The Long, Hard Bumpy Road to the Chevy Volt
WARREN, Mich. -- General Motors Corp. made it clear that there is nothing small or temporary about its ambition to dominate the emerging electric car industry when it opened its "Global Battery Systems Lab" here last month. It is the largest battery laboratory in North America, and Fritz Henderson, GM's CEO, said the Chevrolet Volt and the cars that come after it are the "lifeblood of our future."
He drove a prototype of the Chevy Volt into the glare of spotlights pointed down from the ceiling of a warehouse-sized showroom and showed an admiring phalanx of federal, state and local politicians the car's 400-pound, T-shaped battery, mounted on a pedestal nearby. The "new GM," he announced, "intends to be a leader in these technologies."
Visitors to GM's campus-like, 330-acre Technology Center have heard sales drumbeats before. But this year's pitch is different. It's green. Climate change and the downside of fossil fuels were part of the rhetoric as company technicians guided platoons of reporters through the laboratory. They went down hallways newly floored with recycled rubber and were told how the embattled, bankrupt company is planning to power the battery lab with wind turbines mounted on its roof.
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