General Motors was recognized again last week for its contribution to the growing field of sustainable transportation by having seven of its employees join an elite list of 100 advanced-tech vehicle industry movers and shakers.
This group was honored by Automotive News as the top-100 most influential people in all related fields from battery makers, to automobile companies, to those involved with charging infrastructure, utilities, etc. Basically leaders from any private or public field were eligible to be chosen, as long as they were pushing the advanced-tech frontier forward.
The list of names includes President Barack Obama, other government officials from around the world, heads of corporations from around the world, visionaries such as Chelsea Sexton, brilliant engineers, entrepreneurs, and more.
For General Motors to fill out seven percent with its people is a testimony to GM’s commitment to sustainable transportation most pointedly represented by the Volt. The award signifies that GM’s people are having a profound effect on the advanced-tech automotive industry. In order of their naming to Automotive News Electrifying 100’s list, GM’s people were:
• Britta Gross, Director of global energy systems and infrastructure commercialization
• Chris Borroni-Bird, Director of advanced technology vehicle concepts
• Doug Parks, Global vehicle line executive & chief engineer, global electric vehicles
• Jon Lauckner, President, General Motors Ventures
• Mattias Bork, Global chief engineer, fuel cell propulsion systems
• Micky Bly, Executive director of global electrical systems, hybrids, EVs and batteries
• Tony Posawatz, Vehicle line director for Chevrolet Volt
Ripples in the pond
As Posawatz wrote in a recent Voltage blog, the Volt has been an industry trendsetter. After the concept was introduced in 2007, other automakers followed GM’s lead announcing six plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles. In 2008, another 19 vehicles were introduced. In 2009, five more followed, and in 2010 there were 14 retail electric vehicle launches from both niche and major manufacturers, including the Volt.
“Electric vehicles are the future of a sustainable automotive industry and the cornerstone technology that will take automobiles out of the environmental debate,” Posawatz said. “Over the past few years, the State of Michigan has been working to make the state a cornerstone of the electric vehicle industry and GM has played a critical role in this initiative.”
As a result of the Volt, and the Voltec platform that will spin off new models in years to come, thus far GM has invested $800 million in Michigan.
Its suppliers likewise are investing many millions.
Jon Lauckner pointed out the shift to EVs is creating new automotove industry sectors.
In addition to points Posawatz made, Lauckner noted that in the last few years, besides bringing the Volt to market, GM has established the largest OEM battery lab in the United States and hired 1,000 new engineers and researchers.
Why they were picked (In the words of Automotive News)
The market for the Chevrolet Volt and other plug-in vehicles depends on the development of public infrastructure. At GM, that job falls to Gross, 51, who has worked with regulators, utilities and auto industry peers to develop common standards that allow for convenient charging options.
Borroni-Bird, 46, directs GM’s EN-V concept, a battery-powered vehicle, based on the two-wheeled Segway scooter, with a top speed of 25 mph. The program is GM’s bet on a solution for future cities too densely populated to handle today’s cars and trucks. Unveiled in 2010, the EN-V, which stands for Electric Networked Vehicle, can drive itself and communicate wirelessly with other EN-Vs to avoid crashes.
Parks, 49, is responsible for the delivery and execution of the Chevrolet Volt and other future electrified vehicles for GM. Central to his challenge was readying GM’s plug-in hybrid propulsion system for the Volt’s December 2010 production launch. Now Parks must push forward the additional plug-ins that GM CEO Dan Akerson has said he wants.
Lauckner, 53, is considered one of the fathers of the Volt; an impromptu drawing of his made GM design czar Bob Lutz a believer in the technology. Now Lauckner is GM’s venture capitalist, searching the world for technology investments. Electrification is a target area for his initial $100 million fund. Early investments include two battery developers, Sakti3 Inc. and Envia Systems. Lauckner isn’t a seasoned venture capitalist; he studied engineering and management in college and then rose through GM’s ranks. His previous gig was head of global product planning.
Bork, 52, is responsible for designing, developing and validating all of GM’s fuel cell propulsion systems, which have produced prototypes of the Chevrolet Silverado and Equinox. GM has invested more than $1 billion in development of hydrogen vehicles.
Bly, 44, oversees GM’s work in all things related to electrification, including drivetrains, batteries and even connectivity inside the vehicle. He was director of global hybrid integration and controls when development of the Volt plug-in hybrid began. That process — the Volt development — took just 29 months from the ground up, which Bly called a record at GM for introducing new models.
Posawatz, 51, is working with a team on reducing costs for the next-generation Chevrolet Volt and on transferring its plug-in hybrid technology to other vehicles. He was tapped as the Volt’s vehicle line director in March 2006, overseeing the project from the concept car shown at the 2007 Detroit auto show through its launch late last year.
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