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GM- Volt to be tested in '08
General Motors will begin testing the revolutionary electric drive system in the Chevrolet Volt concept car on the road in vehicles next spring, company Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said at a dinner Monday night. By this time next year, GM may allow selected people outside the company to test the system.

"You personally will be able to experience the joy of gliding down I-94 at 70 miles an hour" solely on electric power, Lutz said at a preview dinner for the Frankfurt Auto Show. GM is committed to putting the system in the Chevrolet Volt for sale by 2010, Lutz said.

He convinced two leading auto analysts who attended the event.

"I think they're going to build it," said Rebecca Lindland of Lexington, Mass.-based Global Insight. "Consumers like the idea of getting to and from work purely on electricity. It would be a tremendous win for GM, and an opportunity to get Generation Y on board with the company."

Lutz deserves credit for convincing GM's conservative culture to roll the dice on a public high-profile attempt to make a technological breakthrough, said Joe Phillippi, principal of Short Hills, N.J.-based AutoTrends Consulting.

"Lutz is driving this bus really hard," Phillippi said. "Toyota gets a lot of credit for its hybrid portfolio, but this is clearly a step above. It would give GM a tremendous leg up on the competition."

Lutz said the system would probably hit the road first in the United States, adding that GM expects to offer cars using the system around the world. "China is logical; Europe is logical," he said.

GM's European Opel brand will unveil a concept car using the same powertrain at a news conference at Europe's biggest auto show this morning. The system, which GM calls E-Flex, relies on advanced batteries to provide electric power, a plug-in system to recharge the batteries and a small engine to act as an onboard generator to keep the batteries charged on longer trips.

While the Volt will use a gas engine to charge the electric drive, the Opel Flextreme would use a small turbo-diesel engine to do the same.

Depending on how far they drive, owners might never have to use the engines at all, reducing emissions from the car to near zero. GM designed the Volt, and the Opel Flextreme concept car debuting today, so that most commuters in the United States and Europe could do their routine daily driving solely on battery power.

A new generation of powerful batteries GM is working on with development partners A123 Systems and Compact Power are the key technology to getting the system on the road, Lutz said. GM will begin lab tests of battery packs big enough to power a car like the Volt or Flextreme in October, Lutz said.

"This is a venture into the unknown," he said. "It's something radically new, but we're confident we're going to do it." Detroit Free Press

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