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GM Gears Up Electric Vehicle Development and Sales in China
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November 29, 2012

GM Gears Up Electric Vehicle Development and Sales in China

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

General Motors (News - Alert) is accelerating the development. sales and support of electrified vehicles in China, the company’s senior technology professional Jon Lauckner said this week.

The news comes just as Boulder, Colorado-based Pike Research (News - Alert) has confirmed that annual sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in China are lagging—and will reach only 45,000 units in China by 2015, increasing to 152,000 vehicles by 2017. However, the People’s Republic still has major aspirations for EV and PEV sales and infrastructure. 

Above, GM’s Sail SPRINGO pure EV for the China market.

What’s more, GM may be more competitive in that market than domestic manufacturers. Indeed, according to Pike Research Director John Gartner (News - Alert), “As of early 2012, only a few domestically produced EV models were available to China’s general public….Evidence is emerging to suggest that Chinese EV manufacturers have yet to develop proven technology that can propel the market. Even though it is unlikely to reach its targets…China’s EV ambitions will provide a huge boost to electric car development worldwide in the long run.”

GM’s Laucker, who has the longest title we have seen in ages—Chief Technology Officer, Vice President of Global Research & Development and President, GM Ventures—agrees with him. “China has made electrification a key strategy,” he commented, adding, “Electrified vehicles will play a critical role in efforts to conserve and ultimately displace petroleum as the major source of transportation energy.”

Competitive Strategy

GM’s increasingly aggressive EV strategy in Asia will include technological advances, especially in the area of EV batteries; a full spectrum of vehicles choices for customers; charging infrastructure, and an urban mobility solution.”

In September 2011, Detroit-based GM China opened the Advanced Materials Lab in Shanghai. The automaker’s goal is to improve the energy density of its batteries so that they are smaller, lighter and less costly than today’s batteries. In the long term, the automaker believes there is potential to double the energy density of battery packs in electric vehicles.

“We will apply innovative technologies to cell design and fabrication, test and validate advanced cell materials provided by suppliers, and ultimately integrate battery cells into future battery systems for our vehicles,” said Lauckner. “We believe the further development of lithium-ion battery technology is possible through improvements in cell chemistry, cell and pack design, and optimization of thermal management.”

In addition, GM will provide consumers with a variety of choices through a range of vehicles with electrified power trains—among them:

  • Mild hybrid technology such as the eAssist system, which can improve fuel efficiency in anything from small cars to full-size cars and luxury sedans;
  • Full hybrid technology, such as the two-mode hybrid system on full-size trucks and SUVs;
  • Extended-range EVs that offer electric propulsion and contain an on-board engine generator ; and
  • Pure EVs, which run on full electric propulsion.

GM has brought to the China market many of its latest electrified vehicles, including the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle, Buick LaCrosse with eAssist and Cadillac Escalade Hybrid.

Made in China

On November 22, the company made a splash at the Auto Guangzhou 2012, show, as Shanghai GM introduced the Sail SPRINGO pure electric vehicle, which will be built and sold in China. The new EV is the first production electric vehicle created by a Chinese joint venture between Shanghai GM and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center. The long-range EV, with a top speed of 80 miles per hour, will be sold at an MRSP of about US$40,000.

All of Shanghai GM's new energy vehicles, including the Sail SPRINGO EV, will be sold through an exclusive “Drive to Green” sales network. The first showroom is expected to open in the first half of 2013 in Shanghai. The exclusive sales and after-sales service network will be expanded to key new energy vehicle demo cities based on local market conditions and the development of the new energy vehicle industry and charging infrastructure.

Buyers of the Sail SPRINGO EV in Shanghai will enjoy incentives of up to US$9,500 from the central government and US$6,500 from the Shanghai government. In addition, the car will qualify for a free local Shanghai license plate exclusively for electric vehicles.

New Automobile DNA

According to Lauckner, one other important area where GM is applying electrification and connected vehicle technology is on urban mobility solutions. GM has showcased in China its vision for sustainable urban transportation through products such as the EN-V (Electric Networked-Vehicle) concept, which introduced the world to a new automobile DNA based on electrification and connectivity. The concept was a focal point of the SAIC (News - Alert)-GM Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

Earlier this year, GM signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Investment and Development Co. Ltd. and the Tianjin Eco-City Administrative Committee to collaborate on assessing the real-world application of GM’s EN-V 2.0 concept in the Tianjin Eco-City.

Another interesting tidbit: According to IDTechEx, China buys over 90 percent of the e-bikes in the world and Japan buys the most hybrid cars

Edited by Rich Steeves

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