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General Motors Hedging Bets On EV Tech Photo:
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Malcolm Flynn | Mar, 11 2013 | 0 Comments

General Motors (GM) is working on two electric drivetrains, each distinct technologically, for an upcoming all-electric model.

The dual-development strategy is seen within GM as the best way to engineer a drivetrain at the leading edge of EV and battery technologies.

News source Bloomberg reports that each drivetrain for the unspecified model will be capable of either 161km or 322km total driving range, with resulting variation in the unit costs of each.

Speaking at the IHS CERAWeek energy conference this week, GM CEO Dan Akerson explained the new model’s dual development strategy:

“There will be breakthroughs in battery technology, they’re on the horizon. We’re running a dual-play on the technology to see which one will succeed,” Ackerson said.

Put simply, GM cannot accurately predict which of the two drivetrains will be cost-effective for mass production at the end of the model’s development period, so is readying two different options to ensure the model’s feasibility.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the rapid advancement of battery technology and its associated costs is difficult to synchronise with the several years required to develop a new vehicle.

This issue reportedly caused the indefinite halting of Audi’s R8 e-tron pure-electric supercar development at the end of last year, within weeks of its planned production.

Reports at the time suggested the R8 e-tron’s battery system cost had not fallen in line with expectations to make the project commercially feasible.

GM’s dual development strategy will ensure their model reaches production, and plans to have produced 500,000 vehicles with some form of electrification by 2017.

The worldwide automotive giant currently builds the range-extended electric Volt model for its Chevrolet, Holden and Opel (as Ampera), and will add the similar Cadillac ELR by the end of 2013.

The company will also launch a pure-electric version of the Chevrolet Spark (known locally as the Barina Spark) by mid-year, which promises a range of 121-129km.

Above: a cutaway of the new 2013 Chevrolet Spark EV.
Above: a cutaway of the new 2013 Chevrolet Spark EV.

 

Weight Reduction

Akerson also discussed the benefits of weight reduction in his IHS CERAWeek address, citing that a ten percent weight reduction could result in 6.5 percent lower fuel consumption.

He outlined GM’s plan to reduce the average weight of its vehicles by up to 15 percent by 2016, through greater use of carbon fibre, aluminium, and magnesium in their construction.

 

GM EV1

These unspecified EV and Spark EVs will not be the first GM pure-electric vehicles to reach production, after the controversial GM EV1 model was produced between 1996-99.

Just over 1000 relatively low-tech EV1s were produced over that period, and leased to consumers before the program was cancelled in 2002.

The EV1 project reached public infamy as the subject of the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?

 
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