Government of Canada to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Vehicles; Prefers Harmonized North American Standard
Valence Applies for $608M in ATVMIP Loans to Build US-based Lithium-Ion Battery Production Facility

GM: Putting 1M Plug-ins on the Road Will Require a “Plug-In Ecosystem”

In a conference call organized by GM, Tony Posawatz, Chevrolet Volt and Global Electric Vehicle Line Director; Mark Duvall, Director of Electric Transportation, EPRI; and Bob Hayden, Clean Transportation Advisor, Department of Environment, City and County of San Francisco described the nature and role of the “plug-in ecosystem” required to support one million and more plug-ins on the road in the US.

Posawatz (who wryly referred to having read “someplace” about the Chevy Volt having some challenges, earlier post) said that GM believes there are four pillars that make up a plug-in ecosystem and that must be in place to assure the Volt’s successful commercial launch:

Webchat With GM’s Britta Gross, Director of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Commercialization
Date: Friday, 3 April
Time: 4:00 PM EDT (1:00 PM PDT, 8:00 PM GMT)
GM’s Britta Gross, Director of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Commercialization will participate in a webchat tomorrow to field questions about the development of the plug-in ecosystem.
Those wishing to participate will be able to tie into the multi-site webchat from Green Car Congress tomorrow, as well as directly on GM’s FastLane Blog, the EV World site, or the GM-Volt site.
Bookmark this post and return to it tomorrow if you wish to participate, the viewer is at the bottom.
  • Relevant plug-in vehicles that drive customer demand and are connected;
  • Enabling technologies like advanced batteries and sophisticated software controls;
  • A capable/green grid; and,
  • Plug-in ready communities with supporting policies.

GM is focused on the first two pillars: leading plug-in technology vehicles and the enabling technologies. For the others, it is partnering with organizations like the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to focus on electric power generation, delivery and use, and working with communities, such as San Francisco, to ensure the development of integrated policies that will streamline adoption for consumers.

“One million plug-ins don’t happen without significant partnering, coordination and effort.”
—Tony Posawatz

At the Washington Auto Show in February, for example, GM suggested a partial draft checklist of stakeholders and enablers to help guide cities in making their regions plug-in friendly. (Earlier post.)

Percentage of 2010 electricity consumption required by 10M plug-ins. Source: EPRI. Click to enlarge.

Mark Duvall of EPRI said the grid would be able to handle “as many [plug-ins] as you want.” Ten million Chevrolet Volts (or equivalent) on the road would account for approximately 0.8% of projected 2010 electricity consumption in the US. There is, he said, “no real practical limit” as to how many vehicles the grid can handle because the grid is constantly adapting to new loads.

In addition, he said, the marginal sources that would handle the upswing from vehicle charging are “significantly cleaner” than the national average. Most new capacity is now combined cycle natural gas or renewable (almost entirely wind).

In the long-term, Duvall said, EPRI sees about a 500 million ton CO2 per year reduction for auto industry “almost entirely due to replacement of gasoline with lower carbon electricity.”

The charging pyramid. Source: EPRI. Click to enlarge.

EPRI sees the charging infrastructure as a pyramid. Most charging will be residential; the lowest-cost electricity will be at home off-peak.

The most important place for utilities to engage is to help vehicle purchasers who are their customers and rate payers get the charging equipment installed as conveniently and as quickly as possible.

—Mark Duvall

Next is charging at the workplace, followed by “the most difficult problem” of public charging. “Public charging is difficult, expensive, and we’re not sure how we are going to handle it. We know we need it,” he said. Three possible approaches he outlined are:

  • Municipalities handle it as a public good (similar to stoplights, etc.);
  • Utilities do it; or
  • Startup companies operate chargers in the area.
“There is a lot of coordination that has to take place to move forward in a systematic and comprehensive way.”
—Bob Hayden

Based on San Francisco’s experience, Bob Hayden outlined a number of steps required for communities to become plug-in ready. First is having a champion would can lead the effort and bring together the requisite agencies. In San Francisco, the champion is Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is determined for the city to become a leading center for plug-ins. (One reason for that, Hayden noted, is that in San Francisco, transportation contributes more than 50% of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.)

Particularly critical for the Bay Area, he said, is to build a 9-county market.

A single city, even San Francisco, is not going to be able to achieve the type of market momentum by itself that is necessary. We want to get all the municipalities working together to have the same type of goals, harmonize our efforts for things like permitting, and get fleet managers together to get a critical of buying power. The concept that Tony [Posawatz] used of a plug-in ecosystem is perfect for what we are trying to do.

—Bob Hayden

GM’s plug-in ecosystem concept and efforts also drew a positive response from long-time plug-in advocate Felix Kramer of CalCars, who was a participant in the call:

Today’s briefing confirms GM’s giant steps forward. The company is putting together the pieces needed to bring plug-in vehicles to market—this time, broadly and successfully. We commend GM for its open-mindedness in embracing many of the concepts plug-in advocates have long promoted, which will increase its chances of success.

For instance, conceptually, they have a vision of a needed “plug-in ecosystem” enlisting cities, companies, utilities, and grassroots organizations as partners. Analytically, they’re making important distinctions between improving vehicle efficiency with hybrids and engine improvements compared to more ambitiously displacing gasoline with electricity from plug-ins. Linguistically, they’re talking about “plug-ins” rather than quibbling about plug-in hybrids vs. extended range EVs. In messaging, the’re aligned in communicating electricity’s benefits, compared to gasoline, as cleaner, cheaper and domestically sourced. And strategically they’ve confirmed they will bring demonstration fleets to some receptive localities before November 2010.

They’re doing everything right—and they’re clearly willing to continue adjusting their strategies to increase the probability of a win for all.

—Felix Kramer

Plug-In Ecosystem Discussion with Britta Gross



"GM believes there are four pillars that make up a plug-in ecosystem ..."

They missed the most important pillar -- fuel prices. You'll need to see $4/gal again for PHEVs to achieve the numbers they're talking about.


"plug-in ecosystem"
And not once did he mention Project Better Place ;^)


Yeap, fuel prices are the key..

With the coming collapse of "Global Warming" due to cooler weather and overselling of doom-n-gloom, the reason to go electric will be fuel costs, supply disruptions and eventually the simplicity and economy of a pure BEV. Meanwhile battery performance continues to increase and oil is getting more expensive..

As long as we dont create another bureocrazy to install a few plugs in parking lots.


They should just get the cars out and stop whining.

As long as people can time their charging to 11pm or later, they should be fine.
Then sling a few power cords (/whatever) in work parking lots where people have bought them.

These are PHEVs, not BEVs, if they run out of electricity, it is not the end ofthe world - you just have to drive them on gasoline.

So just get the cars out and stop making excuses.


The price of gas could be $20 a gallon, it would not change the fact that 90% of the public can not afford 35K+ for a car.

A 20K insight plus 4 years of gas a $10 a gallon would be cheaper than a Volt!


well said JosephT, heck even a corolla/civic with a 5spd and some hypermiler mentally is even cheaper than your example.


Maybe the first GM PHEV should be a Cadillac.

Heck, I'd add a rider to the CAFE laws which demand better economy as the vehicle price goes up.  Let the people with all the money do the early adopting and getting the industry over the first parts of the experience curve.


Something can be said for the initial products being Tahoe and CTS hybrids. Those are the vehicles that get the $50k price tags, so why not. Certainly a Tahoe going from 14 mpg to 20 mpg is not a bad thing. Some would say that SUVs like Tahoe should not exist in the first place. They could be right, but they are here anyway, so make the best of it.


"Let the people with all the money do the early adopting and getting the industry over the first parts of the experience curve."

I think that was Tesla's strategy with its Roadster. Make something that outperforms a Ferrari but costs half as much (still $100,000). It was successful and now they've introduced their $50,000 BMW equivalent sedan, and after that a more economical model a few years later.


That's one way. Another would be to follow the Chinese plan for fuel economy; if I heard right their economy standards are a cross-the-board minimum [that each individual vehicle has to meet to be allowed to be sold] and not fleet averages, which makes it harder for automakers to create a few poor-selling fuel efficient cars while they sell gas-guzzlers by the truckload.

That means if you want to drive a bigger or faster car it HAS to use better tech.


I doubt that I would buy a Volt - primarily because of the price. I most certainly agree with their including a generator in their vehicle though. I've long since concluded that the pure EV will not work in the real world. A few times of running out of electricity in the middle of the night in a strange place will result in many trade-ins for cars that don't do that.

I would like to see GM build a car from light materials, with four small motors, one for each wheel, and copper wires for the transmission.

With an efficient controller, and a small battery pack you should be able to get at least 500 miles on a 5 gallon gas tank.


"A few times of running out of electricity in the middle of the night in a strange place will result in many trade-ins for cars that don't do that."

Does running out of gas in the middle of the night in a strange place result in many trade-ins for cars that don't do that? The owner of any car, be it an ICE or a BEV has to take responsibility for keep track of how much juice is left in his car. Driving a BEV doesn't change that.


It is the running out of electricity and taking hours to recharge. People watch their gas gauges and if low, they refuel in 5 minutes now. With electric, if you are 20-30 miles out, you better turn back or you will be stranded.

Will S

With many upcoming EVs having 120-200 mile range, 60 to 100 miles one way is feasible. I'm not unnerved by scare tactics of "running out of electricity in the middle of the night in a strange place".

The comments to this entry are closed.