LOS ANGELES - Announcing new partnerships to further develop electric vehicles, Bob Lutz, General Motors vice chair of marketing and communications, told members of the Motor Press Guild (MPG) in a keynote address Dec. 2 at the Los Angeles Auto Show , "Going forward, the auto industry can no longer rely on oil to supply 98 percent of world's automotive energy requirements."
Considering global energy and environmental issues and the automobile's future, that "one fact stands out above all others," said Lutz, who outlined GM's electric vehicle research and product development, including the Chevrolet Volt, an electric vehicle with extended-range.
Lutz was a last-minute substitution for planned speaker GM's CEO Fritz Henderson, who abruptly resigned his post the day before the MPG event. Praising Henderson as an "intelligent" and highly capable leader, Lutz declined to comment further on the GM management development.
Lutz' presentation focused on the "Electric Evolution," and he announced the 2011 Volt will be available first to the California market "by the end of next year," followed by launches in other "lead markets" to be made public in the coming weeks.
He also announced new partnerships with three California utilities - Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District - and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), an independent non-profit research organization based in Palo Alto, Calif. With the help of a matching $30 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant, the partnerships "will advance the electrification of the automobile," Lutz explained.
As part of the program, GM will deliver more than 100 Chevrolet Volts to participants to use in their fleets for two years, starting in early 2011. Findings based on performance data collected though the Volt's OnStar system and driver feedback will be reported to the DOE. The "extended, real-world study will help us make electric vehicles as good as they can be for our EV [electric vehicle] customers," said Lutz.
Advanced lithium-ion battery technology is "key" to marketing and public acceptance of the Volt and other electrically driven vehicles, Lutz said. He described GM's research and development efforts this area, including a joint engineering development contract with LG Chem and Compact Power, and a partnership with the University of Michigan to create a new advanced battery lab and specialized battery engineering curriculum. In August, GM also opened a high-volume lithium-ion battery pack plant in Brownstown, Mich.
Lutz also cited GM's multipronged alternatively powered vehicle strategy, which includes internal combustion engine improvements, broad-scale application of hybrid technology, advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic and non-food-based ethanol development, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, including the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell now undergoing testing with selected GM customers.
In addition to noting the company's technology and research partnerships with business and agencies in China, India, and Brazil, the GM vice chairman pointed out the single "tough, but fair," national standard to control greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy U.S. automakers endorsed last summer. "A single standard helps OEMs improve our planning and manufacturing efficiency, and develop future product plans with greater consistency and certainty," said Lutz.