Auto Electronics

Continental, Compact Power win GM contracts for Li-ion development

After evaluating 13 proposals, General Motors has awarded contracts to Continental Automotive Systems and Compact Power Inc. (CPI) to provide lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries for range-extender electric and fuel cell variants of GM’s E-Flex architecture. The value of the contracts was not disclosed.

Continental Automotive Systems, a division of Continental A.G., will develop Li-ion battery packs, according to a GM statement. Continental is scheduled to deploy lithium technology in a production vehicle next year. Compact Power, a subsidiary of LG Chem will develop and test battery modules and packs, using cells developed by the parent company, and will also work on mechanical integration, thermal and electronic management and vehicle interface.

“This technology is developing rapidly, and this contract is an opportunity to deeply understand the differing battery technologies before making a production decision,” said Denise Gray, GM director of hybrid energy storage devices.

GM said Continental and Compact Power demonstrated solutions that best met the specific energy, power, mass and durability requirements for the battery in the E-Flex range-extender variant. The battery for the fuel-cell variant requires half the energy and power, but must be integrated and connected to the vehicle in a similar way. GM is continuing to assess other solutions to bring lithium-ion batteries to production.

GM’s E-Flex (flexible electric drive) electric vehicle architecture underpins the Chevy Volt concept car shown earlier this year and is being developed as part of the firm's strategy to diversify transportation away from petroleum. E-Flex was first shown as the plug-in battery electric propulsion system for the Volt, an electric vehicle with a traveling range of up to 40 miles using battery power and a small engine with a generator to extend its range to 640 miles. A plug-in fuel cell variant of the E-Flex system was shown at the Shanghai Auto Show in April. The E-Flex architecture is designed to be adaptable for several vehicle packages operating on various sources of electricity.

"The signing of these battery development contracts is an important next step on the path to bring the Volt closer to reality," said GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner. "Given the huge potential that the Volt and its E-Flex system offers to lower oil consumption, lower oil imports, and reduce carbon emissions, this is a top priority program for GM."

Li-ion batteries are expected to surpass nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries as the standard in batteries for hybrid electric vehicles in the next three to five years. Compared with NiMH, Li-Ion technology offers longer life and higher voltage at lower weight and smaller volume over a wider temperature range. It also has less environmental impact.

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