In order to sell the Chevy Volt for $30,000 or less, General Motors is considering leasing the lithium-ion batteries to customers who buy the car. As AutoblogGreen points out, renting car parts is an innovative strategy to get the Volt to market in time and at the right price. Having a car payment and a battery payment, however, might not be fun for Volt owners. The upside, however, is that GM would presumably warranty the batteries for the life of the lease, easing concerns over what happens to the battery packs if and when they fail.
In a way, GM has used this tactic in the past. Back in the day, the EV1 electric car was only available to lease, not to own. Of course, as most of us know, leasing the EV1s eventually bit GM in the arse when it went to retrieve the cars and encountered significant resistance from owners who had become attached to them. This plan seems to get around that issue, as a Volt owner will actually own his car, just not the batteries. Of course, if GM ever decides to ask for the battery packs back, owners may be left with a giant generator on wheels.