Chevy Volt Battery Technology Questioned After Billions Wasted

Akerson and VoltIt appears that the Mainstream Media folks may finally be starting to expose one of the worst cases of taxpayer abuse that this country has ever seen. Kudos to Deepa Seetharaman who wrote a piece for Reuters which questions the feasibility of the government-subsidized, lithium-ion based battery technology behind electric vehicles (EVs) like the Chevy Volt. While Seetharaman acknowledges the limitations of lithium-ion batteries, what remains unchallenged is the continued waste of billions of taxpayer dollars to support the failing, pseudo-green technology.

The evidence that the Obama Administration’s EV subsidization has been a costly fiasco (particularly regarding the Chevy Volt hoax) continues to mount. While I’m certain that green extremists and General Motors’ supporters will claim that the criticism is limited to right-wing parties with ties to the evil oil industry, a simple review of the facts reveals that some very credible and unbiased sources are admitting that, despite the billions of taxpayer dollars spent, plug-in EVs are not the solution for America’s environmental and energy needs.

From the Reuters’ piece:

Experts are certain to point out red flags. Indeed, a growing number of engineers now say the lithium-ion battery revolution has stalled, undercut by high costs, technical complexity and safety concerns.

“Smart people have been working on this for 10 years already and no one is close to a new kind of battery,” said Fred Schlachter, a lithium-ion battery expert and retired physicist from the U.S.-funded Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Many experts now believe it will take at least another decade for lithium-ion technology to be ready for widespread adoption in transportation. Others, including Toyota Motor Corp, believe the solution lies beyond lithium-ion.

Interviews with two dozen battery executives, experts and researchers, including the founder of Securaplane, which made Boeing’s battery charger, reveal an industry in which some are having second thoughts about using lithium-ion, and are instead looking to enhance previous technologies or to leap ahead.

Toyota spokesman John Hanson chimes in that, “We don’t think that lithium-ion batteries are going to help us get to a point where we can dramatically increase volume and really call it a mass market; we’re going to have a more significant breakthrough and probably go into some other area of battery chemistry.” This sentiment by Toyota has been expressed before, as I previously reported. Toyota Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, the “father of the Prius,” has been quoted as saying, “Because of its shortcomings – driving range, cost and recharging time – the electric vehicle is not a viable replacement for most conventional cars; we need something entirely new.”

The list of credible critics of the Volt’s technology goes on. Even General Motors’ executive director of powertrain-engine engineering, Sam Winegarden, stated that “The rumored death of the internal combustion engine is premature.” At an engineering symposium last year, Mr. Winegarden presented a chart ranking power sources that displayed “…lithium-ion batteries, used in electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and GM’s plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, were ranked close to zero compared to gasoline and diesel fuels, which delivered the most energy for the least amount of weight and cost to the consumer.”

In addition to the efficiency limitations, we have an even more troubling question as to the safety of the Volt’s technology. GM keeps a team of Hazmat specialists on call to respond to any Onstar notifications of accidents involving a Volt. Firefighters, unless properly trained, must stay away from the complex, volatile power source which has more than 600 seals and cooling components to keep it safe. In fact, according to Josh Payne who worked on the first Volt battery and is now senior engineering manager at Energy Power Systems, “That’s 600 seals that all have to stay for the entirety of its life otherwise you have catastrophic failures.” That does not sound too reassuring!

The worst part of this mostly-untold story is the taxpayer money that continues to be wasted on the green pipe dream. The American people were lied to about the potential for the Chevy Volt, as well as for the technology behind it. Billions of dollars were spent on grants and failed loans for production of plug-in EVs, lithium-ion batteries and charging stations. Wealthy purchasers of $40,000 Chevy Volts and $100,000 Teslas receive federal tax credits for $7,500 each. Subsidized battery makers like A123 Systems are bankrupt and government-supported, green automaker Fisker is not far from it. How are middle-class or poor Americans benefiting from any of this?

The evidence that taxpayer money is blatantly wasted on a misguided green agenda continues to build, yet few in the media or in Washington question the waste. The guilt lies with both Democrats and Republicans, neither of which seem to want to take a logical approach to our country’s fiscal and energy needs. And you can be sure that politicians will continue to receive lobbying money from those cronies that are being enriched while taxpayers foot the bill for Obama’s green energy scam.

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.