First we had Ford announcing the formation of its new Team Edison unit to focus on electric cars. Now we have Mark Reuss, vice president of global product development for General Motors announcing his company will introduce two new EV models in the next 18 months with a total of 20 planned by the end of 2023. “GM believes the future is all electric,” Reuss said.
He admits the process is complex, saying there won’t be “one year where we flip a switch and it’s all electric.” Feedback from customers will be important in deciding which products to build. “An electric solution cannot be one size fits all. We believe you need both battery electric and fuel cell electric. How we apply each of these technologies will depend on what we hear from customers about their needs.”
That fuel cell reference pertains to GM’s new Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS) platform — a fuel cell electric heavy duty truck with four wheel steering. It will have two electric motors and a flexible design that can be configured for use in delivery vans, truck, or ambulances.
GM boss Mary Barra has said recently her company’s focus is on “zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.” Its partnership with Lyft and Cruise Automation will take care of the first and the last of those objectives. Electric and fuel cell vehicles will take care of the zero emissions part.
GM, like all automakers, is anxious to cash in on the red hot SUV/crossover segment of the market. It showed off its very cool FNX-R at the Shanghai auto show earlier this year, a plug-in hybrid vehicle that should have customers drooling while they reach for their wallets. The company says it has developed new battery pack architecture that has two different heights for different vehicle sizes. Perhaps one of those configurations would slide under the floor of the FNR-X to make a compelling all electric SUV?
Refueling infrastructure for hydrogen powered cars is nonexistent outside of California and it’s rare even there. GM seems to believe that its fuel cell vehicles would be targeted first at military, commercial, and utility vehicle applications for customers who would install refueling rigs at their base locations. Infrastructure for private car owners would follow along afterwards.
It was only 5 years ago when electric cars were thought of as mere curiosities that would take decades to go mainstream. Suddenly, every manufacturer the world over is rushing to get electric cars to market. It only takes a few countries like France, England, India, and China talking about possible bans on cars with internal combustion engines to wake up the suits in corporate boardrooms around the world.
The EV revolution has begun and those who don’t answer the call may soon find themselves out of business, no matter how far back they can trace their corporate lineage.