2014 Malibu Challenges High Tech vs High Cost

Wall Street Journal

Gen­er­al Motors Co. is drop­ping a lithi­um-ion bat­tery from its pop­u­lar mid­size sedan in favor of a less-cost­ly lead-acid bat­tery, aimed at sav­ing cost.

Find out more about what will fuel the upcom­ing Chevro­let Mal­ibu.

Gen­er­al Motors is drop­ping a lithi­um-ion bat­tery from a pop­u­lar mid­size sedan in favor of a less-cost­ly lead-acid bat­tery, a move that high­lights the ten­sion between high tech­nol­o­gy and high cost in the auto mar­ket.

The 2014 Chevro­let Mal­ibu uses a “start-stop” sys­tem with a lead-acid bat­tery to improve fuel econ­o­my and achieve the same fuel econ­o­my as the old­er mod­el, which used a lithi­um-ion bat­tery-based eAs­sist tech­nol­o­gy to boost mileage. The new tech­nol­o­gy is stan­dard on all 2014 mod­els; EAs­sist was a $1,500 option on 2013 Mal­ibus.

The Malibu’s new stop-start sys­tem uses a lead-acid bat­tery in the trunk—no big­ger than a half-gal­lon box of ice cream—and a larg­er lead-acid bat­tery under the hood to turn off the 2.5-liter, four-cylin­der engine when the vehi­cle is stopped or idling. The engine restarts when a dri­ver pulls their foot off the brake.

GM’s move high­lights the chal­lenges auto mak­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers of lithi­um-ion bat­ter­ies are fac­ing as they try to push elec­tric vehi­cle tech­nol­o­gy into main­stream, high-vol­ume cars. GM and its rivals orig­i­nal­ly viewed lithi­um-ion bat­ter­ies as the foun­da­tion of hybrid pow­er sys­tems that could sub­stan­tial­ly improve the mileage of gaso­line-fueled cars.

On Wednes­day, Chevro­let mar­ket­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Chris Per­ry said, “We found we could get the same results from a less expen­sive tech­nol­o­gy and at the same time save the cus­tomer mon­ey.” He added the fuel-saver “won’t work in all cas­es, but we are look­ing at our oth­er vehi­cles to see where we can use start-stop.”

GM’s move is a blow to the lithi­um-ion bat­tery indus­try, which is already is suf­fer­ing because of lack of demand for elec­tric vehi­cles. Toy­ota Motor Corp. on Wednes­day said it is cut­ting the start­ing price of its 2014 Prius Plug-in hybrid to $29,990, more than $2,000 less than the 2013 mod­el. Through the end of Sep­tem­ber, Toy­ota had sold just 7,974 Prius plug-ins, down 2.6% from the same peri­od a year ago.





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