GM building electric car infrastructure

An all-electric vehicle is exhibited in Santa Monica, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: One company who's future is closely tied to oil and gas prices made some news today.

General Motors announced a deal today with more than two dozen utilities to work on infrastructure for electric vehicles, which, in an ideal world, would be ready before GM's electric car hits the road.

Janet Babin reports now from the Marketplace Innovations Desk at North Carolina Pubic Radio.


Janet Babin: GM's new Volt is expected in showrooms by 2010, but only if the company can get the car's battery up to speed.

GM engineer Britta Gross says new lithium ion battery technology would give the Volt staying power.

Britta Gross: This has the potential to get you 40 miles. That's really great to know that you can do your commute on just electric drive. It has an energy storage capability and it's going to be a much more affordable battery.

Consumers though, want convenience. That's why GM's partnering with the utility companies, including Duke Energy and American Electric Power. They all want consumers to be able to plug in their cars at home at night, when energy is cheaper and more available.

Mark Duvall with the Electric Power Research Institute, or EPRI, says the utility industry will also design mobile plug-in charging stations.

Mark Duvall: They could have automatic billing systems like we have automatic toll systems. We can do something that syncs up with parking meters.

EPRI studies report that electric cars emit 20 to 60 percent fewer emissions than gas powered cars at one fifth the cost.

Ford and Toyota are also working on pure electric cars. Peter Delorenzo publishes autoextremist.com. He says if GM can pull this off, it'll leapfrog both firms. But there could be sticker shock.

Peter Delorenzo: The initial cost of these vehicles is going to be fairly pricey.

Even with a more affordable battery, DeLorenzo says the Volt will still cost $30-40,000.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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