I got a good laugh when the title "GM Investigating Pure Electric Cars" showed up in my inbox. I know that GM investigated Pure Electric Cars in the late 80s and early 90s. Then they went to the extreme expense and effort of building one 15 years ago. The Volt is basically a pure electric car... Anyway, got that off my chest.
A few folks have commented on "is GM committed..." as if GM were a single person. For those not familiar with the auto industry, there are 100s of different groups that make things happen - and many of them do not adapt well to change. Simple changes like reordering an assembly process or relocating it to a different plant can be very painful and s-l-o-w. When I read the caption to the picture ["Battery engineering teams from GM and A123 have tested and validated the A123 battery chemistry and are now working on software controls in preparation for production."] the first thought that went through my mind was "was this a typical 'start from zero' GM qual effort that can sometimes be measured in years?" for a product [or derivative] that has been used commercially and by the military for several years.
Similar to the public, I think that it is possible that the engineering/design staff/management could be part of the problem. Years ago, IBM had a similar issues WRT product development. They assembled a team of young and 'against the grain' engineers, dispensed with IBM antiNIH [Not Invented Here], collaborated with third parties, used COTS components, and got the job done. Not a direct coorelation, but GM could probably use some shaking up and more 'get it done' focus. Yes, they seem to be inching in the right direction.
The bottom line is that GM could have fielded [on the road] dozens of different prototypes over the years for a nominal development cost - collected tons of data, made incremental improvements, collected more data... BUT [IMO] two obstacles stood in their way -  doing it 'the GM way' and  using a management style named after a band 'Asleep at the Wheel'.
@MIROX Sure. But when it comes to oil and the consumer the USA has a very different pricing structure than much of the rest of the world so are there not places today where BEVs will be economical sense? Here in Europe I am paying €1.55 per a liter of petrol. To me this looks more like a global move from GM rather than something to take on government and the oil giants in the US.
The major benefit of EV is the fact that you create ZERO emission from the vehicle and move the pollution to a coal burning plant, while you pay a premium for every mile you drive!
Once you add the cost of the battery use (which has a limited useful service life) to the equation, you can drive two conventional vehicles for about the same cost as EV.
In CA with the 100,000 or 80,000 miles battery warranty requirement, that cost is absorbed by the OEM, and subsidized by every customer that buys a conventional vehicle, if it was not then you would be in the TESLA price range.
The CA Warranty however is not applicable to NEV, so there you actually KNOW what are you paying for and how long the battery will last based on experience.
As long as price per mile driven matters, EV's will never be a practical and cost effective option.
All that said I do actually drive OKA NEV ZEV (www.okaauto.com) since 2003, and have been keeping track of every re-charge, KWh consumed, etc.
It also happens that I have exactly equivalent car that has 2 cylinder gasoline engine, so I am comparing apples to apples - well almost the NEV has a top speed of 25 MPH the Gas Guzzler that gets 45 to 65 MPG goes 82 MPH.
The Gasoline car averages 10 cents per mile (all included, fuel, tires, maintenance, etc.)
The EV only costs 1.8 cents per mile for the power but when all else is included especially the $1,500 to replace the battery after 10,000 miles of use (5 years) the cost per mile is 18 cents, that is 80 % PREMIUM over conventional ICE car !!!
I still enjoy the EV, but the predicted cost reduction for battery technology is just illusion in 2003 the battery pack was $900 when replaced it was $1,500 for the same Lead-Acid Sealed units and TODAY the price is almost $1,800 !!!
The price DOUBLED in 8 years........while according to 2000 prediction it should have been at about 1/4 of that (4kWh battery)
The same "predictions" exist for Li battery technology....
I for one, believe GM and the other car makers are committed to electric cars. They have to because they are the future for at least some of the cars we will produce and buy.Why you say?Because when there are potentially 2 billion new drivers coming on line in China and India, the price of oil is going to skyrocket and when it does, EV’s will look all the better.Secondly,we are just in the beginning stages of electric cars and these new batteries. The price and performance of batteries will get better.The world is not a static place and if anyone should know, we as engineers should.
I disagree with your definition of a hybrid. Most people would think that a hybrid is a vehicle with both an electric and gasoline motor. It doesn't matter how much either is used.
I agree completely with JRoque. The EV-1 was a very good first step into an all-electric vehicle but GM found out pretty quick that they would not be able to maintain the same profit margin that they do on their gasoline cars. As soon as they could they squashed it, literally. Destroying every single last working car.
Can you imagine how far ahead of everyone else in electric vehicles GM would be right now if they had kept producing and improving the EV-1.
The Volt is NOT a hybrid. It is an electric vehicle with an onboard generator to extend the range. There is a BIG difference. Look at the drivetrains and you'll understand but put simply, if you stay within the range of the batteries, you'll never need the engine. hardly a hybrid where you need the engine for every trip (even if it's just around the block). The Prius is a hybrid. I also might add the EV-1 was never thought to be a large production vehicle by GM. It was always just an entry to the EV market to test the technology (I still have articles from when it was intorduced). The biggest hurdle at that point and the reason Everyone new the vehicle would be short lived is that the batteries to make it viable did not yet exist (viable = capacity and affordable). No one expected the EV-1 to be anything more than a novelty (and a good tool to prove just how rediculous the CA law was). BTW - regarding engine maintenance, just how much money do you think GM makes on those 100,000 mile warranties???
I think GM is rounding out their product line and it is in a good way. An all electric car does have a place in some peoples driveway but perhaps not in all of them. I agree that the maintenance on an electric vehicle for all the auxililary items will be far less and that is also a good thing. The price and power density of the batteries are moving in the right directions albeit slower than many people hope, myself included. My town has a small number of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) restricted to roads less than 35 mph and I check them out every chance I get.
The fact is there is a place for ICE vehicles, some with other than gasoline fuels like NG, hybrid vehicles and all electric vehicles. The mix of them will change as economics and usage factors allow.
The bottom line is that there is a price point at which most families could make good use of an all electric vehicle.
I don'tr suppose you'd be talking about THE VILLAGES in central Florida, now would you? It's a golf cart heaven, complete w/ golf cart traffic jams, AND golf cart vehicle theft! You can drive your golf cart from one end of THE VILLAGES to the other. There's even bridges that cross over major thoroughfares so the standard vehicular traffic doesn't interfere w/ the golf-carting seasoned citizens!
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.