A new study by Carnegie Mellon University has found that the cost to create an automotive battery pack capable of providing a range of 40 miles per charge is prohibitively expensive. Coincidentally (or not), that's exactly the range that General Motors is aiming for with its upcoming Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle.
GM's not offering any specifics about how much the Volt's lithium-ion battery pack will cost, but current estimates place the figure over $15,000. If the car's going to have mass market appeal, that battery pack may represent nearly half the car's total cost to the consumer, which would be an unsustainable situation without the assistance of federal tax credits and incentives.
Even if the government subsidizes the cost of the Volt's initial purchase, questions remain about the replacement cost of the battery pack despite GM's assertion that it will last the life of the car. GM has until late 2010 to get it all worked out, and we remain excited about the prospect of gas-free motoring that plug-ins like the Volt will provide. Still, studies like the one from CMU cannot be dismissed and cast doubt over any automaker's ability to bring electric or extended-range electric vehicles to market in a cost effective manner.