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GM doubles down on electric-car battery research

With an eye toward speeding development of the electric car market, the US automaker General Motors says it plans to spend $8 million to double the size of its advanced automotive battery lab.

The project, which will add 30,000 square feet to the company’s existing 33,000-square-foot Global Battery Systems Lab, is aimed at improving on-site testing of current and new battery cell technologies, as well as battery modules and packs. Set for completion this summer, the expansion begins this month.

“We’ve made the commitment to design, develop, validate and manufacture automotive battery technology in-house,” said Micky Bly, GM’s executive director fo global electrical systems, hybrids, electric vehicles and batteries. “Consolidating these testing capabilities at the Global Battery Systems Lab will reduce costs, provide a competitive advantage, quicken the pace of development and ensure we will design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles.”

Itself barely one year old, GM’s Global Battery Systems lab opened in January of 2009 and became fully operational only last May. It’s used by the firm’s growing team of more than 1,000 engineers working on advanced batteries and electrically driven vehicles.

The latest expansion will add capability in six areas:

  • Safety and abuse tolerance testing;
  • Buildup and teardown to prepare batteries for tests;
  • Engineering research to improve manufacturing processes such as laser welding and cell stacking;
  • Charger development and integration research;
  • Radiant heat, thermal stability and thermal shock testing; and
  • Battery storage

The Global Battery Systems Lab equipment and test automation systems are being integrated with GM’s global network of battery labs, including facilities in Mainz Kastel, Germany, and Shanghai, China.

While focused on developing more environmentally responsible transport technologies, the lab itself also features many green building elements, including a centre hallway lit with high-efficiency LED lighting and a floor made from recycled tires. Approximately 90 per cent of the electricity used for battery testing can be returned to the local energy grid for use by homeowners and businesses.

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