Published on May 27th, 2009 | by Frank Weber
How GM is Making Electric Vehicles Relevant
Editor’s Note: Frank Weber is the Global Electric Vehicle Development Executive for General Motors. Here he discusses the Chevy Volt and the future of transportation. This post was written for Gas 2.0 and reposted at the GM FastLane Blog.
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak at EVS 24 in Norway about extended-range electric vehicles (E-REVs). Attendees and presenters were some of the brightest minds from around the world working to make electric vehicles an everyday reality, but frankly, I sensed many of those minds think electric vehicle development is better suited to small, entrepreneurial companies, some with little or no automotive experience.
There seems to be in the minds of many some sort of inherent conflict between being a large, traditional automaker and the ability to develop cars of the future.
I couldn’t disagree more with that sentiment, and GM is on a mission to prove it.
Developing electric vehicles is no longer a nice little “green” story; it’s absolutely crucial if we are to alleviate our dependence on petroleum. Electric vehicles aren’t simply for niche markets; they are the future of a sustainable global automotive industry.
There are nearly 1 billion vehicles using petroleum on the road today. If we are going to make a difference in reducing our dependence on petroleum, GM and other automakers must offer large volume production solutions. Hand-built vehicles may capture the imagination of some, but we need millions of cars to truly address this global issue.
At GM, we have a level of product research, testing and development as well as a supplier network that is unmatched. When you consider the very real distribution, volume and quality issues some of the smaller start-ups have experienced, it’s hard for me to see how they are better equipped than us to deliver the volumes necessary for real change.
But the real key to making electric vehicles a success is to make them relevant for consumers.
Customers expect more out of their vehicles than ever before, so a relevant EV must be capable of being your primary vehicle. Although it would be nice to have a commuter car for the daily drive to work, a family hauler for recreational activities and a roadster to go cruising whenever the urge strikes, very few people have their own fleet of purpose-built vehicles – nor should they for environmental reasons!
We realize that some people can get by with just one of these choices, but we’d rather you didn’t have to settle.
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