This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

March 05, 2008

Daimler and GM to Launch Hybrids with Lithium-Ion Batteries

Daimler AG and General Motors Corporation (GM) have both announced plans to incorporate lithium-ion battery packs into upcoming hybrid electric vehicles. Daimler announced on February 29 that the 2009 Mercedes-Benz S 400 BlueHYBRID sedan will feature a lithium-ion battery pack that will be integrated into the car's climate control system to keep the battery at its optimal operating temperature. The vehicle will achieve about 30 miles per gallon despite its 299-horsepower power plant that can accelerate the car to 100 kilometers per hour (about 62 miles per hour) in only 7.3 seconds. Mercedes-Benz is also in the process of introducing around 20 new "BlueEFFICIENCY" versions of its existing models, cutting fuel consumption up to 12% through improved aerodynamics, electric steering, lightweight materials, low-rolling-resistance tires, and other features. The company is now displaying three BlueEFFICIENCY models at the Geneva Motor Show. See the Daimler Media press release about the battery technology, as well as the press release on Mercedes-Benz at the Geneva Motor Show.

GM will follow a year after Daimler, employing a lithium-ion battery in a more powerful second-generation version of its belt-driven alternator-starter GM Hybrid System. Hitachi Vehicle Energy Ltd. will supply the lithium-ion battery that will make the new GM system three times more powerful than the current GM Hybrid System, allowing GM hybrids to achieve a 20% increase in fuel economy. The GM Hybrid System is currently available on the Saturn Vue Green Line SUV, and GM claims the use of lithium-ion battery will allow the system to be used in a wide range of vehicles throughout the world. But even though GM is in the process of rolling out a new line of SUVs and pickups featuring its new Two-Mode Hybrid system, the company has not announced plans to incorporate a lithium-ion battery into that system. GM is showcasing its new hybrid technology in the Saab 9-X BioPower Hybrid concept car, which debuted on March 4 at the Geneva Auto Show. The car features a turbocharged engine that is optimized to run on E85, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. See the GM press releases about the GM Hybrid System and the SAAB 9-X BioPower Hybrid (PDF 30 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

The move toward lithium-ion batteries in hybrid vehicles could serve as a stepping stone to plug-in hybrid vehicles, which are expected to rely on lithium-ion batteries. Plug-in hybrids are hybrid vehicles outfitted with a more powerful battery pack, allowing them to travel 20 to 60 miles on electric power alone. The vehicles can be plugged in at night to recharge the batteries, allowing the vehicles to avoid using gasoline when used for short trips. Ideally, plug-in hybrids would allow commuters to drive to work and back without using gasoline, thereby dramatically cutting gasoline consumption. See the description of plug-in hybrids on the Web site for Plug-In Partners, a national grassroots initiative to promote plug-in hybrids.