* Next-generation LG batteries to debut with GM
* Sales of Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf have underwhelmed
* Battery costs to fall 35 pct in 2015
* Renault says plant talks 'ongoing'
By Hyunjoo Jin and Laurence Frost
SEOUL/PARIS Oct 19 LG Chem Ltd,
maker of electric-car batteries for General Motors Co and
Renault, said disappointing sales so far may affect
plans to build a plant with the French automaker.
The South Korean company's chief executive, Peter Bahn-suk
Kim, also said the next generation of power packs would debut in
2015 with GM, which makes the $40,000 Chevrolet Volt electric
car, and cut battery costs by about 35 percent.
"Nothing has been decided yet" Kim said of the proposed
Renault battery plant.
"The car battery market is still in difficult conditions,"
he added. "Investor expectations of the electric vehicle market
were too high."
Along with alliance partner Nissan Motor Co,
Renault has the most riding on electric vehicles after investing
some 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) in the technology.
In July, the French automaker unveiled a strategic
partnership with LG Chem and France's CEA energy research
institute to develop and produce batteries in the country,
dropping alternative power packs made by Nissan's own AESC joint
venture with NEC Corp.
A framework agreement was signed by all three parties on
Sept. 26, a Renault spokeswoman said on Friday.
"The agreement provides for the construction of a battery
plant in France," she said. "Negotiations are ongoing."
Sales of the Chevy Volt and rival Nissan Leaf electric car
have fallen well short of expectations, in a worrying sign for
the technology's biggest backers.
The next generation of batteries could help bring the price
of GM's next flagship plug-in model "down to the $30,000 level"
after its 2015 introduction, the LG Chem CEO said.
Detroit-based GM has yet to disclose what will replace the
Volt, or give any indication of timing or prices.
A company spokesman confirmed on Friday that GM is working
with LG Chem on the next-generation Volt battery, but declined