UPDATE 1-GM forms team for hybrids, electric vehicles


(Adds details on mileage, batteries, adds quote)

DETROIT, Jan 24 (Reuters) - General Motors Corp said on Thursday it formed a new organization to speed up the implementation of advanced battery technology for hybrid and electric vehicles.

The world's largest automaker, which plans to produce the Chevrolet Volt plug-in car by the end of 2010, said the global team will be based in Warren and Milford, Michigan, Mainz- Kastel, Germany and Shanghai, China.

The team will be working on the Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid, which GM has said could precede the Volt as the first commercially-available electric vehicle. The team will also work on the Volt once the vehicle is ready for production.

Unlike earlier gasoline-electric hybrids, which run on a system that twins battery power and a combustion engine, plug- ins are designed for short trips powered entirely by an electric motor and a battery charged through a socket at home.

As the race to bring a mass-market, rechargeable electric vehicle to the market heats up, GM is hoping to be the first to mass production and snatch the lead on environmental technology from Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp .

The Volt, designed to run for 40 miles on electricity alone, would be outfitted with new lithium-ion battery packs, which are more powerful than the nickel-metal hydride batteries now used in many hybrid cars.

The Vue would run about 10 miles on electricity. GM is working on battery technology for the Vue as well, hoping to produce it in 2010.

Automakers say lithium-ion technology remains the biggest challenge in producing a plug-in as they try to lower the cost of the batteries and boost their power and storage capacity.

GM is testing lithium-ion battery technology developed by its two suppliers -- A123 Systems and Compact Power Inc, a subsidiary of South Korea's LG Chem .

But GM's product chief Bob Lutz has said the automaker should invest in developing more of the technology in-house.

"Battery technology is a critical part of our strategy," said Robert Kruse, who will lead the new global team. "We are going to increase our expertise of batteries -- their chemistry, applications and integration requirements." (Reporting by Jui Chakravorty Das; Editing by Andre Grenon)



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