General Motors (GM) is accelerating the development of electrified vehicles in China, the company's senior technology leader has said.

"China has made electrification a key strategy. Electrified vehicles will play a critical role in efforts to conserve and ultimately displace petroleum as the major source of transportation energy," Jon Lauckner, GM chief technology officer, vice president of global research and development, and president of GM Ventures, said a presentation today at the FISITA 2012 World Automotive Congress in Beijing.

In September 2011, GM China opened the Advanced Materials Lab in Shanghai. The facility, which is part of the GM China Advanced Technical Centre, is engaged in cutting-edge research on battery technology and lightweight materials.

"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 optimisation of thermal management."

GM'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.

"Greater adoption of electrified vehicles requires a greater breadth of offerings; cost reductions in technology for more competitive pricing compared to conventional vehicles; and, of course, more infrastructure for convenient charging," Lauckner said.

Customers must be able to charge in a convenient and safe manner at their home, workplace or in public. This requires common standards and stakeholder collaboration between the automotive industry, multiple levels of government, regulatory agencies and power providers.

GM's global strategy is to provide consumers a variety of choices through a range of vehicles with electrified powertrains. Its strategy includes:

  • 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 2-mode hybrid system on full-size trucks and SUVs.
  • Extended-range electric vehicles, which offer electric propulsion and contain an on-board engine generator to extend the vehicles' range.
  • Pure electric vehicles, 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. On 22 November at Auto Guangzhou 2012, Shanghai GM introduced the Sail Springo pure electric vehicle, which will be built and sold in China.

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-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 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.

Expert analysis

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