During its Electrification Experience in San Francisco last week, General Motors announced that it is paring down plans for the alternative fuels market.
“I want to state clearly, here and now, that a major focus of GM’s electrification strategy will center on the plug,” said Mary Barra, GM’s senior VP of global product development.
Barra, via satellite feed from Detroit, said plans call for annual global production of 500,000 units with “some form of electrification.”
Powertrains in those vehicles will consist largely of plug-in, plug-in hybrid, and GM’s eAssist technologies. GM says eAssist provides up to 25 percent improvement in certain vehicles, which currently are the Buick Regal, Chevy Malibu Eco, and in the forthcoming 2014 Chevy Impala.
GM’s recent strategy for developing fuel-efficient, cleaner products was a broad approach, “essentially to cover the waterfront,” acknowledged Barra, but things will now change.
She didn’t say traditional hybrid powertrain vehicles were off the table, but did emphasize plug-ins as leading the company’s alternative technologies focus:
“We think the plug offers a unique opportunity to change the way people commute. That’s why I am proud to say that plug-based solutions will play a significant role in our technology portfolio going forward … Traditional hybrid technology is important, of course. But we think plug-in technology will play an increasingly important role in the years to come, and that’s where a significant part of our focus will be.”
Volt Credited As GM Alternative Fuel Kingpin
While giving insight to GM’s electrified vehicle intentions, the GM exec acknowledged the Volt’s success as a driver of the company’s future, saying it “has turned into a real-world starting point to push EV technology further and faster than we thought possible five years ago.”
Barra said the powertrain technology pioneered in the Volt “will be a core piece of our electrification strategy going forward,” and that engineers are working on ways to improve efficiency in the Volt, as well as providing “more innovative options” for customers. She gave no further details related to the Volt’s future design.
The Volt sold [nearly] 3,000 units in October in the U.S., said Barra, adding that for 2012 GM is expecting to sell more than 50,000 vehicles in the U.S. equipped with electrification technology.
Tidbits Offered on Chevy Spark EV
Last week it was announced the Chevrolet Spark EV would debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, giving consumers their first look at the plug-in electric powertrain sibling to the gasoline-powered Spark.
Mary Barra took an opportunity during the GM conference to update some details on the Spark EV which GM has since shared more about.
Barra said the car will be a global vehicle sold in markets beyond previously announced U.S. and Korea. However, GM won’t announce for several weeks yet what additional markets will get the Spark EV.
“Sure, we’ll meet requirements set by certain regulatory agencies, but we’re not building the Spark EV to check a regulatory box,” remarked Barra.
She also stated GM wont’ limit the plug-in Spark to lease sales only, and that the car will have “a comprehensive eight-year/100,000 mile warranty on its battery system.“
GM has also been shy on divulging the Spark EV’s all-electric range for its reportedly somewhere-more-than 20 kilowatt-hour battery pack.
After some of you speculated on it having a mere 50-mile range, we asked GM’s Kevin Kelly, Manager, Electric Vehicle and Hybrid Communications, but he was not willing to confirm or deny guesses.
“We are still in the final stages of development and are working on the final range numbers,” said Kelly. “All we are saying is that it will be among the best in its segment.”
If the also-small Mitsubishi i-MiEV gets 62 miles range by EPA reckoning, odds are the Spark’s EPA range will be more than the most bearish forecasts, and able to practically rely no doubt on intraday DC fast-charge capability as well.