General Motors Corp. forms a vehicle-engineering team dedicated solely to the development of hybrid and extended-range electric vehicles and advanced battery technology.

Jim Queen, GM group vice president-global engineering, says with an engineering team focused exclusively on delivering the technical aspects of hybrids and E-REVs, “we can accelerate these programs and get them into production quickly and efficiently.”

For example, GM would like to bring its Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric vehicle to market by 2010 but admits the timetable depends heavily on the development of a safe, reliable lithium-ion battery that delivers a full-electric and emissions-free range of at least 40 miles (64.4 km).

The Volt leverages GM’s E-Flex architecture by mating a Li-ion battery with a small-displacement gasoline engine that extends the vehicle’s range beyond what it could achieve under electric power alone. GM also has shown an iteration of E-Flex with a diesel engine and a hydrogen fuel-cell system.

The auto maker already has established a design studio that focuses exclusively on E-Flex vehicles and would like to beat rival Toyota Motor Corp. to market with a PHEV.

In addition to E-Flex, the new engineering team will develop vehicles that use alternative propulsion systems, such as the 2-mode hybrid unit for GM’s fullsize trucks and SUVs, the Chevy Malibu Hybrid and Saturn Vue 2-mode plug-in cross/utility vehicle unveiled at last week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

GM says the team also will support the auto maker’s carbon-dioxide reduction initiatives in Europe, as well as the Buick LaCrosse Eco-Hybrid in China and other related projects that will be put into development.

Robert Kruse, executive director-vehicle engineering for hybrids, electric vehicles and batteries, will lead the group. Kruse, 48, previously served as executive director at GM’s Performance Division. His career at GM dates back to 1978 as a cooperative student at Buick Motor Div.

GM will headquarter the North American contingent in Warren and Milford, MI. In Europe, the team will be based in Mainz-Kastel, Germany. In the Asia Pacific region, it will be located in Shanghai, China.