General Motors’ Chief Electric Engineer Says Plug-In Electric Cars Are “Now Considered Mainstream”

General Motors


Greg Hubbard - General Motors Chief Engineer, Electric and Hybrid Propulsion Systems

Greg Hubbard – General Motors Chief Engineer, Electric and Hybrid Propulsion Systems

Chief engineer for General Motors’ electric vehicles, Greg Hubbard, compares the rise of electrified vehicles to that of the “alternative” music scene of the 90s. He asked, “Why do they call it alternative music?”, when it seemed everyone was listening to it. To him, it appeared mainstream. He pointed out that, “What was once considered an alternative energy vehicle is now considered mainstream.”

Hubbard confessed that the reality is that alternative fuel vehicles sales would have to escalate to 20 percent of total automotive sales to be considered truly “mainstream.” He said, “Looking back, it’s taken us 15 years to claim 4 percent of the market.” Hubbard is optimistic that it won’t take another 15 years to get to the next 4 percent. “I’m getting too old too quickly,” he joked.

As he contemplates the future, Hubbard is honest to admit that there are still many challenges ahead. However, he is committed to making vehicles like the Volt and the Bolt EV mainstream.

The Second Generation Volt

2016 Chevrolet Volt

2016 Chevrolet Volt

During Hubbard’s recent MIT visit, he brought a 2016 Chevrolet Volt. took a test drive and highlighted some of the Volt’s second generation changes. Most changes were made based on driver input from the vehicle’s first generation.

The second generation features a 40 percent increase in electric range, to 53 miles. The Volt also includes a standard gas tank for trips exceeding 53 miles. This extends the range to 370 more miles, but Hubbard is confident that most Volt drivers will be able to rely on the electric feature of the car.

Hubbard explained that, “The goal is not simply to reach the Volt enthusiasts, but a more mainstream audience as well.”

Bolt – The Mainstream Electric Car

Chevrolet Bolt

Chevrolet Bolt

Hubbard is excited that GM has “cracked the code” with the ability to market an electric car with much longer range, at a very reasonable price. The model will ring in at around $30,000 with a 200-plus mile range.

According to Hubbard, The Bolt’s 200-mile range should become a top selling point. He explained, “We’re really excited that we’ll be the first to the market with what we believe is a game-changing vehicle.”

Will General Motors and Hubbard’s team be able to push electric car sales fully into the mainstream?


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46 Comments on "General Motors’ Chief Electric Engineer Says Plug-In Electric Cars Are “Now Considered Mainstream”"

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Yeah, right. GM sells the 2016 Chevy Volt in how many ‘mainstream’ states?

The MY 2016 is already done. The MY 2017s are already rolling off the production line and can be ordered in all 50 states. I live in the non-CARB state of GA and ordered mine on Jan. 4th and was notified a week and a half ago that it was birthed. I should have it delivered this month.

I was actually shocked and amazed to see a couple here in Pennsylvania.

“Yeah, right. GM sells the 2016 Chevy Volt in how many ‘mainstream’ states?”

Sell it where it matters.

California owns about 50% of the PEV market. So, you should cater to that biggest market first.

Now, 2017 Volt is in production, you can quit your stupid whining.

Hubbard appears to understand that EV cars are the future and here to stay, better than most auto execs.

So EVs are The Replacements.

I’ll go with that.

When you less than 1% of the market, you’re niche, not mainstream.

Well if you add in conventional hybrids (which are just like plug-in hybrids except with a smaller battery and no charger), then they make 4 to 5% of the market.

EVs are evolution, not revolution. It is a slow transition but it has begun and they are NOT going to disappear like the late 1990’s EVs did.

EVs are doing no worse than the majority of models. Over 230 models (61%) have less than 1% of total US sales.

It’s even fewer if you compare unique drivetrain+body combinations; since that counts many models with completely different drivetrains as the same model.

If he means what he says, Greg Hubbard will become the leader (CEO or more) of major auto company in next 10 years.

If GM believes EVs are so mainstream, why no investment in charging infrastructure?

Many folks will bypass the Bolt for this reason alone and wait to buy something with charging infrastructure in place.

The supercharger network creates a huge incentive to go with a Tesla.

Well, a downside with the standardized charging infrastructure is pretty much no one directly benefits from it. So no one wants to be the one to spend a lot of money on it. The car makers want EV charger companies, utilities, governments, and EV buyers to pick up the tab for the chargers.

I like what Tesla has done with destination charging – hotels and restaurants are great places for some opportunity charging. For me, this is a better perk than Supercharger access.

On the longer trips my family has taken the last few years, the Supercharger idea wouldn’t have worked well. Stopping for a half hour to get 170 miles of range in good conditions (and even more frequently less miles on winter) would have meant extended stops for my car’s needs which may not correspond to my family’s needs. When the kids are napping or happily riding along I want to get in as many miles as possible.

At current charging speeds and vehicle range, I’m not sure how much it makes sense to invest in the infrastructure if the standard ends up being obsolete in the cars lifetime. I’ll be more likely to lease a next gen Leaf or Bolt for this reason. If the Model 3 leases can compete on a lease deal I’d be interested in it too.

>”At current charging speeds and vehicle range, I’m not sure how much it makes sense to invest in the infrastructure if the standard ends up being obsolete in the cars lifetime.”

Charging infrastructure isn’t a particular plug or bundle of interface software. These things are easily and pretty economically changed.

What is needed is charging sites, with multiple charging stalls, with wire and cable installed, and even a clean energy source to feed that.

The “standard” is easily changed.

I maintain that the “plug and software” is a small part of the equation.

In their defense (ewww, right?) Does GM invest in gas stations?

They’re just providing customers to them.

In GMs’ not-defense, this would be like putting out a car that couldn’t take any of the vapor-reclaiming spigots. You just wouldn’t be able to use half the gas stations in the country. Or vice versa. They chose one standard that’s great, but isn’t the one that’s built out.

Two things that I would like to see happen:
1) If we could get 20% of the Chevrolet dealers to install a fast charger, that would be a huge network of chargers, albeit not spaced as nicely as Tesla’s. What dealer doesn’t want potential future customers hanging around at the dealership?
2) It would be nice if Tesla would make it so SAE combo equipped cars could use their chargers (for a fee of course). This would increase utilization and bring in a little revenue too. Over-utilized charger stations could turned off for non-Tesla cars.

If EVs were mainstream, people wouldn’t be asking me how good on gas my Nissan Leaf. I seriously get that question alot after i take someone for a ride and explain that its electric. Some don’t get it until i lift the hood and show them there is no gasoline burning engine under there. I would estimate that 95% of the public do not know that you can buy a production fully electric car from a major manufacturer. Everyone i meet thinks my car is a Hybrid and they still dont understand how they work either. I spent hours at the Philly auto show explaining the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Ev to people that wanted to know why the window sticker says 105mpg if it doesn’t take gas. Time to change the way people think about cars. We still have a very long way to go.

Time to change EPA stickers, to kwh too.

Agreed. miles per kWh would be a great addition

Agree that mpge is worse than useless. kWh/100 miles would be better.


There already is a standard… Watt-hours per mile.

In my opinion it would be dumb to change a hundred year old terminology to one where a higher number is WORSE.

The better alternative is miles per kWh.

The better number is Wh/mile (or Wh/km). Isn’t 100 years long enough to be doing it wrong?

It is so much easier to multiply km/kWh by battery capacity to get range. I’ve never gotten used to fuel economy expressed as L/km.

MPGe is VERY useful. It shows every person that electric cars are FAR MORE EFFICIENT.

People still don’t realize this so it needs to be beaten into their skulls with metrics like MPGe.

If you really want to make the masses understand, the best way to compare them is MP$. How many miles can I get from a dollar of electricity compared to a dollar of gas?

Rodrigo Henriques Negreiros Magalhaes

Agreed !

Miles per KWH is already on the EPA sticker.

Agreed, it needs to be re-worked for BEV’s which should be different than PHEV’s which should be different than non plug ins. On PHEV’s, AER should be emphasized more than it currently is.

I know Ken everyone is so connected to gas cars. They cannot understand that electric motors are used everywhere except in vehicles

“If EVs were mainstream, people wouldn’t be asking me how good on gas my Nissan Leaf (is).”

Never underestimate the depths of human stupidity.

“I spent hours at the Philly auto show explaining the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Ev to people that wanted to know why the window sticker says 105mpg if it doesn’t take gas.”

It doesn’t say 105mpg, it says “105 MPGe”. Tell them to read closer.

Where I live the Volts are the most popular evs. Second place are the Ford Energi’s plug-in hybrids.

Way down the list is Nissan, and lower still is Tesla, mostly because people here in general don’t have the money for one.

All the 2016’s I’ve seen driving around are always Royal Blue. Don’t they make them in any other color?

>If EVs were mainstream, people wouldn’t be asking me how good on gas my Nissan Leaf.

This is more a case of the average person being technologically an idiot.

They couldn’t tell you how the four-stroke engine cycle in their ICE works.

They couldn’t tell you how the toaster makes the bread brown either.

Well, that’s a case of some people being mechanically inclined, and others not having it be their strong point. This even applies to 4-yr degreed mechanical engineers. When I was much younger, my buddy young millwright (he was in that dept, I was in electrical) had a disagreement with his engineer boss as to adjustment of a counterweight. The laugh of the day came when he asked the engineer explain the theory behind it (the thing was a simple mechanical machine, driven by a 100 hp electric motor – it was an overgrown sewing machine treadle. Steel plants have a lot of these autonomous units, they keep bars organized as they are made. My buddy was skeptical of the engineer’s smarts; so was I. He asked “what does the counterweight do?” (he of course already knew exactly the purpose). ANS: “The treadle spins around and then the counterweight kicks in and completes the cycle.” MillWright: “If that’s the case we can get rid of the electric motor!” (The boss said to put the counterweight on the shaft precisely where the electric motor would have to lift the Treadle, Steel Bar, and counterweight, ALL AT THE SAME TIME. This gave the… Read more »

I believe that is so.

I posted this the other day, but got no responses, so I’ll try again.

From 2000 to 2011 Toyota sold 1,000,000 Prius hybrids in the US, making it the most popular hybrid in history. Their numbers have been falling each year since the crash. This despite expanding the number of models in 2011. Last week they announced they will go back to a single model next year. You could make the case that EV sales are eating into Prius sales.

Prius totals EV totals
(all models) (including PHEV)

2009 290,271
2010 274,210
2011 268,752 17,425
2012 236,659 52,607
2013 234,228 97.507
2014 207,372 123.049
2015 184,794 116,597

For comparison, there were 661,812 pickups and SUVs sold in the US, in January alone.

The reality is that sensible cars are a niche product.

Until the government imposes a cap on carbon, all of this will remain a sideshow.

Why wait for government regulations… if we want a cleaner planet let’s drive cleaner vehicles. Once ICE manufacturers see increased demand for cleaner vehicles they will make cleaner vehicles.

I am amazed that you can look at these figures for vehicle sales and see increasing demand for efficient vehicles. Efficient vehicles, just like efficient buildings, will always be more expensive per square foot than cheap McBoxes. Never mind that you may save money over ten years. Anything beyond this Friday is an eternity. This is a survival tactic which served us well for 200K years. Don’t expect it to change soon.

Warren, even though I love my EV’s (at least, most of the time), and will probably only purchase EV’s going forward – far be it from me to force others to do what I voluntarily do.

I guess you are against letting the people choose what is best for themselves in their own unique circumstances.

It doesn’t matter what I am for or against. I am just facing facts. Short of government force, nothing will reduce our pollution in time.

The fleet average mileage has actually gone DOWN, despite stricter standards for cars, because of truck-sized loopholes in the law, left as a gift to the industry.


Now, go back to work and make me a Voltec Equinox so you can take my money!!!

EV’s aren’t even close to being mainstream nor is it guaranteed they will achieve that status.