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Worldwide race to make better batteries

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“I applaud the new money going into battery research,” Sadoway says. “We’ve been underspending on something that’s vital to our national security and economic well-being.”

In the near term, however, the US is playing catch-up. For more than a year, General Motors has said it hopes to launch the world’s first mass-produced PHEV, the Chevrolet Volt, in 2010. But until recently, GM executives had been damping expectations, saying a battery with the right performance and cost still didn’t exist.

That changed last week when GM named LG Chem, a Korean company, as the lithium-ion battery cell supplier for the Volt. It is also working with A123Systems, officials say. Not to be outdone, Toyota announced it would sell some PHEVs with lithium batteries late this year.

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