GM Tells Cities How to Prepare for Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles

February 04, 2009

General Motors Corporation (GM) is preparing to launch its extended-range electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, and communities that want to help test the vehicle will need to be "plug-in-ready." According to GM, that includes installing public and workplace charging stations, setting consumer-friendly electricity rates, offering renewable electricity options, and adjusting codes and permitting rules to encourage vehicle charging. Local governments and corporations can also commit to purchasing plug-in vehicles, and they can offer incentives to make the technology more affordable to consumers. Other incentives, such as access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes, are also a plus. GM plans to test the vehicles in San Francisco, California; Washington, D.C.; and other plug-in-ready communities. GM outlined its comprehensive plan of action at the Washington Auto Show, which opens to the public on February 4 and runs through February 8. The Chevy Volt was named the 2009 Green Car Vision Award winner at the show, beating out the fuel-cell-powered Honda FCX Clarity and the plug-in hybrid Fisker Karma, as well as two all-electric cars: the Mini E and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. See the press releases from GM and the Washington Auto Show, as well as GM's description of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

Although GM is charging ahead with its plans to launch the Chevy Volt, the company announced in December that it will delay construction of a manufacturing plant in Flint, Michigan, that was slated to produce the 1.4-liter engines for the Volt and the Chevy Cruze. Last week, the company also suspended its construction contracts for the Flint Engine Plant. GM says that its plans for the engine plant have not changed, but the company's management continues to keep the plant construction on hold, and the construction contracts were suspended to keep costs down. See the GM statement on the construction contracts.

While GM moves ahead on its Chevy Volt, the Ford Motor Company is planning to launch its first commercial plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in 2012. Ford announced on February 3 that it has selected Johnson Controls-Saft to supply a complete lithium-ion battery system for the vehicle. Meanwhile, Ford has converted some of its Ford Escape Hybrids into PHEVs and is providing the vehicles to eight utility partners located throughout the United States. The utilities will test the vehicles under real-world conditions through a program coordinated by Ford and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). GM is also working with EPRI and a coalition of more than 40 utilities to address the commercialization of plug-in electric vehicles. The company is helping to create standards for the electric vehicle charging interface. See the Ford press release.