General Motors has signed a co-development agreement with longtime Chinese collaborator, Shanghai Automotive Industries Corporation, to design and build fuel-efficient internal combustion powertrains for small cars. The technology will be initially deployed in the Chinese market, but GM hopes to eventually incorporate it into several vehicles worldwide.
The new turbocharged direct injection, four-cylinder engines will offer displacements of between 1.0 and 1.5 liters, providing about 10 percent better efficiency than those currently being produced for similar vehicles in China today. Efficiency gains will stem from a compact, lightweight structure and an improved turbocharge design. The companies will also develop a dual-clutch, front-wheel-drive transmission that will cut fuel consumption by an additional 10 percent.
Whatever small cars the system eventually attaches to will qualify for a fuel-efficient gas car subsidy that was recently approved by the Chinese government. A $450 per car rebate will be given to consumers who purchase these cars, which are likely to account for the brunt of short-term fuel economy improvements as China moves toward its long-term goal of popularizing electric vehicles.
Even though a combined 20 percent improvement may not seem like a big move, most carmakers have opted to market intermediate fuel-efficient ICE vehicles, with an eye toward clean fuel technologies like plug-in cars and fuel cells in the future. In the United States, GM is looking to mild hybrids to bridge that gap, though it appears that the carmaker’s international strategy will be geared heavily toward small cars as well.