GM Doubles Down on Electric Cars, Will Hire 1,000 Engineers For Them

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First 2011 Chevrolet Volt built on production tooling at Detroit Hamtramck plant, March 31, 2010

First 2011 Chevrolet Volt built on production tooling at Detroit Hamtramck plant, March 31, 2010

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It doesn't really matter whether GM sells the first Chevrolet Volt electric cars at a loss or not.

The company announced yesterday that it plans to hire 1,000 new engineers over the next two years to focus exclusively on developing and expanding its work in electric-drive vehicles, everything from additional vehicles that use the Volt's Voltec series hybrid system to components for its upcoming eAssist mild-hybrid system.

GM's CEO Dan Akerson made the announcement during ceremonies at the Detroit-Hamtramck plan that officially launched production of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

First 2011 Chevrolet Volt built on production tooling at Detroit Hamtramck plant, March 31, 2010

First 2011 Chevrolet Volt built on production tooling at Detroit Hamtramck plant, March 31, 2010

Enlarge Photo

The jobs will be filled between now and 2012, he said, many likely going to current Michigan residents. Most will be located at the GM Technical Center in Warren, 15 miles north of Detroit.

They will cover a much broader range of tasks than just working on the Volt and its successors.

GM needs to expand its efforts in basic research and development, infrastructure improvement, and development and engineering of the battery packs, electric motors, power electronics, chargers, and other components of electric-drive vehicles.

Dan Akerson, GM CEO as of September 1, 2010

Dan Akerson, GM CEO as of September 1, 2010

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Buoyed not only by strong demand for the ground-breaking range-extended electric Volt, but also by more than four years of lab work, test results, and growing experience with lithium-ion batteries, GM sees the various types of electric-drive technology as one way it can radically raise fuel efficiency and improve its overall gas mileage.

Regulators in not only North America but also Europe and Asia are now planning even more stringent limits on carbon emissions or fuel economy (two faces of the same coin) for vehicles built after 2016.

Having some portion of GM's fleet plug in to the electricity grid to run electrically, as well as hybrids that recapture otherwise wasted energy and use it to power the car, is a necessary step toward meeting those regulatory demands.

The GM announcement came the same day that Chrysler said it planned to hire 1,000 engineers of its own, though not specifically for electric vehicles.

[Automotive News (subscription required); Detroit News]

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Comments (5)
  1. I said it before and I will say it again . The best way to do this is by using "Super Capacitors"
    They will capture all that electricity that is
    generated when slowing down and you can use it in
    your next power up application . so simple to use and
    they will last for the life of the car easily .

  2. @Keith: Supercapacitors may find their way into future hybrids and EVs as a way to deliver power very quickly to reduce transient demand on a battery pack. But while they can deliver high voltage (power) very quickly, their overall storage of kilowatt-hours is nowhere near what's needed to power a vehicle for 40 or 100 miles (energy). For that you need a battery pack--or of course carbon-based liquid or gaseous fuel.

  3. GM plans on this like they plan on getting $14.4 Billion in new funds requested from the DOE. They are in a competion with other companies (like Chrysler) for those funds and there is not enough money left in the program to fund everybody's requests fully, and GM is requesting the majority of funds in the program, virtually all of the money that is left. The announcement of this plan is intended to strengthen GM's argument to get the DOE loan. Without $14.4B in new government money comming in (which is far more than this plan would cost), it is very unlikely this will happen.

  4. There is a new battery being developed by Planar Energy from Orlando, Florida that combines lithium-ion materials with super capacitor design technology that has resulted in a 300% increase in charge denisity at about one-third the cost.This break through in battery development will greatly enhance electric car development.

  5. GM needs to be more selective in the engineers they hire and provide better management. 1000 engineers for electrification is way too many. Will add to the GM overhead that makes their electrified vehicles overpriced.

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