Today, GM unveiled plans to “capitalize on the future of personal mobility by owning the customer relationship beyond the vehicle, building upon nearly two decades of connectivity leadership” and while a large part of that plan is an eventual autonomously driven car based robotaxi service, General Motors announced a couple other things as well. Rather than expand on the company’s leadership in electric vehicles, the press release discusses fuel cell vehicles and lightweighting measures by switching away from steel. Nowhere did the press release mention electric vehicles.
This reminds me of the question I asked some time ago – given the lackadaisical marketing of the Chevy Volt, Chevy Spark EV, etc, is GM at all serious about electric cars? Yes, GM has announced a 200+ mile range electric car, the Chevy Bolt, that’ll go on sale in late 2016. But, the Bolt will see limited distribution initially, according to news reports, giving room to doubt GM’s seriousness. In any case let’s look at GM’s announcement today:
- eBike Concept: GM unveiled an electric bike, or eBike, concept during the conference, demonstrating the company’s evolving view of “mobility” in an ever-changing, increasingly urban world. Designed and engineered at GM’s engineering and development center in Oshawa, Ontario, the eBike concept was designed to help people stay mobile in an increasingly difficult-to-navigate urban landscape.
- Fuel Cell Propulsion: Another technology helping GM set the pace in achieving zero emissions is fuel cell propulsion. GM has been working to advance hydrogen fuel cells for a decade, launching its first fuel cell electric vehicle in 2007. In collaboration with Honda, it is developing a next-generation hydrogen fuel cell stack and hydrogen storage systems. GM confirmed its plans to jointly develop a commercially viable fuel cell vehicle with Honda in the 2020 timeframe. Because the technology can also provide promising financial rewards, GM indicated it is pursuing non-automotive fuel cell applications for the aerospace and military industries.
- Mixed Materials: GM is intensely focused on reducing weight in every vehicle it develops, since lighter vehicles are better able to meet increasingly stringent global CO2 standards and offer consumer benefits including efficiency and enhanced performance. The company is using an array of materials, including various grades of steel, aluminum and composites, to help make vehicles stronger, safer, more fuel efficient and fun to drive. Engineers are using a mix of materials more cost effectively than ever across all GM brands and making them accessible to customers at various price points. The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, for example, incorporates 11 different materials and, as a result, is nearly 300 pounds lighter than its predecessor while the next-generation Camaro is almost 400 pounds lighter than the current model.
- Exclusive Mixed-Metal Manufacturing Techniques: GM’s R&D team has invented another patented, industry-first welding technology to allow the use of more lightweight metal on future vehicles. This resistance spot-welding process enables the welding of aluminum to steel, which helps make vehicles lighter and more structurally robust. The process will be adopted at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant on the Cadillac CT6 in the first half of 2016.
These are interesting plans, that’s for sure. Reducing weight is a great way to reduce fuel consumption and therefore reduce environmental impact. But if GM were serious about electric vehicles, wouldn’t they be mentioned in a press release of this sort?
- Autonomous vehicles
- Car sharing
- Electric bicycles
- Fuel cell vehicles
- Mixed-metal manufacturing, mixed materials, and reducing vehicle weight
This press release was billed as outlining GM’s future. If so, GM’s future is not in electric vehicles, it would seem.
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