GM hopes for a 200-mile range electric car: CEO

Chevrolet Volt
General Motors

(MoneyWatch) General Motors (GM) believes a company it backs may develop an electric car battery that can go up to 200 miles on a single charge, GM CEO Dan Akerson said this week.

Speaking at an employee meeting, Akerson said a small battery company backed by GM is working on a lithium-ion battery that can store more energy than the current generation. That should lead to a range of at least 100 miles per charge, and possibly as much as 200. "I think we've got a better than 50-50 chance to develop a car that will go to 200 miles on a charge," said Akerson. "That would be a game changer."

GM's current electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, can go only about 35 miles on one charge before its backup gasoline engine kicks in. The Tesla S claims 300 miles on a charge but it has a much larger battery and is a much more expensive car.

However, the Volt's possibility of backup power seems to be boosting its salesvs. all-electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf.

5 new cars to avoid: Consumer Reports
Made in USA: 5 of the best cars built here
New cars a better deal than used ones

The company developing the new battery is Envia Systems, based in Newark, Calif. GM invested $7 million in Envia in 2011. "These little companies come out of nowhere and they surprise you," Akerson told employees.

Envia seems to be faring better than A123 systems, which this week was rescued and taken over by a Chinese auto parts company.Analysts say that electric car battery firms that survive likely will have an alliance with major companies, as Envia does.

  • Jerry Edgerton On Twitter»

    View all articles by Jerry Edgerton on CBS MoneyWatch»
    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.