GM to Debut 'Volt' Hybrid by 2010

General Motors says it plans to have its next-generation hybrid car, the Volt, on the market by 2010. But GM is taking a major gamble. The battery that will power the car doesn't exist yet.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

In this country, General Motors says it plans to have the Volt, its next-generation hybrid car, on the market by 2010. But for GM that's a big gamble because when you have a car called the Volt, it may be a problem that the battery that will power the car does not yet exist.

NPR's Jack Speer reports.

JACK SPEER: When GM unveiled the Volt at last year's Detroit Auto Show, it got a lot of attention.

(Soundbite of GM presentation)

Unidentified Woman: The 2007 Chevrolet Volt concept.

SPEER: The Volt is a plug-in hybrid designed to go 40 miles between charges. Unlike today's hybrids, it relies on a battery at all speeds, using the engine only for recharging. It can also be plugged-in at home to recharge.

Denise Gray is director of GM's hybrid energy storage division.

Ms. DENISE GRAY (General Motors): We are putting tremendous amount of engineering effort as a collective team to make sure that we come up with a good design to keep that battery as cool as possible so that we can use it as much as possible.

SPEER: But that may not be easy. Donald Sadoway is a battery expert at MIT. He says it's more complicated than just designing a larger version of the battery that powers your laptop computer.

Dr. DONALD SADOWAY (MIT): I don't know how they're going to do all of this, cram in all this functionality, deal with all the manufacturing issues, and have batteries that are safe. And if they think that all they have to do is manufacture them in China, I'm sorry, but that's not persuasive to me.

SPEER: GM appears undaunted and plans an entire vehicle lineup around what it calls its E-Flex System.

GM hopes to keep the price of a new Volt under $30,000.

Jack Speer, NPR News, Washington.

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