Friday, January 11, 2008

Race to Make Electric Cars Stalled by Battery Problems

From the Wall Street Journal:

GM, Toyota Seek Ways
To Snuff Out Fire Risk;
Start-Ups See Opening

DETROIT --When the car world gathers here Sunday for the annual North American International Auto Show, the industry will be buzzing about electric power. Auto makers from General Motors Corp. to Toyota Motor Corp. will be displaying a new breed of cars that run mainly on electricity.

But there is one thing the car people won't be charged up about: batteries. For all the hoopla, nobody yet has figured out how to make a small enough battery that will hold a big enough charge for these new cars -- and not be a risk to burst into flames.

The limits of electric-car technology are achingly clear in one of the most-heralded cars on the drawing board: GM's Chevy Volt. GM executives mention the prototype, which the Detroit auto maker aims to put into production in three years, nearly every time they discuss their vision for "gas free" cars. But GM still hasn't solved the battery problem.

A handful of companies are racing to come up with a battery suitable for this next generation of electric cars. The competition pits big Asian battery makers against a gaggle of small start-ups, most of them based in the U.S. Each is trying to come up with a viable power source for long-range electric cars and for gasoline-electric hybrids such as the Volt, which rely far more on electricity than do hybrids currently on the market....MORE