GM, LG Enter Electric Car Pool Lane


By Ucilia Wang, GigaOM

The team approach is becoming popular in the electric cardevelopment space. General Motors and LG Group announced Thursday aplan to co-develop electric vehicles in order to speed up theirdeployment.

The two companies already have worked together in the electricvehilce market. GM is using LG’s lithium-ion battery cellsfor its plug-in electric hybrid Chevy Volt, which was launched onlylate last year. The new partnership will see LG engineers workingon component, structural and architectural designs, the companiessaid.

LG is a big conglomerate better known for its consumerelectronics and appliances, and GM is interested in using some ofits expertise in areas such as air conditioning, heat exchanger andmotor designs, said Micky Bly, executive director of GM’selectrical systems, hybrids, electric vehicles and batteries. GMalready uses hardware produced by LG for its OnStar system.

Exactly what technologies LG will bring to the co-developed carsis not so clear. Bly mentioned during a press conference that LGalso has expertise in charging and power conversion systems, but hewas coy about specifying what parts of a vehicle will useLG’s technologies. LG has a business unit that for many yearshas worked on “vehicle integration and development,”Bly noted. LG worked with GM on a demonstration fleet of electricChevy Cruze in Korea last year. The Cruze used LG’s batterypack and inverter.

Bly declined to talk about the cost or time line for launchingthe first co-developed car.

The electric car market is barely there, and carmakers fromstartups to industry giants have announced plans to roll out newmodels in the next few years. Ford plans to launch Focus Electriclater this year and has stepped up its marketing campaign. Fordrecently announced a deal to sell its customers a solarelectric system from SunPower at a reduced price.

It will take more than clever marketing to sell electric carsthough. Lowering the price of electric car will help tremendouslysince none of the electric passenger cars, whether they areall-electric or plug-in models, are as affordable as their gasolinecounterparts. The Volt starts at $40,280 while the Nissan LEAFcosts $35,200. Tesla Motors has indicated that its Model S, whichis supposed to be appeal to a larger crowd than its Roadster can,will cost nearly $80,000.

Ford hasn’t announced the price for the FocusElectric.

Buddying up to competitors to co-develop vehicles could reducedevelopment time and costs. That’s the thinking behindGM’s LG partnership, and GM isn’t alone. Toyota hasbeen working with Tesla on an electric RAV 4, and Teslaa scoreda $100 million supply deal this year. Tesla will provide thepower train system, which includes a battery, a charging system, aninverter, a motor, a gearbox and software. A RAV4 with the Teslapowertrain is scheduledfor launch in the United States next year.

Daimler and Renault-Nissan Alliance last year announceda pact to co-develop technologies for electric cars and tojointly work on Daimler’s Smart Fortwo and Renault’sTwingo.

Carmakers are under pressure to deliver more fuel-efficient andless-polluting cars in light of the new federal rule that requirescars sold by 2025 to have an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles pergallon.

Image courtesy of General Motors

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