Following the buzz from last week's Detroit auto show at which many major automakers underscored their commitments to alternative-fuel cars, General Motors has announced that it is setting up a new engineering organization dedicated to the development of hybrids, extended range electric vehicles, and advanced battery technology. The new division will focus on developing production vehicles based on GM's E-Flex gasoline-electric hybrid system--including, presumably, the Chevy Volt, which is scheduled for production in 2010--as well as vehicles based on GM's 2-Mode gasoline-electric hybrid architecture.
To date, GM has unveiled several concept cars based on the E-Flex system, which combines a plug-in electric drive train with an onboard gasoline engine used to recharge the car's battery and thereby extend its driving range. However, there is much speculation over whether the lithium-ion battery technology will be ready in time to meet the 2010 deadline that GM has set for a production version of the Chevy Volt. GM's announcement comes in the same week that Renault and Nissan said they are working with the government of Israel to put 500,000 electric charging stations in that country.