Plug-in hybrid vehicles: Here’s what GM’s thinking
After the relative gushing of the Atlantic Monthly article about GM’s plug-in hybrid Volt program, the Wall Street Journal followed up almost immediately with an editorial titled, “What is GM thinking.” It’s not complementary about GM’s decision, to say the least. How can GM justify gambling as much as $1B investing in a car that has no proven market, and at best will appeal to a small affluent market?
At Plug-in 2008 being held in San Jose this week, Jonathan Lauckner, Vice President, Global Program Management, General Motors described the opinion piece as nonsense. I agree, it had a lot of inaccuracies, but hey, this is the WSJ [corrected] opinion page – it thrives on taking an old-fogey stance on just about everything. More interesting to me was Lauckner saying that GM is betting on the end of petroleum-based transportation and the electrification of the car.
Lauckner said GM is asking for government action in investing in battery technology: “The government must proactively support the development of advanced technology, specifically battery technology. China and Japan are pouring millions and millions into batteries.” In addition, he sees the government having to drive regulations for utilities providing the new electrical infrastructure.
GM announced a consortium of EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) and 30 North American utilities to develop the electrical infrastructure necessary to support the electrification of the auto. The coalition will address ensuring safe and convenient vehicle charging, raising the public awareness and understanding of plug-in electric vehicles, and working with public policy leaders to enable a transition from petroleum to electricity as a fuel source.
There were no mentions of any nitty-gritty details, like those I posted on yesterday. Indeed, Steve Specker, CEO of EPRI, who also spoke, said that he saw a time frame of 10 years for the new smart grid, because that’s the time frame that the utilities operate in. He also said he worked at GE in the ‘70s when the smart grid was initially proposed and was then just around the corner. He didn’t say what prevented it back then. But it probably had something to do with those nitty-gritty details, as well as a lack of will both on the part of utilities, the US government, as well as consumers.