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GM targets lower car weight
March 08, 2013
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HOUSTON: General Motors (GM) aims to improve vehicle fuel efficiency by trimming weight, even as it develops electric cars with a range of up to 200 miles to eliminate the need for gasoline altogether, the US automaker’s Chief Executive Dan Akerson said.

Akerson also told a meeting of energy executives and investors that GM’s new Spark EV would have a range of 75 miles to 80 miles (120-129 km) on a single charge - double the electric-only range of its Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. The Spark is due to go on sale this summer.

The CEO saw the Spark as basically an urban car because of consumer concerns about what many in the industry call range anxiety - the fear of getting stuck without power on the side of the road. GM has touted the Volt for its electric driving range of 40 miles that is then augmented by a gasoline engine.

But the company is working on new EVs, including one with a 100-mile range and another with 200-mile range. “If you had a 200-mile range car, that may radically change the calculus,” he said at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston.

Akerson went on to describe a giant inductive pad under development, which can sit in a garage and charge a homeowner’s vehicle every night. Inductive charging technology has not been rolled into any GM products, but the company did invest $5 million in wireless charging start-up Powermat in 2011.

A spokesman declined to comment further on Wednesday, saying GM would not discuss future vehicle development or technologies.

Ravi Brar, CEO of EV charging station company ECOtality Inc, pointed out that while a 200-mile range would still not allow for an especially long road trip, it was a “sweet spot” for most people’s average daily drive.

“It’ll be really interesting to see what the timeframe is” for such a car’s introduction, said Brar, whose company is exploring ways to reduce range anxiety for EV drivers.

Improving battery life is a priority for many. LG Chem said in October a new generation of power packs would debut in 2015 with GM. Regarding the tough European car market, Akerson said the closure of a German plant put capacity more in line with demand, but it looked like European auto demand would decline by 8 per cent to 10 per cent this year.

In the speech, he discussed reduction of vehicle mass by up to 15 per cent through the 2016-model year -unveiled in late 2015. “A good rule of thumb is that a 10 per cent reduction in curb weight will reduce fuel consumption by about 6.5 per cent.”

Akerson called on President Barack Obama to appoint a blue-ribbon commission to develop a 30-year US energy policy framework with checkpoints every five years.

He said it should include energy producers, labor groups, and energy consumers such as GM, working together to negotiate targets. The US auto industry is already pressing to meet a government requirement for corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon (23.2 km per liter) by 2025.


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