In 'Green' Car Race, GM Still Lags Behind Japan

Perhaps the biggest indicator that Japanese carmakers are poised to stay in the lead is that a breakthrough in Li-ion battery technology -- vital if the Volt is to get off the ground -- is expected to happen in Japan.

Published: 23-Jan-2007

Of the dozens of vehicles on display at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, GM's (GM) Chevy Volt concept car probably commanded the most attention. The innovative car uses electric power exclusively for up to 40 miles of a trip. Then the range-extending power source -- which creates electricity from either gasoline, E85, or biodiesel -- kicks in to recharge the lithium ion battery pack [see BusinessWeek.com, 1/7/07, "Chevy's Volt has the Juice"].

What's more, as a plug-in hybrid [one that can recharge its batteries either using a car engine or connecting to the electricity grid], the Volt has won praise for being a step up from current offerings, which rely solely on the engine for recharging.

Just as important for Detroit, the Volt is going some way to persuade cynics that U.S. automakers are finally getting serious about environmental technologies. "It is a rare occurrence when Toyota (TM) gets "out-greened" at a major auto show, or anywhere, for that matter. But GM has done just that with its Volt," notes blog AutoExtremist.com. [see BusinessWeek.com, 1/17/07, "A Hot Reception For GM's Volt"].

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