GM's New Electric Car Battery Quest
By EV World
It had to be a considered a good week at what is still the world's largest car company. General Motors actually turned a profit the fourth quarter of 2006 and was able to gather over 100 journalists, some in person, others via teleconference, to their battery briefing.
Ever since the company rolled out its Chevy Volt E-Flex range-extended electric car, it has be trying to convince a skeptical public that it really plans to build cars with 40 miles of electric-only range, backed up by flexible fuel capable engines and/or fuel cells. In the case of the Volt, the envisioned engine is a small three cylinder gasoline generator tuned to run at 2300 rpm, its peak point for thermal energy efficiency.
To show the company is putting its money where its mouth is, it organized the press briefing that included GM's Vice President for Environment and Energy, Beth Lowery, Denise Gray, and Joe LoGrasso, the Engineering Group Manager for Hybrid Energy Storage Systems.
Representing its battery program contractors was Mary Ann Wright, who was recently hired after leaving Ford Motor Co. to head up as CEO Johnson Controls and Saft's hybrid battery joint-venture, JCS. Representing A123 was Ed Bednarcik, their Vice President and General Manager. Cobasys Vice President for System Engineering Scott Lindholm rounded out the list of presenters. [Be sure to also read/listen to GM Vice President for R&D, Dr. Larry Burns, who spoke for some 90 minutes at a private breakfast to a half-dozen journalists prior to the formal battery presentation].
GM provided EV World with a copy of the presentation slides in the form of a 7.1MB PDF file which you can download here.
Beth Lowery, GM VP for Environment and Energy -- Ms Lowery began by explaining the factors that are driving GM in the direction of electric vehicles starting with the growth in energy demand. She noted that there are presently 800 million cars and trucks in the world and this is projected to grow to over a billion in the not-to--distant future.
"We want to make sure this business grows in a sustainable way," she emphasized. "We really do need to address the energy diversity issue and get some flexibility into the transportation sector."
While she acknowledged that fuel cells and plug-in electric cars are future program, she also pointed out that GM offers more cars that get 30mpg or better than any other manufacturer and it also now has some 16 flexible fuel (E85) vehicles available this model year. The company will also be introducing four new hybrids this year, including its Saturn VUE and Aura and Chevy Malibu mild hybrids and its two-mode hybrid drive in two of its SUVs: the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon.
Denise Gray, GM Director Hybrid Energy Systems -- GM's battery efforts are, according to Ms. Gray international with teams in Germany and the U.S. working on the problem, as well as its contracts with JSC and Cobasys. The company has an accelerated goal of increasing its battery expert talent by 50% in 2007. It is also "leveraging" its relationship with the US Advanced Battery Consortium or US ABC.
Joe LoGrasso, GM Engineering Group Manager, Energy Storage Systems -- Mr. LoGrasso's history on electric vehicles dates back to the EV1. He said that the Volt program is drawing on the experience of GM's fuel cell, electric car and hybrid programs. In a revealing chart he demonstrated the difference in the energy requirements of mild hybrids, two-mode and range-extended electric vehicles like the Volt, and the differences are significant.
LoGrasso's presentation was tuned to a more technical audience and if you want to skip the more marketing oriented presentations, I recommend listening to the first MP3 file from about the 17-18 minute point onward. Also be sure to follow along using the accompanying PDF file above.
After LoGrasso's technically richer talk, GM's contract partners spoke for the rest of the program, which lasts a total of some 47-minutes. After this, the assembled media where allowed to ask questions and I highly recommend that you listen to their questions and the responses. Calling in questions were Plug-in America co-founder Paul Scott and CalCar's founder Felix Kramer, who offers his own candid assessment of the overall battery briefing.
EV World thanks General Motors for including us in the teleconference and in making a good-faith effort to fly our publisher to Detroit for the breakfast with Dr. Burns and the formal presentations.
You can manually download the MP3 audio files and the accompany GM presentation slides using the links below:
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