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Cadillac ELR vs. Chevrolet Volt 2.0

Stocks in this article: GM F TM

So what about this new battery in the Volt 2.0? There are several variables GM needs to consider:

1. Chemistry. This is as totally unknown as can be. It's a main driver of cost. There is a tremendous amount of research and development in this area. GM's current supplier is LG, the Korean company, but GM also uses A123 -- now a Chinese company -- for the battery in the Chevy Spark EV, which enters production this spring. There is no insight into what GM has picked -- or will pick -- for the Volt 2.0.

2. Cooling/heating. One big driver of cost is how much active (liquid) cooling and heating the battery needs. The cooling/heating of the Volt/ELR battery is very elaborate, most likely the best in the business. This means more cost and weight, but also a chance that the battery will perform strongly not just 8 or 10 years from now, but 20 or 30 years from now. A new battery chemistry could reduce the need for this expensive cooling/heating.

3. Enclosure and placement:

A) Will GM use the current T-shaped enclosure? It could use the same one as the current Volt (and ELR). This one is proven. But if there's a new reduced need for cooling/heating, the enclosure of the battery must also most likely change, because it's possible for lower cost.

In other words, GM could still use a fundamental T-shaped battery, but it could be a new one. I think this is, at a minimum, very likely.

B) Placement: What if GM decides not to keep the T-shaped battery at all? What if it decides to layer it in the floor, just like the Tesla Model S? Then all bets are out the window.

Much will also depend on what GM thinks about the Volt being a "one-product car" or if it is going to be a family of cars. The current Volt is much-beloved by its owners, but many current and potential owners want additional body styles. Most people tell me they want versions of the Volt that fit five, six, or seven people -- not just four. They want good old-fashioned minivans -- with the Volt powertrain.

Even in a minimalist scenario, where the Volt continues to be "one model," GM may want it to fit five people instead of four. If so, it will have to ditch the T-shaped (or straight) tunnel battery in favor of an alternative placement. This makes some sense, in any case, as it would increase the appeal of the "basic" Volt model.

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