Gulf & Western Industries Inc. said yesterday it has developed a new battery system that will power an electric vehicle nearly 200 miles on a single charge at a cost of $3.45 -- one-third the cost of the trip in a comparable gasoline-powered car.

The unique chemistry of the G&W battery will give electric vehicles longer range and longer life than cars powered by today's lead-acid batteries' which must be recharged after 75 to 100 miles of driving, G&W officials said.

"Up until today, the electric car was considered little more than a glorified golf cart," said David Judelson, president of G&W. "We predict it will soon be America's main family car."

Department of Energy offficials, while awaiting completion of tests of the G&W battery in several types of vehicles, said it appears to be a major breakthrough.

Yesterday, G&W showed off its battery system in a Volkswagen Rabbit and a one-quarter-ton van. The Rabbit has traveled 150 miles between rechargings at 55 miles per hour. A range of 200 miles is possible with a car designed for electric battery power, G&W said.

The company estimated that the power system can be manufactured for $3,000 in today's prices and the cost of a compact car equipped with the battery would be about $8,500.

The battery system also is being tested by electric utilities to store surplus power. G&W said 100 of its battery units will be installed at the Public Service Electric & Gas Co. plant in Hillsboro, N.J., in a test sponsored by the Energy Department and the Electric Power Research Institute.

The battery draws its power from a liquid zinc-chloride electrolyte which is pumped through cell units containing graphite plates. During the charging cycle, zinc is deposited on one set of plates, while chlorine gas forms on a second set. The gas is mixed with chilled water, forming a solid chlorine hydrate. During the discharge cycle, the hydrate is heated to release chlorine gas, which is dissolved in the electrolyte.

Unlike conventional lead-acid batteries, the zinc- chlorine process is continuous -- the active materials do not corrode and wear out.

An electric vehicle owner would recharge the battery at night, presumably, by connecting it to a 220-volt home outlet. A six-to-eight-hour recharge is required.

G&W said it has not begun negotiations with auto manufacturers on use of the battery, but is confident there wil be plenty of interest.

Auto industry experts are interested in how the G&W system controls the release of poisonous chlorine gas in case of an accident.

G&W said that because chlorine is stored as a solid hydrate, "the potential health and environmental hazards in the immediate vicinity of an accidental spill would be significantly reduced."

Even under a "worst case" accident, G&W said, its system "would pose only negligible health or environmental hazards. . . ."