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Battery breakthrough needed for electric cars, officials say

The 80 KW AC Synchronous Electric motor from a 2011 Nissan Leaf zero-emission electric car is shown above. Leaf sales rose 13 percent the first two months of the year after Nissan cut its price. / BLOOMBERG NEWS


ETROIT — Big investments in lithium-ion battery manufacturing plants won’t significantly reduce the cost of making batteries, a revised outlook that cautions that sustainable growth in electric vehicle sales will happen later rather than sooner.

For General Motors, that means the $40,000 Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in electric vehicle powered by a 435-pound lithium-ion battery pack, could stay expensive — and heavy — for years.

It also might limit the commercial potential of Tesla Motors, which sells luxury electric vehicles ranging from about $60,000 to more than $110,000.

Nissan cut the price of its Leaf S in January from $35,200 to $28,800, before tax credits. For the first two months of this year, Leaf sales rose 13 percent, but only to 1,303.

Through the first two months of this year, however, alternative powertrain vehicles did not do badly. Sales of gas-electric, non-rechargeable


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