GM has awarded two contracts for advanced development of lithium-ion batteries for its electric drive "E-Flex System," as featured on the Chevrolet Volt concept. Developing these batteries is a major hurdle that needs to be overcome before plug-in electric vehicles become fully viable.

GM made the announcement at its annual shareholder meeting yesterday. The company said it had selected two companies out of a total of 13 technical proposals that it considered to provide advanced lithium batteries for both range-extender electric and fuel cell variants of the E-Flex architecture.

One contract will go to lithium-ion battery supplier Compact Power, Inc., based in Troy, Mich. CPI is a subsidiary of Korean battery manufacturer LG Chem. A second contract has been awarded to Frankfurt, Germany-based Continental Automotive Systems, a division of Continental A.G., a tier one automotive supplier that will develop lithium-ion battery packs. GM continues to assess other solutions to quickly bring lithium-ion batteries to production.

"The signing of these battery development contracts is an important next step on the path to bring the Volt closer to reality," said GM Chairman and CEO, Rick Wagoner. "Given the huge potential that the Volt and its E-Flex system offers to lower oil consumption, lower oil imports, and reduce carbon emissions, this is a top priority program for GM."

The E-Flex System was first shown as the plug-in battery electric propulsion system for the Chevrolet Volt concept vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in January. A plug-in fuel cell variant of the E-Flex system was shown at the Shanghai Auto Show in April. The "E" stands for electric drive; the "Flex" represents the architecture's adaptability to be configured in several vehicle packages operating on various sources of electricity.

GM said that these suppliers were chosen because they demonstrated solutions that best met the specific energy, power, mass and durability requirements for the battery in the E-Flex range-extender variant. The battery for the fuel-cell variant requires half the energy and power, but must be integrated and connected to the vehicle in a similar way.

"This technology is developing rapidly," said Denise Gray, GM director of hybrid energy storage devices. "These contracts are an opportunity to deeply understand the differing battery technologies before making a production decision."