GM and SAIC to Develop Efficient New Small Car Powertrain

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.

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  • Max Reid

    Just make this a Flex fuel vehicle thats capable of running on Ethanol, it may become an alternative fuel vehicle as well.

    After all there are 18 million Flexfuel vehicles worldwide.

  • calvin

    Given China’s commitment to an EV-based transportation infrastructure, flex fuel is pointless and even harmful. Flex fuel vehicles are no good unless you build the infrastructure to distribute/deliver ethanol. And that would just take money/resources/focus away from EV development. Instead of focusing on building new power plants and plug-in stations, they’d have to divert resources towards growing corn and laying down corrosion-resistant ethanol pipelines.

    If China were to rely on hydrocarbon fuels for energy, it makes much more sense for them to just continue building methane plants. China isn’t like Brazil; they don’t have a naturally-growing crop like sugarcane that can produce abundant biomass with little energy input. However, they have huge reservoirs of methane (from coal mines, landfills and methane hydrate ice) that require minimal energy to extract. By re-purposing methane as fuel, you’re both keeping a harmful greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere _and_ getting energy from a cleaner fuel than ethanol. On top of that, methane has about twice the energy density of ethanol. So it’s no surprise that China is already investing heavily in methane re-purposing programs and methane power plants.

    So China does not need flex fuel vehicles and shouldn’t waste time on them.

  • JamesDavis

    GM, either your suffering from chronic dementia or you are just plain stupid. Don’t you ever read this magazine? Why would China want to buy those over priced fossil fuel crappy vehicles from you when they are deeply in the process of converting to energy efficient electric vehicles and upgrading their power grid to handle the millions of electric cars they are going to put on their streets by 2020?

    Why are you insisting on hanging onto a dying product? You would be wise to just close your doors, throw your hands up and walk away.

  • PatrickPunch

    GM should have done this at least 10 years ago but do the development in Europe and the US. Then history would have been different.

  • Anonymous

    max, there maybe lots of flexfuel vehilces worldwide, how many are using it up to their potential? my guess is very little beyond what’s required by the gov.

    let’s say everybody is on flexfuel, this likely will not be efficient or sustainable. i base this on a simple principal: higher number of processing steps means lower efficiency due to inherent energy losses during processing. this is the same reason why i am not so sure about hydrogen fuels.

    i’m also not so sure about gm’s intentions on this… gm has a track record of dumping small car models every few years. i’ll believe their seriousness when they have decade plus models like civic, corolla, or even focus.

  • Indigo

    Max, flexfuel is a joke. Corn ethanol uses more fossil fuel to produce than the energy content of the ethanol fuel releases when burned. Moreover, if you don’t live in the Midwest, you won’t find E85 fuel stations anywhere. In Maryland, there are four (4) E85 stations in the entire state. Flexfuel capability only accomplishes to things: greening Archer Daniels Midland with lots of taxpayer cash and allowing 10-MPG hulks to pass CAFE standards.

  • Shines

    JamesDavis, when gas prices rise to $5.00 a galon and the US GM dealerships are selling small, efficient, high quality but inexpensive cars made in China – I can see a lot of folks willing to buy them…

  • tapra1

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