We have just heard from Reuters that anonymous sources confirmed that LG Chem is supplying the Gen 1 Volt pack.
I have been speculating for a while that LG Chem would be the winner, I had also recently interviewed CPI's CEO Prahbakar Patil ( see post ). Patil had indicated that the GM deal would be for more than 50,000 packs, and that he would build a facility piggybacking the Volt Hamtramck assembly plant. He also noted that LG Chem was already making 40 million lithium-ion cells per month so adding the Volt demand wouldn't require any additional factory build-out, just a new cell line within it.
Below is an interview with Bob Kruse, GMs director of Hybrids and EVs, that I had about the battery contract, that took place prior to yesterday's report.
If you’ve internally chosen the Volts battery supplier, why delay the announcement?
What we have publicly announced Is that we are working with the two suppliers as a result of our development contract, one is LG Chem/CPI and the other is A123/Conti. We have not signed a production contract with anybody at this point and time. Its our anticipation that we will finalize that contract and be able to publicly announce who that battery supplier is by the end of the year. That will be the supplier for our initial Volt application. We will continue to work with other battery suppliers, A123 included, to look for the next step in battery technology lithium-ion or otherwise for future generations of the Volt.
Right now we have a pretty good idea of the cell chemistry and the cell that is most suitable for our generation one vehicle, but part of the long-term success of the Volt will depend on the economic equation that goes along with it. Part of that requires my organization to drive through generational iteration to drive costs down that cost curve. As volume goes up as efficiency goes up as experience goes up we're going to drive down the cost curve. Part of what were anticipating is that there's a lot of investment going on in electric energy storage. We're positioning ourselves to be able to adapt our vehicles to the right technology at the right time. If I pick LG I'm going to maintain an advanced development contract with A123 and if I pick A123 Im going to maintain an advanced development relationship with LG. I'm working with many many companies evaluating their cell chemistries.
So you will go with one supplier for gen-one?
But you wont rule out the other supplier for gen-two?
Or multiple suppliers.
How many charge discharge cycles have your oldest Volt packs undergone at this point?
I would tell you. When I take folks through the battery lab, I have early Volt T-packs that have gone through charge/discharge cycles. We can take those energy profiles and covert it to miles. So I have some 30 something thousand miles on battery packs. You have a limited amount of time and you're going through lots of iterations so at some point in tome you’ve understood the trends and the projections. Some of it is developmental some of it is long term life evaluation. Some of the long term life evaluation I can do at the cell level I don’t have to do at the pack and module level.
I would think if the packs are simulating 60 mph and running 24/7 you should be able to get up to 100,000 miles very quickly, in a few months?
Yeah, but there's a lot of iteration in the hardware at this particular point in our development cycle. Typically right now I'm focused on bringing packs. We have now announced we are into our mule phase. The Malivolts were our pre-mules. I have a very rigorous process by how I take a battery pack from a supplier and put it in a vehicle and turn it on.
First it comes to my lab and I hook it up to a cycler, I cycle it and I make sure it is operating within certain parameters. Then I send it over to my experimental build shop and its put into a vehicle and everything is wrung out before they hook up the power and turn it on. Then in my build facility I don’t actually turn it on. I send it out to my Milford proving grounds and I wring the vehicle and the battery pack out separately while they're in the vehicle. Then I bring them together and I start to generate torque electrically. Because all the torque in the Volt is done electrically. Then I bring the internal combustion engine on and I get that all working. There are layers of security that are built into the control system. Then I get to a level of torque security, where Im confident the commanded torque and the actual torque are operating how I want. And only after Ive gotten to that point do I allow my developmental engineers to actually being driving the vehicle on General Motors roads in side the proving grounds.
Thats a a high level summary of the steps. Not long, but it’s a detailed purposeful process to ensure that by going through those steps, there is a growing sense of accomplishment withing general Motors and an optimism towards that November 2010 date and that’s all generated by not hope and prayers by experience and knowledge with the hardware and the software.
The current mules are on the compact global delta platform. What shell do they have?
I don’t believe we've said what the donor vehicle is. Its Astra-like. The mule will look much more Volt-like than the current mules. I expect well have some type of media event with the mules. I have certain milestones and deliverable to meet before I'll let the media drive them. At this point in time we are right on track to where we thought we'd be at this time.
Note: GM vice chair Bob Lutz later confirmed that the current Volt mules are in Chevy Cruze shells. Some versions of it with an approximate Volt design and are supposed to appear before the end of this year. In total there will be 50 running mules by the end of 2008.