to arrange for full, longer charges than shorter, quicker ones.

Think: "Modern prismatic lithium batteries can be developed with fast-charging in mind - like Think's EnerDel battery solution. The critical technology is in the cell design to manage battery temperature during charging. Limiting fast charging to the 0-80 percent range also protects battery life. Think's view is that 95 percent or more of all EV miles will be driven on EVs charged during overnight off-peak periods when electricity is cheaper and readily available."

Myth #10: "Plug-in hybrids are the best solution."

Think: "Carrying around the extra weight and cost of two powertrains makes little sense...As plug-in hybrids get bigger and heavier, they need more batteries and stronger gas- or diesel-powered generators or engines. It becomes a 'vicious circle' of more cost and more weight to achieve acceptable range and performance in both modes."

We here at Alt Energy Autos feel that Plug-In Hybrids are merely a means to an end. The end goal being the adoption of pure electric vehicles. We need to put an end to combustion engines being used in urban and suburban settings where long ranges are not necessary. For longer hauls we want to see the use of alternate energy vehicles such as CNG and bio-diesel.

Better Place, Chery Agree on Prototype For Switchable Battery Electric Vehicles in China

Better Place and Chery Automobile Co.—China’s largest independent auto producer and exporter, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to collaborate on electric vehicle technology in the world’s largest auto market. As part of the collaboration agreement, the Chery exhibit at Auto China 2010 features elements of the Better Place EV solution, including EV charge spots and battery-switch technology displayed with a Riich G5 sedan.

Under the terms of the MOU, Better Place and Chery will jointly develop switchable-battery EV prototypes with the goal of securing regional Chinese government EV pilot projects.

With only 2% of China’s population owning cars and 80% of sales in 2009 to first-time car buyers, China has the opportunity to create and lead an entirely new category around clean transportation. With the scale of Chery’s design and manufacturing capability and an industrial policy that favors EV over ICE, we believe China represents an unprecedented opportunity for Better Place. Our collaboration with Chery is just the beginning for Better Place in China.

—Dan Cohen, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Better Place

China has set an industrial policy with the objective of becoming the largest EV developer and manufacturer in the world. China is the world’s second largest consumer of oil behind the US. By 2020, China is expected to rely on 65% of foreign oil imports.

HSBC research predicts that China’s share of the global EV market will grow from 2.7% this year to 35% by 2020. During this time period, China will overtake Japan by 2016 and the US by 2019 in dominating the global EV market.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Are Hybrid Vehicles the 8-Tracks Of the Car World

By Jonathan Welsh

"General Motors Departed EV1 outshines today's electric cars.
"I recently read a report that found people are surprisingly open to the idea of owning hybrid or electric vehicles. According to a Capital One Auto Finance survey, 34% of respondents said they were likely to buy such a car next time and 54% said they will own one eventually.

"This sparked a long family discussion of what we might be driving in five or 10 years. The conclusion: We'll skip hybrids and try to hold out for electrics.

"I'm no technology hound, but I try to skip interim products because, let's face it, they make us feel like suckers for ever believing they were end-alls or even worth our time. I'm talking about more than just 8-track tapes and laser video discs. I know plenty of people who are kicking themselves for ordering DSL Internet service instead of waiting for fiber-optic.

"I think today's hybrids will turn out to be the DSL of the auto world — clunky and outmoded. As electrics get better, with longer range and shorter charging times, more people will start looking past hybrids the way they looked past cassettes after CDs came along. Electric cars available today, like the battery-powered Mini Cooper I recently tried out, aren't ready for prime time, but they're close enough that I'm willing to wait awhile.

"I doubt the wait will be long. Look how quickly the alternative- fuel movement has sorted itself out already. When was the last time you heard anyone talking about hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles? How about flex fuel and the E85 ethanol-gasoline mix? They are still out there, but not as serious players. Unless you're a corn farmer, ethanol is an all-around disappointment. And fuel cells? Tell me — who wants to drive around with a tank of pressurized hydrogen?

"Electrics are simpler and make sense for most drivers. My wife and were convinced of this early on, about 10 years ago, after driving aGeneral Motors EV1 that we rented in Los Angeles. It was during the last big push for electric cars that fell short. The EV1 never made it to mass production. It's too bad, because the electrics I have driven recently like the Mini and Chevrolet's Volt don't hold a candle to the EV-1. Why was it able to go 130 miles on old-fashioned nickel-metal hydride batteries while today's electrics struggle to go 80 or 90 miles on advanced lithium ion cells? Oh, don't get me started.

"Let's just say that we'd be farther along if GM had the foresight to fund the EV-1 instead of, say, the Hummer program or all those years of life support for hapless Saturn. Now the industry is catching up to where the EV-1 was a decade ago. When it gets there, I'm going shopping."

http://blogs. seat/2010/ 04/25/are- hybrids-the- cassette- tapes-of- the-car-world/

GM Says Voltec Plug-In Hybrid System Fit Only for Compact Cars

The Chevy Volt MPV5 Concept

Let's face it, GM really does not want to produce electric vehicles. They are on record as saying the Volt will not be produced in numbers significant enough to affect their overall fleet mileage rating. Indeed, their intent is to produce only 2000 Volts this year and 10,000 for all of 2011. There is a sign up list for the Volt that totals nearly 60,000 signatures, which will take GM five years or more to fulfill.

Now, GM is already bracing the public for more bad news. The massively expensive Voltec drive system will only work in compact cars the size of the Chevy Volt. No Camaro Voltec or Silverado Voltec. Indeed, not even an Aveo Voltec as the Aveo is too small! In other words, the Volt and MPV5 may be the only two models utilizing Voltec. Seems to be a waste of research and development to limit this technology to so few automobiles.

General Motors may be keen to apply its Voltec plug-in hybrid systems to vehicles other than the Chevy Volt, but its range may be limited. According to Alan Taub, GM's head of global research and development, the system is best suited for compact vehicles, like the Volt itself.

"With battery technology as it currently stands, extended-range vehicles that are larger than the Volt -- like luxury sedans, trucks and SUVs -- aren't really possible," Taub told Autocar. "They would simply be too heavy to be efficient."

Conversely, Taub says the system won't appear in vehicles smaller than the Volt, which rides on the automaker's compact Delta platform.

"Voltec won't really package in a much smaller car than the Volt, either," he noted.

For the time being, expect future Voltec offerings to either be based heavily upon the Volt itself (like the rebadged Opel/Vauxhall/Holden Ampera), or the Volt's compact underpinnings. The Volt MPV5 concept, unveiled at the Beijing auto show, applies the plug-in hybrid system in a slightly larger vehicle, but still has its roots off the Delta platform. The concept is very similar to the Orlando compact crossover GM is developing, which will also utilize the Delta architecture.

Larger plug-in hybrids could, however, use a version of GM's 2-Mode hybrid system. Before it killed the brand, GM was working on developing a plug-in hybrid version of the Saturn Vue 2-Mode Hybrid, which utilized a scaled-down version of its 2-Mode system, mated with a 3.6-liter V-6. Although that model was cancelled before it could reach showrooms, GM has indicated its powertrain -- and possibly the plug-in variant -- will appear in a future compact SUV.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Geely Showcasing Several Alternate Energy Vehicles at Auto China 2010

Geely is demonstrating a number of its alternative energy vehicle efforts at Auto China 2010, including two versions of an electric vehicle, two versions of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (parallel and serial configurations), and an intelligent stop-start system.

  • The EK-1 electric vehicle is equipped with a lead-acid battery, and has a top speed of 80 km/h (50 mph) and a range of 80 km.

  • The EK-2 EV features a Lithium iron phosphate battery pack and offers a top speed of 150 km/h (93 mph) with a range of 180 km (112 miles). It can recharge 80% of battery capacity in 18 minutes.

  • The EC7 uses the Geely Serial Plug-in Electric system with a lithium iron phosphate pack and a 1.0L range extender. The vehicle offers 60 km (37 miles) all electric range.

  • The EC8 is Geely’s parallel configuration plug-in, equipped with a 2.4-liter engine.

Nissan Nails Up 6,635 Reservations For Its All-Electric Nissan Leaf in Just Two Days

It is unclear just what kind of response Nissan was expecting, but the number of $99 reservations must have been a pleasant surprise. They are reporting 6,635 paying customers in the first two days. Considering that Nissan is only planning on producing 10,000 vehicles the first year, there could be a shortage. In contrast, GM is only going to manufacture 2,000 Volts this year and maybe 10,000 for all of 2011. We realize that caution is warranted when introducing new technology but there is a real pent up demand for alternate energy vehicles and would like to see supply meet demand in this case.

There are roughly 60,000 people signed up on a waiting list for the Chevy Volt. If these are serious buyers, then Chevy will not be able to come close to meeting demand. Chevrolet can ramp up production rather easily as their Hamtramck facility is capable of manufacturing much more than 10,000 vehicles per year. We do not have to wait much longer to see how this will shake out as the Volt is slated to start rolling off the line in October.

What do you think? Will customers line up in this economy to buy these electric cars and catch Nissan and Chevy with their pants down, or have the marketing experts done their job and accurately predicted their respective sales volumes?

We think that demand is going to exceed supply resulting in even more pent up consumer frustration.

Friday, April 23, 2010

BMW Electric Car, The Megacity, is Coming in 2013

A BMW Mini E

I think we can safely declare at this point that all auto manufacturers are going to offer an EV of some sort. BMW has had time now to gather data from its Mini E lease project and feel they are ready to pursue a new electric vehicle from scratch. Unfortunately, we will have to wait at least three years to see the car in production.

From Autocar.UK:

BMW's Project i Megacity electric car will be launched in 2013.

It will be a full five-seater in the Golf class, it will be rear-engined and rear-wheel drive, establish a new design language for electric cars and will be constructed from lightweight carbonfibre.

The Megacity will also be marketed under its own brand, and will eventually feature a range of cars, including sports versions.

BMW believes that it has developed a radical, lower-cost, mass-market-compatible means of producing carbonfibre monocoque bodywork that will dramatically reduce the Megacity's potential weight, improving not only its range but acceleration too.

Its range is anticipated to be around 160 miles, aided by its aerodynamic efficiency and carbon bodywork that's expected to represent a breakthrough in terms of both cost and mass production potential, both aspects usually relegating the material to low-volume, high-priced models.

Like the Mini E, the Megacity will feature unusually high levels of deceleration when the throttle is released in order to enhance battery regeneration, although the effect is expected to be slightly less pronounced.

The enhanced regenerative braking of the Mini E is contributes as much as a 20 per cent improvement in range on the city cycle, and BMW is keen to carry as much of that benefit over to the Megacity as possible.

Its powertrain will be closely based on the second-generation electric drive system used in the BMW 1-series coupe-based Active E hybrid, which is more efficient in terms of range, acceleration and battery packaging than the system used in the Mini E.

Unlike some electric car pioneers, BMW plans to sell the car complete with its battery, the high cost of the powerpack offset by the high residual value it will have as a result of the second life usage it will receive as an energy store for power companies, it believes.

Electricity generators will harness these used electric car batteries to provide additional energy supply during moments of peak demand on the national grid, the batteries still capable of holding as much as 85 per cent of their charge after several years' usage in EVs. Nissan is planning a similar role for its used EV battery packs.

BMW also says it is experimenting with a new electric version of its defunct C1 electric scooter, whose concept it believes could be revived with electric propulsion.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

GM Reveals Chevrolet Volt MPV5 Electric Crossover Concept at Auto China 2010

Chevy Volt MPV5

GM’s Chevrolet unveiled the Volt MPV5 extended range electric vehicle concept at Auto China 2010. The five-passenger multi-purpose crossover concept demonstrates the potential of the Voltec propulsion system by utilizing the same extended range electric drive foundation as the Volt.

The Volt MPV5 is one of 37 production and concept vehicles being shown by GM and its joint venture partners at Auto China 2010, including the Cadillac Converj extended range electric concept vehicle; and the Cadillac XTS Platinum plug-in two-mode hybrid concept.

Volt MPV5. The Volt MPV5 concept utilizes the same Voltec propulsion system found in the Chevrolet Volt. A 16-kWh T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack powers the electric drive unit and provides an all-electric range of up to 51.5 km (32 miles)—twice the distance the average urban commuter in China travels each day.

When the battery is depleted, a 1.4-liter engine generator sustains the battery charge and provides up to 482 km (300 miles) of electric propulsion.

The styling of the Volt MPV5 concept borrows design and aerodynamic cues from the Chevrolet Volt. The front fascia features a closed grille and aero-optimized lower air dam, both of which help improve fuel efficiency. A full-underbody belly pan, along with rocker claddings, creased tail lamps and specially designed blades on the rear quarter, also contribute to improved aerodynamics, thereby enabling greater all-electric range.

The Volt MPV5 concept’s dimensions provide added passenger comfort. While the 2,760-mm wheelbase of the Volt MPV5 concept is a mere 15 mm longer than the wheelbase of the Chevrolet Volt, its body is 181 mm longer (4,585 mm), 73 mm wider (1,871 mm) and 182 mm taller (1,612 mm) than the Volt.

Converj and XTS. The concept Converj represents another implementation of the Voltec extended range electric drive system. Also equipped with a 16 kWh battery pack, the Converj offers up to 60 kilometers (37 miles) of electric driving, with extended-range capability of hundreds of kilometers.

The XTS Platinum plug-in concept uses Cadillac’s 3.6-liter V-6 Direct Injection gasoline engine, paired with a two-mode plug-in hybrid system. The system provides an estimated 350 horsepower (260 kW) and 295 lb-ft of torque (400 N·m).

Electrification in China. GM is working to advance electrification in China through research and development. It has launched the China Automotive Energy Research Center (CAERC) in Beijing. The venture with SAIC and Tsinghua University is developing a comprehensive automotive energy strategy for China. The GM China Science Lab, which opened last November, is carrying out advanced automotive-related research, including battery development.

In March, GM introduced the EN-V (Electric Networked-Vehicle) concepts in Shanghai. A centerpiece of the SAIC-GM Pavilion at World Expo 2010 Shanghai, EN-V embodies GM’s vision for personal urban mobility in 2030. In addition, GM is supporting its Shanghai GM joint venture’s “Drive to Green” strategy, which is focused on developing green products, supporting green manufacturing and undertaking a green responsibility.

Source: Green Car Congress

GM Announces Early Repayment of Government Loans - VIDEO

Here is a video of Ed Whitacre, GM CEO, tooting his own horn and letting us all know they have repaid their loans. However, they will not pay back the $50 billion used by the US Government to buy a share of GM.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

GM Pays Back Government Loans in Full, Announces Investment in Fairfax, Detroit Hamtramck

General Motors Company Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre today announced that GM has made its final payment of $5.8 billion to the U.S. Treasury and Export Development Canada, paying back its government loans in full, ahead of schedule.

The announcement came at a ceremony here to highlight an investment of $257 million at GM’s Fairfax, Kansas, and Detroit Hamtramck assembly centers. The investment will prepare Fairfax to build the next generation of Chevrolet’s award-winning Malibu, and make Detroit Hamtramck a second source for Malibu, ensuring that Chevrolet can meet market demand for this popular mid-size sedan.

“GM is able to repay the taxpayers in full, with interest, ahead of schedule, because more customers are buying vehicles like the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse we build here in Fairfax,” said Whitacre. “We are now building some of the best cars, trucks, and crossovers we have ever built, and customers are taking note. Our dealers are increasing their sales, we are investing in our plants, and we are restoring and creating jobs.”

The U.S., Canadian, and Ontario governments, as part of the launch of the new GM, provided loans of $8.4 billion and took equity stakes in the new company. Today’s payment of $5.8 billion ($4.7 billion to the U.S. Treasury and $C1.1 billion to Export Development Canada) completes the payback of these loans.

“GM’s ability to pay back the loans ahead of schedule is a sign that our plan is working, and that we are on the right track. It is also an important first step toward allowing our stockholders to reduce their equity investments in GM,” said Whitacre. “We still have much hard work ahead of us, but we are making progress toward our vision of designing, building, and selling the world’s best vehicles.

“We appreciate the support the taxpayers have given GM, and our great new products are tangible results of that support.”

Strong sales support manufacturing, jobs

Strong sales of new Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac products are fueling a steady increase in production as GM works to meet growing customer demand.

Sales for GM’s four brands are up 36 percent through March versus the same period in 2009, and many newly introduced cars and crossovers – including Chevy Equinox, Camaro and Traverse; GMC Terrain and Acadia; Buick LaCrosse; and Cadillac SRX – remain in short supply at GM dealers.

The Fairfax plant currently builds two of GM’s strongest selling cars, the Chevy Malibu and Buick LaCrosse. For the first three months of this year, GM’s U.S. dealers delivered more than 49,000 Malibus and 14,000 LaCrosses, representing a 58 percent increase over the same period last year. In response to this strong demand, Fairfax in February added a third shift of approximately 1,050 jobs, bringing total employment at the plant to more than 3,800.

Fairfax will become the primary source for the next generation of the Malibu. Detroit Hamtramck, which builds the Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS, will be equipped to build the Malibu as well, ensuring that Chevrolet can meet market demand.

Detroit Hamtramck will also build the Chevy Volt electric vehicle with extended range, which launches this year. On March 31, the plant celebrated a major milestone, the building of the first pre-production Volt on the regular assembly line.

The Malibu-related investments of $136 million in Fairfax and $121 million in Detroit Hamtramck will include facilities, machinery and equipment, and tools.

Since the launch of the new GM last July, the company has announced investments of more than $1.5 billion at 20 facilities in the U.S. and Canada. These investments restored or created more than 7,500 jobs, and they demonstrate a strong commitment to GM’s future and to the United States and Canada.

Source: GM Press Release

Monday, April 19, 2010

Nissan Taking Registrations For the All-Electric Leaf - $99 Starting April 20th

The 2011 Nissan Leaf EV

Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA) will begin taking reservations for the Nissan LEAF zero-emission, all-electric vehicle on 20 April 20. The $99, full-refundable reservation process is a first step in securing a place on the list to purchase or lease a Nissan LEAF. The Nissan LEAF begins rolling out to select markets in December, and will be widely available in 2011.

“Early interest in the Nissan LEAF has been highly encouraging.”
—Brian Carolin, senior vice president, sales & marketing, NNA

In the United States, more than 115,000 people have formalized their interest in driving a Nissan LEAF by signing up for more information on These registrants will be given priority in the reservation process. Consumers must be registered on by the end of today in order to be eligible for the early reservation process. Reservations will open to the general public on 15 May.

Priority reservation instructions will be sent to early registrants by email between 1-6 pm EDT on April 20. The email will include an exclusive link enabling each person to start the reservation process. Through the link, the customer will create an account, configure his or her vehicle, and answer questions to complete a driving profile. After placing a reservation, a customer will be able to indicate a preferred dealer.

Reservations are limited to one per household.

20 April also marks the date for the debut of a new website on to support the launch of the Nissan LEAF. The website will continue to serve as a resource about the most up-to-date information for the Nissan LEAF, including upcoming special events.

Including the $7,500 federal tax credit for which the Nissan LEAF will be fully eligible, the consumer’s after-tax net value of the vehicle will be $25,280. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2011 all-electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF is $32,780. Additionally, there is an array of state and local incentives that may further defray the costs, and increase the benefits, for owning and charging a Nissan LEAF. For example, a $5,000 statewide tax rebate is offered in California; a $5,000 tax credit in Georgia; a $1,500 tax credit in Oregon; and carpool-lane access in some states, including California. The lease price for the Nissan LEAF begins at $349 per month.

Source: Green Car Congress

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The 100 MPG Hummer Tackles Moab Off-Roading

It can be done. Cars can be built and designed to achieve mileages two and three times higher than what we see today. In fact, during the Clinton Administration's early years, the major US manufacturers all presented a sedan that could achieve 70 mpg or more. What happened to those cars? Why are we still driving around in vehicles that average only 25 mpg?

Here is a video of a Hummer that has been designed ala the Chevy Volt that gets 100 mpg. It can be done.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Toyota Will Offer Lithium Ion Minivan Hybrid in 2011

The Nikkei is reporting that Toyota is planning a new Prius minivan hybrid that uses Li Ion batteries. This model will be the first in a series of Toyota hybrids using lithium ion batteries.

The new Prius minivan, slated for release in early 2011, will offer a spacious interior and improved fuel economy by taking advantage of the lithium ion battery’s compact size and light weight. It will likely feature three rows of seats for carrying five to seven people. Its seat configuration will be flexible to allow for convenient seating and create luggage space. Toyota plans to keep the price of the new Prius minivan at a level similar to those of current Prius models.

...The leading Japanese automaker plans to continue offering models with nickel-metal hydride batteries in order to meet consumers’ diverse needs. A hybrid vehicle that Toyota plans to introduce around 2015 will also offer a choice between the two batteries.

Toyota reportedly will initially manufacture the Li-ion batteries at its Teiho factory in Aichi Prefecture, with production at Panasonic EV Energy Co., a joint venture with Panasonic, to be added later.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Natural Gas Hybrids to Be Promoted By Collaboration Of HK Motors, American Public Gas Association and NGVAmerica

The United States should have a Natural Gas Vehicle infrastructure. We need alternate energy vehicle choices and natural gas fits the bill. It is abundant and there is no need to import it from foreign sources. We pipe natural gas into millions of homes, why not offer it at the pumps as well? HK Motors, the American Public Gas Association and NGVAmerica feel likewise and have decided to join forces to effect change. We wish them luck.

Key actions of the collaboration include:

  • Promoting consumer interest in natural gas hybrids.
  • Encouraging federal and state governments to extend the current range of incentives to encourage consumers, businesses, and governments to choose natural gas hybrid vehicles and the infrastructure necessary to sustain them. This would include advocating the passage of “The NAT GAS Act of 2009” (HR 1435; S. 1408).
  • Promoting research and development efforts of natural gas vehicle/infrastructure technologies as well as related business models.
  • Working with natural gas distribution companies to install home fueling appliances and provide services for NGV purchasers.
  • Encouraging fleet owners of CNG fueling stations to expand their installations to include retail access to new NGV car owners.
  • Supporting access to more domestic supplies of natural gas.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Renault Releases Specifications For Fluence ZE and Is Ready For Pre-Reservations

The Sleek and Stylish Renault Fluence Z.E.

Renault is serious about the electrification of the automobile and they are putting their money where their mouth is. They estimate that electric vehicles will account for 10% of the world market by 2020. Seems a little high for only ten years down the road but we certainly hope they are right.

Here are some of the specs for the Fluence ZE:

  • Fluence Z.E. is powered by a synchronous electric motor with rotor coil. Peak power is 70 kW000 rpm,000rpm, while maximum torque is 226 N·m (167 lb-ft). The weight of the motor—excluding peripherals—is 160 kg.

  • The capacity of Renault Fluence Z.E.’s lithium-ion battery is 22 kWh. The battery weighs 250 g and is located behind the rear seats in order to free up a trunk volume of 300 dm3 (VDA/ISO). An energy recovery system enables the battery to be charged when the car decelerates.

  • Charging is possible in one of three ways: via a household mains supply (10A or 16A, 220V) which will fully charge the battery in between six and 9 eight hours; at fast charge stations using a 32A 400V supply which enables the battery to be charged in approximately 30 minutes (available in 2012 or 2013, depending on model); and the QuickDrop battery switch system which will enable Renault Fluence Z.E.’s battery to be swapped in approximately three minutes at bespoke battery exchange stations.

  • In order to adapt the ride to Renault Fluence Z.E.’s specific characteristics (dimensions, weight distribution), the suspension has revised settings compared with the layout seen oncombustion-enginedionengined versions of Fluence. The front suspension setting is softer, since electric motors are lighter than all the internal combustion engines available for Fluence. Meanwhile, the rear suspension has been revised to cope with the heavier weight due to the presence of the battery.

  • Renault Fluence Z.E. runs on low rolling resistance tires. The Goodyear-developed EfficientGrip enables lower energy consumption thanks to extensive work on tire casings and sidewalls. The tread is identical to that of a conventional tire in order to ensure high-performance road holding and braking.

  • The ABS and ESC electronic driving aids have been recalibrated. On the passive safety front, Renault Fluence Z.E.’s body structure has been strengthened in order to deliver the same high standard of safety performance as the shorter and consequently lighter internal combustion-engined version.

  • Range is 160 km (99 miles) NEDC combined cycle. Top speed is 135 km/h (84 mph).

Production will begin in the first half of 2011. We are uncertain what a "pre-reservation" amounts to, however!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Aptera Taps Remy to Supply HVH250 Motors For The 2e Model

The Three Wheeled Apter

How much longer will we have to wait on Aptera to deliver their goods? Maybe choosing Remy to supply the electric motors will be a step in the right direction and hasten the car's appearance. We were hoping to see Aptera's for sale this year, but that seems unlikely at this point.

From Green Car Congress:

Remy International will supply HVH250 electric motors (earlier post) for Aptera Motors’s Aptera 2e electric vehicle. Remy is already supplying a High Voltage Hairpin (HVH) electric motor for Aptera’s entry in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize, where the 2e has successfully reached fourth phase of competition.

The three-wheel Aptera 2e has a novel light-weight design weighing approximately 1,800 pounds. It accelerates from 0-60 mph in ten seconds and has a top speed of 90 mph (145 km/h) with a range of nearly 200 miles (322 km).

Aptera said they chose the Remy HVH250 electric motor for the superior technology, reliability and speed to market the motor offers. Specifically, the HVH250 motor provides the high power density and torque Aptera was seeking; and the motor is compact and light which helps keep down the overall weight of the vehicle, contributing to the driving range. Additionally, the technology provides cooling efficiency that permits the Aptera 2e to run at higher speeds longer than other motors, an important feature in today’s freeway-heavy transportation system.

Chevy Volt Meeting Range Targets and On Track For November Production

The 2011 Chevy Volt

Chevy Volt Chief Engineer, Andrew Farah announced recent calibration drives of pre-production Chevrolet Volt electric vehicles have achieved up to 39.9 miles (64.2 km) of emission-free, electric-only driving range at a Monday news conference.

The Volt recently completed a round of cold weather testing in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, and will undergo additional hot weather testing in Yuma, AZ, in June and July.

Apparently, the Volt remains on schedule for start of regular production this November. Farah also said more than 500,000 test miles (805,000 km) have already been put on the pre-production Volt vehicles.

Farah said engineers at GM’s Warren, Mich., Technical Center will begin building pre-production versions of the Ampera (the Opel cousin of the Volt) later this month in preparation for its launch in Europe for the 2012 model year.

Micky Bly, GM’s executive director of global electrical systems, hybrids, electric vehicles & batteries said more than 300 pre-production packs were slated to be built at GM’s Brownstown, Mich., battery plant.

So far, more than 850,000 miles (1.4 million km) of customer use lab testing have been completed on the battery pack design for the Volt and Ampera. Bly said the team continues to study additional applications of the Voltec battery-based propulsion system in future vehicles, although no details were provided.

Remarkably, the Chevy Volt run-up to production has met no serious roadblocks. Every milestone has been met and the battery packs are delivering as promised, with 40 miles all electric range. GM really needs to announce a firm sales price at this point and then let the dealers place their initial orders.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

ELectric Cruze From GM Heading To India

The Chevy Electric Cruze

General Motors plans to launch the electric version of its Chevy Spark in selected cities in India by the end of the year.

GM India President Karl Slym said that the company will review the response of customers for the zero-emissions, battery-electric model and that its future strategy regarding electric versions of its models in India will be based on this.

The success of electric cars both in India and globally will depend on their affordability and eventual utility for the end consumer.

Slym added, "Our aim is to bring something that would break the mold which is as affordable as possible and has a utility value as well."Various city and state governments in India are offering tax incentives to EV buyer to make the vehicles more competitive with non-EVs.

Apparently, GM does not consider this small electric vehicle viable for the US marketplace. Unfortunately, GM will offer a gasoline powered variant in the States.


Monday, April 12, 2010

GM To Double Size of Warren Advanced Battery Lab

General Motors is doubling the size of the largest and most technologically advanced automotive battery lab in the US to expedite the development of electrically driven vehicles for consumers. The $8-million investment will improve on-site testing of all current and new battery cell, module and pack technologies by enlarging the Global Battery Systems Lab on the GM Technical Center campus by 30,000 sq. ft. to 63,000 sq. ft.

The addition will be located adjacent to the existing lab inside the Alternative Energy Center facility. Areas previously used for engine testing will be renovated for battery development, with construction beginning this month and scheduled for completion in the summer.

GM’s Global Battery Systems Lab began operations in January 2009 and became fully operational in May 2009. It is used by GM’s growing team of more than 1,000 engineers working on advanced batteries and electrically driven vehicles. More than half of the current lab is dedicated to testing the electrochemical battery cells and modules. The lab’s remaining floor space is committed to evaluating completed battery packs.

The expansion will increase GM’s capability to work with third-party cell providers, noted Micky Bly, GM’s executive director, Electrical Systems, Hybrids, Electric Vehicles and Batteries in a media briefing today. The expansions adds capability in six areas, including:

  • Safety and Abuse Tolerance. Powertrain test cells previously used for engine altitude testing will be retrofitted for crush, penetration, water immersion, overcharge, discharge and short circuit tests.
  • Buildup and Teardown. Reuses storage areas to prepare batteries before tests and provide secured rooms for supplier evaluation.
  • Manufacturing Engineering. Reuses space previously occupied by engine dynamometers to improve manufacturing processes, such as laser welding and cell stacking.
  • Charger Development and Integration.
  • Thermal Development. Radiant heat, thermal stability and thermal shock testing.
  • Battery Storage.
Expanded GM Warren Battery Lab
Total floor space: 63,000 sq. ft.
• Pack testing and development: 14,400 sq. ft.
• Cell and module development: 17,400 sq. ft.
• Technical support: 2,000 sq. ft.
• Phase 2: 30,000 sq ft.

The Global Battery Systems Lab equipment and test automation systems are being integrated with GM’s global network of battery labs, including Mainz Kastel, Germany and Shanghai, China, to facilitate data exchange and work sharing.

The Global Battery Systems Lab recently received accreditation from the ISO-certified American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA), a nonprofit, public service group that evaluates the competency and capability of labs across all fields of testing. Auditors from the A2LA reviewed testing procedures and results, equipment calibration, operations documentation, personnel competency and the lab’s quality policy. The benefits of being an ISO-certified lab include: ensuring that data is accurate and avoiding expensive retesting from unreliable results.

The lab is equipped with 176 test channels and 49 thermal chambers duplicating extreme real-world driving patterns, hot and cold temperatures and calendar life.

Additional benefits offered by the Global Battery Systems Lab include a thermal shaker table for testing the structural integrity of the battery and electronic controls; a battery teardown area for failure analysis and competitor benchmarking; an integrated test automation system and improved Design of Experiments methodology.

In addition to battery labs in Warren, Mainz-Kastel and Shanghai, GM also has facilities dedicated to vehicle electrification in Honeoye Falls, N.Y., and the GM Technical Center’s Research Chemical Engineering facility.

Source: Green Car Congress

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Honda Developing Electric Scooter With Help From Toshiba's Li Ion Batteries

The Nikkei is reporting that Honda Motor Co. is developing a battery-electric scooter powered by a Toshiba Li-ion battery, with the release likely to come in December. The prototype is comparable in power and size to a 50 cc scooter. Details are expected on Tuesday.

The electric motorbike will get about 30km [18.6 miles] per charge. Riders will be able to charge it via a home outlet, as well as with a portable charger. The latter method can replenish the battery in roughly 10 minutes.

The battery, to be supplied by Toshiba, has a long life&mash;more than 6,000 charge-discharge cycles—and can be charged at high speed. This is the first time for Honda to use Toshiba batteries. For Toshiba, this represents the first big deal for its vehicle batteries, a product category it hopes to beef up.

Honda, the world’s largest motorbike maker, also reportedly plans to develop a 100cc electric motorbike for Asian countries—its key markets—and other places. Yamaha Motor Co., the second largest motorbike maker, plans to begin selling electric models this summer in Japan and Europe.

Source: Nikkei

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Look At the Nissan Leaf Home Charging Unit From Aerovironment

California-based AeroVironment Inc., better known in military circles as a maker of unmanned aircraft systems, is partnering with Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. to make home-charging units for U.S. buyers of the upcoming Leaf electric vehicle.

The charger also will be compatible with other EVs, including the upcoming Chevy Volt and Ford Focus electrified vehicles.

“It’s a very good charger, (and) it will work for any car,” Kristen Hensel, vice president-EV Solutions for AeroVironment’s Efficient Energy System explains.

“So whoever owns the home and owns the Leaf, if they sell and move out and a new EV owner purchases that home, the charger will work reliably for years.”

AV is not a newcomer to the vehicle-charging world. The company’s first association with automotive came when it partnered with the former General Motors Corp. in the late 1990s to develop the GM Impact electric-vehicle prototype, better known as the EV1.

Since then, AV has supplied its Power Cycling and Test Systems (formerly named Electric Vehicle Test Systems) to the world’s leading automotive, battery, and fuel-cell companies, utilities, universities, defense contractors and government agencies.

In more recent times, AV worked with GM to design and build the breakthrough solar-powered Sunraycer to compete in the inaugural 1,950-mile (1,529-km) World Solar Challenge road race.

While AV makes the Leaf’s home charger, the connector is being manufactured by another company Nissan has yet to name. Some suppliers have shown prototype plugs. Yazaki Corp. displayed an EV connector at last year’s SAE World Congress in Detroit, but it is unclear if the company plans to manufacture units for retail.

The January agreement on a connector standard, J1772, by the Society of Automotive Engineers makes the Leaf’s charger compatible with any EV, AV’s Hensel says. However, the plugs will have to be UL-certified before chargers can be retailed. That process slowly is occurring, with a handful of suppliers already announcing certification.

Nissan will re-brand AV’s home charger for Leaf.

The home charger for the Leaf will be installed by electricians trained by AV. Although AV will not require these electricians to install the Leaf’s charger exclusively, Hensel believes there will be such strong demand for installation in certain cities that “a given electrical contractor will have dedicated people.”

The process to become “AeroVironment-certified” will be elaborate, with metrics that have to be met. Once certified, the electricians will have access to AV proprietary installation tools for the home charger.

So far, about 1,000 electricians across the U.S. have signed up to train to install the home charger, which will require a 220V line. It’s not known how many Americans already have a 220V line in their garage, but new installation likely means costs will be higher.

Nissan will have a custom installation plan for those folks, says Brian Carolin, senior vice president-sales and marketing, Nissan North America Inc. The auto maker recently announced the cost to install the home charger for the Leaf will be $2,200 before a 50% federal tax credit.

Carolin says that’s the standard installation price, but those living in older homes with older wiring will require the more costly custom installation. He says AV will conduct a survey of Leaf buyers’ homes beforehand to determine which installation plan is required.

Hensel says at least one homebuilder has announced it will pre-wire with lines for $250.

“It’s not going to take effect immediately, but five years from now you might see a lot of homes come EV-ready,” Hensel says.

The Leaf’s charger can be installed outside if a municipality prohibits electricity to be run to a garage or an EV owner lives in an apartment.

AV hopes to be installing units ahead of the Leaf’s late-2010 debut, but not by much. “It’s still pretty early – we don’t anticipate thousands of people are going to feel a need for a (charger) yet,” Hensel says.

That’s also a reason why AV has not begun advertising for its home chargers. While the home charger for the Leaf will be branded Nissan, and Nissan will funnel Leaf buyers to AeroVironment, AV also will install home chargers for any EV.

As the calendar draws down to early next year, following the launch of the Leaf and Chevy Volt, an ad campaign “may make more sense,” Hensel says. She calls AV the “hidden helper” to Nissan, saying the supplier is engaging in many of the Leaf’s pre-launch activities.

“The customers who are getting engaged with the Leaf are doing so online,” she says. “So we are very involved in that, but more looking like Nissan.”

AV feels an “obligation” to make sure people are educated and comfortable in how to charge their EVs, and also to aid in their proliferation, Hensel says.

With that in mind, the company knows home-charging overnight with a 220V line, which takes about eight hours, is unlikely to please many car buyers who are used to quickly refueling their gas-powered vehicles.

A recent study from consulting-firm Accenture reveals 50%-72% of respondents, depending on their country of origin, want to be able to charge an EV in under 20 minutes.

“We’re not going to ever be able to do that with a (home charger),” Hensel says.

With that in mind, AV is chairing the SAE committee on creating a standard for 480V, level 3, DC fast chargers.

“A quick resolution of that will be important to the ultimate success of EVs,” Hensel says, noting she has seen an increased interest in DC charging by the auto industry.

Source: Wards Auto

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chevy Volts Coming Off Production Line

A Chevy Volt Rolling Down The Line

On March 31st, the first "pre-production" Chevy Volt came off the production assembly line at GM's Hamtramck facility in Michigan. A huge milestone, to be sure. Since then, three more Volts have rolled off the line in Chevy's effort to produce 500 of the pre-production vehicles prior to salable models commencing this November.

Teri Quigley, Plant Manager at the Hamtramck facility, was recently interviewed by the Detroit free press and discussed the crush of requests for plant tours. GM is expecting a wide range of groups, from schools to Industry leaders, will want to visit the plant once production ramps up in November.

From Detroit Free Press:

Detroit's next big tour stop may very well end up being the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant where the Chevrolet Volt is being built.

GM officials said they're already preparing for huge interest -- from school groups to industry leaders -- wanting to visit the plant once official production of the extended-range electric car begins in November.

"I'm expecting that we will have all different kinds of visits," plant manager Teri Quigley told the Free Press in an interview this week.

"I think it will be five times as many people as normal at the onset," she said.

Preproduction of the Volt began last week at the plant, which saddles the Detroit and Hamtramck border. Three Volt cars were built last week, and GM expects to build fewer than 500 preproduction versions from now and until official production begins.

Already, the daily list of non-factory workers requesting access to the plant exceeds the factory's 1,100-person workforce, Quigley said.

"It's three times what you would normally expect ... and I'm only building a couple of them," she said. "What happens later?"

Uninvited visitors aren't welcome yet. Those coming to the plant now are either GM workers from other offices or suppliers working on the Volt project.

GM is working on plans for outside visitors, such as educational materials in the plant's lobby and a video about the Volt.

Besides the Volt, the plant has some other interesting features, including a cemetery dating to 1863 and a 16.5-acre wildlife habitat. The factory also built President Barack Obama's limousines.

Unlike other GM vehicles

The first Chevrolet Volt drove off the line at General Motors' Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant last week to cheers from a spontaneous crowd gathered to watch.

It's not the official production -- which is to begin in November -- but a tangible milestone that shows the extended-range electric car is getting closer to becoming a reality.

"It was a heart-pumping moment," plant manager Teri Quigley said about driving a Volt off the assembly line. "It's real -- we've been looking at this thing for a long time."

With its extend-range, electric-drive powertrain, the Volt is unlike other GM vehicles.

"We're totally excited. This is groundbreaking for us," said Sheryl Brown, 44, a UAW worker in the quality department. In 2007, the mood was drastically different with rumors the plant might close.

But the UAW labor contract that year gave workers hope with an agreement that said if GM decided to move forward with the Volt, it would be built at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

Last year, GM announced it was investing $336 million in the plant to prepare for the Volt.

The economic downturn has been felt at the plant, which was down for 19 weeks last year.

As GM was facing its darkest days at the end of 2008, Quigley and her team quietly began preparing the plant for the Volt.

Quigley has had teams at GM's preproduction facility in Warren working on early versions of the Volt as they prepare to build the vehicle. "We've done a ton of training," she said.

'We can touch them'

The plant doesn't have a separate assembly line for the Volt, and it will be built along with the factory's other vehicles, the Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne.

There are some differences, however, for the Volt, including a 400-pound battery pack.

"It's really, really great that we've got this Volt in our system. It's real. We can touch them and feel them and do our job on them. But at the end of the day, the customer who is buying the DTS in front of that Volt or the Lucerne behind that Volt, doesn't care that there was a Volt between the two," Quigley said. "We can be excited, but we have to be focused, we can't let the Volt distract us from what we're doing on these other cars."

While Detroit-Hamtramck is running at one shift right now, Quigley hopes demand for the Volt and possibly another vehicle will justify adding a second shift in the future.

She's optimistic about GM's future. "The desire to succeed is there," she said.

Drawn to engineering

Quigley has been with GM for more than 20 years and became Detroit-Hamtramck plant manager in 2007.

She's from Dexter and was the first female student in her high school's auto body shop class.

Her father, Bill Quigley, worked in GM public relations before retiring in the 1980s, but she was dead set on finding her own path outside of GM.

"I was never going to do what my dad did," she said.

But her interest in engineering eventually attracted her to a program at General Motors Institute, now known as Kettering University, that led to a lifelong career.

"I really love what I do," she said. "You know how you did at the end of the day. There's no wondering if you did good, bad or indifferent."