Manufacturers continue to seek ways to build better alternative-fuel vehicles to lower vehicle emissions and meet legislative mandates. At the same time, they must provide customers with vehicles that meet their needs based on capability and value. General Motors continues to lead the way in alt-fuel research and development.
“This is where GM is in an excellent position — offering cars and trucks that offer immediate fuel-saving technologies, as well as long-term energy solutions,” said John Gaydash, director of marketing, GM Fleet and Commercial Operations. “GM’s position has always been that there is no one ‘magic bullet.’ Instead, we believe several alt-fuel technologies will coexist in the marketplace.”
GM’s alt-fuel lineup includes E-85, hybrid, biodiesel, and electric models, and the manufacturer continues to make progress on fuel cell development.
Ethanol Stands Out
GM believes, however, that one alternative fuel stands out above the rest: ethanol.“At GM, we believe the biofuel with the greatest potential to displace petroleum-based fuels in the U.S. is ethanol, which is why we have made a major commitment to vehicles that can run on E-85 ethanol,” Gaydash said.
Using E-85 helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions while diversifying fuel sources, according to Gaydash. GM already has more than 2 million flexfuel models on North American roads offered through Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, and Saturn. For the 2007 modelyear, GM offers 14 E-85-compatible flex-fuel models, totaling about 400,000 vehicles. E-85 vehicles are just part of the solution GM is pursuing. In addition to alternative fuels such as E-85 and biodiesel, GM is working to improve the efficiency of the internal combustion engine and is committed to developing and producing electrically-driven vehicles, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and extended-range electric vehicles.
Ultimately, GM believes hydrogen fuel cells offer the best opportunity to end U. S. dependence on petroleum. However, the manufacturer also recognizes it must also pursue other innovations and technologies that immediately impact petroleum displacement.
Companies Adopting Green Fleets
Finding the right “green” vehicles and staying within a budget presents significant challenges to some fleet managers. GM works closely with organizations to determine their ultimate goals for “going green.” Is the goal to achieve better fuel economy, reduce use of petroleum, or lower greenhouse gases? GM can advise companies on the best path to get there.
Gaydash said hybrids are not the only solution, and most hybrids come with a $7,000-8,000 premium.
“With a three-year turnover, you just can’t make that pencil from a business case standpoint,” he said. “That’s where having the largest product lineup in the business really comes into play. If they want to improve fuel economy, we have more cars that get over 30 mpg than any other manufacturer. The Saturn VUE Green Line is the lowest-priced hybrid SUV in the marketplace, and now we have the Saturn Aura Green Line sedan.
“So, with all these options available, we like to think that we can help customers go green without going broke,” Gaydash said.
GM’s Alt-Fuel Lineup Diverse
GM’s alternative-fuel offerings expand each year to meet customer demands. In fact, GM has intensified efforts to displace traditional petroleum-based fuels by building more vehicles that run on alternatives, such as E-85.
“If all the E-85-capable vehicles on the road today, combined with those that GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler are committed to produce over the next 10 years, were to run on E-85 ethanol, 22 billion gallons of gasoline could be displaced annually,” said Rob Minton, communications manager for GM.
GM is also committed to hybrid technology. The manufacturer plans to offer consumers a choice of three hybrid systems that vary in fuel-savings and cost.
Last year, GM launched the 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid, which delivers an estimated 20-percent improvement in fuel economy. The VUE Green Line is one of eight hybrid models GM will have on the road by 2008 to provide customers with a range of fuel economy savings at different price points on everything from cars to full-size SUVs.
GM also is developing a new hybrid system with one mode for city driving and one mode for highway driving.
“The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid and Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid arriving in dealerships later this year feature the world’s first two-mode hybrid propulsion system in a SUV and can improve overall fuel economy by 25 percent,” Minton said.
Evidence of GM’s commitment to electrically driven vehicles is found in its work on a Saturn VUE plug-in hybrid production vehicle, which will provide significantly better fuel economy and diversify the vehicle’s energy sources. This hybrid SUV will use a modified version of GM’s two-mode hybrid system and plug-in technology, a lithium ion battery pack, highly efficient electronics, and powerful electric motors to achieve significant increases in fuel economy with the potential to achieve twice the fuel efficiency of any current SUV.
During the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, GM unveiled the Chevrolet Volt concept sedan, powered by the E-Flex System — GM’s next-generation electric propulsion system. A battery-powered, four-passenger electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt uses a gas engine to create additional electricity to extend its range.
With the E-Flex concept, GM can produce electricity in vehicles from gasoline, ethanol, biodiesel, or hydrogen, allowing a propulsion system tailored to the specific needs and infrastructure of a given market.
GM also remains committed to fuel cell development. It is making significant progress in this area and views fuel cells as the best long-term solution for reducing dependence on oil.
GM’s most recent advanced hydrogen fuel cell concept vehicle, the Chevy Sequel, has an operating range of 300 miles. GM is also in the process of creating the world’s largest fuel cell test fleet this year with 100 Chevy Equinox SUVs hitting U.S. roads this fall.
GM stresses its commitment to the future of alt-fuel vehicles in the marketplace. “According to the U.S Department of Energy, world energy needs will grow 70 percent by 2030, requiring new ways to meet the demand,” said Gaydash. “GM intends to continue its strategy to bring advanced technologies to market to help diversify fuel sources and reduce vehicle emissions.”