With each passing day, General Motors seems to become more confident that it will send the first Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids to dealers before the end of 2010. That’s still a major gamble for GM. As John Voelcker, a frequent contributor to HybridCars.com, writes in the current issue of IEEE Spectrum, “Not since the earliest days of the industry have [carmakers] tried to develop a new body and chassis and a new energy storage and power delivery system, all at the same time and all for the same car.”
The Spectrum article is a profile of Denise Gray, the GM executive in charge of making sure that the Volt’s battery packs are delivered—on time, in adequate quantities, at an acceptable cost. That could be the most critical role for the project. Aaron Bragman, an industry analyst with Global Insight, told Voelcker, “The advanced battery team is the group that the entire Volt project hinges upon.” Bragman added, “Beating Toyota to market with a plug-in hybrid is absolutely critical.”
That puts Denise Gray in the hot seat. She said, “I understand what it means to the company, and, quite frankly, to the industry, to our country.” Gray also understands what it’s like to fight against tough odds. She’s an African-American woman electrical engineer, who grew up in a single-parent household and was educated in Detroit’s public schools. She rose through the ranks at GM, spending much of her career formalizing rigorous testing practices to ensure that the increasingly large amount of software in a modern car—which by now controls pretty much any function you can think of—actually works properly. That’s exactly the background and expertise needed to beat the odds of bringing the Chevy Volt to market.