GM Picks Up Speed on Mass-Market Electric Cars

Morning Money Memo:

The race is on to build a long-range more affordable, mass-market electric car that can go at least 200 miles on a single charge. General Motors is expanding its battery testing plant in Michigan as it tries to bring down the cost of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles and make them more attractive for a much bigger share of new car buyers. Doug Parks, GM's vice president of global product programs, disclosed the new plans. Analysts say General Motors, Nissan, Tesla and other auto firms have faced the same problem for years with batteries. They are too expensive and don't give cars the ability to travel long distances. GM experts are reported to be studying Tesla's battery technology. The Chevy Volt, which sells for $35,000 before a federal tax credit, can go 38 miles before the gasoline motor kicks in. The all-electric Chevy Spark, which costs about $27,000, can go more than 80 miles. That compares with about 265 miles on a single charge for the much more expensive Tesla Model S.

Will it be a token taper? Policy makers at the Federal Reserve begin a two-day meeting today as they consider their first reduction in huge purchases of government bonds. That policy has helped keep interest rates really low. With an economy still recovering from the financial shock of five years ago, the Fed is expected to be cautious as it slowly reduces the money stimulus. Stocks rose Monday. Futures are slightly down today.

Coming off a weak back-to-school shopping season, a research firm expects holiday sales growth will be slower this year. The forecast says holiday sales will rise just 2.4 percent compared with last year, according to ShopperTrac. That compares with 4 percent gains in 2011 and 2012.

Giant bank JP Morgan Chase is likely to pay at least $800 million in penalties and admit wrongdoing for last year's "London Whale" trading loss, according to published reports this morning. A settlement is expected with British and U.S. regulators. But the bank might face additional fines from the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, which is not part of the ongoing settlement talks.

Music-streaming service Rhapsody has laid off 15 percent of its staff and said its president, Jon Irwin, is stepping down. The company also announcedthat investment firm Columbus Nova Technology Partners has become a major shareholder. The company also said it had hired Ethan Rudin, a former Starbucks strategy executive, as Rhapsody's chief financial officer

Natural-gas drilling sites aren't leaking as much methane into the atmosphere as previous estimates suggested. The first major, onsite study of emissions might be a major boost for the gas industry. The study was led by researchers at the University of Texas and partially funded by the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund. It's likely to ease concerns about the effects of natural gas drilling on the climate.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio Twitter: daviesnow 212-456-5100