The “zero emissions” portion of General Motors triple-zero vision seems to have an asterisk next to it. Following a speech from Mike Anderson, GM executive director of global transmission and electrification hardware engineering, the automaker painted a rather uncertain future for its powertrain strategy.
“The farther out we go, the more uncertain the future is, which makes the challenge for high-capital business much more daunting,” Anderson said.
Not only does the market for electric cars and plug-in hybrids remain a sliver of sales figures, but varying government regulations and policy uncertainty has created headaches inside the powertrain and propulsion departments. Anderson admitted the figures GM used four years ago were incorrect and consumers don’t show a desire to pay for minimal fuel economy improvements or innovative propulsion technology.
“I can tell you four years ago, the numbers we were using at General Motors were wrong, in terms of where we are today, where CO2 credits are trading. This is a huge driver of uncertainty and the propulsion systems we choose going forward,” he said.
To work around the uncertainty, GM is cross-training engineers to work on electric powertrains and internal-combustion engine projects. In the future, Anderson sees GM’s as an automaker to fill a number of roles with three avenues, despite a vision for zero emissions. Future powertrains will include traditional engines with mild electrification, hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and battery-electric cars.
Most importantly, GM will develop engine families to fit a number of products to reduce the need for all-new designs. For example, the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine suits the Chevrolet Equinox, but also the Malibu Hybrid and the Volt plug-in hybrid.