General Motors has announced plans to launch 20 electric vehicles by 2023, the first two of which are expected in the next 18 months alone.
According to Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president of product development, GM believes in an electric future but is realistic about its rollout and timeframe.
“Although that future won't happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles through no-compromise solutions that meet our customers' needs.”
The American company's next two electric vehicles follow its learnings from the Chevrolet Bolt EV. These will then be followed by at least another 18 vehicles that will go to market by 2023.
GM's vision of the electric future differs to others, such as Tesla, with Holden's parent company believing fuel cell vehicles will also play a big role in the years to come.
Speaking to Australian media in Detroit today, Dan Ammann, the president of General Motors Company said the future of electric mobility requires a "two-pronged approach to electrification" with the use of both battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles depending on the requirements.
"We think with electric vehicles, there is a two-pronged approach to this," Ammann said.
"One is battery electric vehicles (BEV), obviously, but we also believe fuel cell will play a significant role and we are going down both paths. The BEV will be the mainstream high volume [path] in the shorter term."
According to Ammann, General Motors has been working on fuel cell and battery electric vehicles for over two decades, but he dismissed suggestions the company missed the boat with its electric vehicle program, given the success and early mover advantage of rival Tesla.
"The boat is still pretty much tied up at the dock, [Elon Musk] thinks fuel cells will never happen [we disagree].
"On the BEV side, we have launched the Bolt here - we were first to market with an electric car with usable range - we believe that the future will be heavily electric. Fuel cell will play a role in that and we are investing across all these technologies."
The benefits of fuel cell technology are the significantly improved energy density, though still not as high as petrol or diesel, and the much faster refuelling times compared to a battery electric vehicle.
Honda and GM began working together on hydrogen fuel cell technology in 2013. Since then Honda has launched its second-generation Clarity fuel cell car, and the partners have confirmed a new American fuel cell factory, which is due to come online in 2020.
The company also announced its new SURUS (Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure) heavy-duty truck platform concept, which features four-wheel steering, and two electric motors powered via a hydrogen fuel cell.
As for the range of new GM electric vehicles coming, Ammann admitted demand will be market dependent, but GM Holden will be at the forefront of these technological changes, with the local brand already testing infrastructure requirements for electric vehicles with two Bolts currently in Australia.
"[As for EV demand] it’s the big question, I’d say there are some markets where from a regulatory point of view it has to happen. China is at the forefront of that, EV penetration there will go up.
"We see that if you spend any time with an EV, just living with it, it’s pretty easy to get to the end of that week and say there is no way to go back [but] with the question mark of charging infrastructure. That’s the big chicken and egg problem: who’s going to fund the infrastructure to charge while there are no EVs?"
In Australia, the pure electric vehicle market share is currently at just 0.6 per cent, with much of that taken up by Tesla's Model S and Model X. The upcoming Nissan Leaf should also see an impact on those numbers.
Expected to feature the same 150kW/361Nm electric motor and 60kWh battery pack as the Bolt, the new Buick model will have a driving range slightly below the Bolt’s 383km rating from the US EPA. It will also be priced above the Bolt’s US$37,495 ($47,030) starting price, before federal and state tax rebates.
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