GM CEO outlines highlights of fuel economy plan through MY2016: lightweighting; more efficient gasoline and clean diesel engines, electrification
Within his talk about the need for a US energy policy at the IHS CERAWeek 2013 energy conference in Houston, GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson outlined some highlights of the company’s fuel economy plan through the 2016 model year.
The auto industry should play a central role in the energy discussion, Akerson noted, because light-duty vehicles account for about 60% of total transportation energy usage in the United States. Automakers are currently deploying and developing technologies that will satisfy customers and make an enormous contribution to energy security at the same time, he added. The near-term elements of GM’s fuel economy efforts he adduced are:
Reduction in vehicle weight by up to 15%. A good rule of thumb is that a 10% reduction in curb weight will reduce fuel consumption by about 6.5%.
GM, said Akerson, is doing a much better job optimizing mass efficiency. The new Cadillac ATS is lighter than a comparable BMW 3-Series. The company is also aggressively investing in advanced materials, including nano steels, carbon fiber and resistance spot welding for aluminum structures.
Clean diesel. GM is deploying clean diesel engines where they make business sense, Akerson said, noting the new B20-ready Chevrolet Cruze diesel.
More efficient gasoline engines. GM is improving the thermodynamic efficiency of our gasoline engines using a suite of technologies, including turbocharging, direct injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation. The death of the V-8 has been greatly exaggerated, Akerson said.
It’s counterintuitive, but as our Corvette chief engineer explains, when one of GM’s all-new V-8s runs as a four-cylinder, it produces enough torque to stay in that mode for a very long time, which helps return better fuel economy than smaller engines.
This is a very big deal, especially for our truck customers who want the power of a V-8 when they need it for acceleration, hauling or towing, and the fuel efficiency of a smaller engine when they don’t.—Dan Akerson
Vehicle electrification. The era of using electricity to help improve performance and fuel economy is already here and the trend is only going to grow, Akerson said, saying that GM expects to have an estimated 500,000 vehicles on the road with some form of electrification by 2017. (Earlier post.)
GM’s plan includes battery-electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Spark, extended-range EVs such as the Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR, and eAssist, GM’s light-electrification technology.
Among the development efforts to achieve breakthroughs in battery technology, Akerson noted is an effort that could result in a 100-mile range EV or a 200-mile range EV. “We’re running a dual play on the technology to see which one will succeed.”
Natural gas as a vehicle fuel. Akerson also spoke briefly about the benefits of natural gas for vehicles, especially for commercial fleets and long-haul truckers.
... more work needs to be done to ensure that CNG and LNG aren’t relegated to niche status. That would be a tragedy because big rigs burn some 25 billion gallons of diesel annually, which require 2.5 billion barrels of crude to produce. That’s an amount equal to about one-third of our total crude imports.—Dan Akerson
Manufacturing energy intensity. Akerson also pointed to GM’s 28% reduction in manufacturing energy intensity per vehicle from 2005 to 2010. Going forward, the company has committed to achieving a 20% reduction per vehicle in its global CO2 footprint by 2020.
Energy policy. With the US benefitting from the increase in fuel-efficient vehicles, more energy-efficient homes and factories, and the technology-driven boom in domestic oil and gas production, Akerson said that the country needs a consumer-driven national energy policy.
Everywhere you look there are opportunities to seize the energy high ground. Indeed, our leaders have been presented with an historic opportunity to create a national energy policy from a position of strength and abundance.
The pillars of such a plan must include energy diversity, so we do not become dependent on any one fuel or energy source. In other words, we must continue to develop all forms of domestic energy, including renewables.
Energy efficiency must remain a core component so we can absorb the impact of prosperity and population growth. And we must continue to make meaningful, long-term investments in nascent technologies to drive CO2 emissions even lower.—Dan Akerson