During a presentation at the IHS CERAWeek energy conference this month, General Motors CEO Dan Akerson made it clear GM is committed to making oil dependency an issue of the past. His announcement that GM is close to revealing a 200mile electric car was tempered with a warning: As he sees it, adopting a single gasoline alternative isn’t a smart move.
“Everywhere you look there are opportunities to seize the energy high ground,” he said. “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.”
Against that backdrop, GM plans to produce nearly 500,000 vehicles with some form of electrification by 2017.
"There will be breakthroughs in battery technology, they're on the horizon," Akerson said.
"We're actually developing a car today which is really anathema to the way the auto industry works: We're running a dual play on the technology to see which one will succeed. One will result in a 100-mile range; the other will be a 200-mile range."
From what we know of GM’s alternative fuel plans thus far, the electrified wing of their future offerings will rely on vehicles such as the all-electric Chevrolet Spark, Cadillac ELR, plug –in hybrid Chevrolet Volt and the eAssist hybrid technology that has the potential to be featured in a number of models.
In particular, the Spark EV is expected to have a range of nearly 80 miles. More importantly, it should be able to receive a Level 3 charge that will reduce total charge time to 30 minutes or less.
Akerson said that in sum, GM’s fuel-efficiency plans will save 12 billion gallons of fuel over the tenure of GM vehicles built from 2011 to 2017.
"That's 675 million barrels of oil we won't need -- a figure nearly equal to our oil imports from the Persian Gulf in 2011," he said.
Of course, the savings could only add up the way Akerson figures if GM manages to sell as many vehicles as they’d like to. We’ll have to wait and see how attractive the breakthroughs in battery technology he spoke of prove to be.