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?


Category: Chevrolet

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46 responses to "General Motors’ Chief Electric Engineer Says Plug-In Electric Cars Are “Now Considered Mainstream”"
  1. Yeah, right. GM sells the 2016 Chevy Volt in how many ‘mainstream’ states?

    1. Philip d says:

      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.

    2. Steven says:

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

    3. ModernMarvelFan says:

      “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.

  2. MikeG says:

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

  3. Spec says:

    So EVs are The Replacements.

    I’ll go with that.

  4. AlphaEdge says:

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

    1. Speculawyer says:

      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.

    2. Michael says:

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

      1. Crissa says:

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

  5. SparkEV says:

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

  6. Roy LeMeur says:

    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.

    1. Speculawyer says:

      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.

    2. Nate says:

      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.

      1. Roy LeMeur says:

        >”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.

    3. Steven says:

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

      They’re just providing customers to them.

      1. Crissa says:

        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.

    4. jgj says:

      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.

  7. Ken says:

    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.

    1. pjwood1 says:

      Time to change EPA stickers, to kwh too.

      1. Rich says:

        Agreed. miles per kWh would be a great addition

        1. GSP says:

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


          1. Roy LeMeur says:

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

            1. Stimpy says:

              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.

              1. Ambulator says:

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

                1. Michael says:

                  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.

          2. Speculawyer says:

            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.

            1. Rick says:

              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?

        2. Electric Avenue says:

          Agreed !

        3. Speculawyer says:

          Miles per KWH is already on the EPA sticker.

      2. Nate says:

        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.

    2. Terry says:

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

    3. Speculawyer says:

      “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.

  8. Bill Howland says:

    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?

  9. Roy LeMeur says:

    >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.

    1. Bill Howland says:

      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 motor and dynamic brake a 300 hp workout, And of course stopping all that mess caused the motor to have to develop 800 Hp, so much that the commutator violently flashed.

      After I took the millwright’s side (and we properly adjusted the counterweight to help rather than to hurt), the millwrights in the blooming mill asked me to come and adjust the much larger brand new machine there.

      This machine was unlike a sewing machine treadle in that it was simpler mechanically since it was so big. The treadle was on rollers either up and down, or back and forth.

      3-150 hp motors – 1 to lift, and 2 to transverse. The machine was controlled by a Programmable Controller and had electromagnet drum brakes on each motor.

      The first time I saw the machine, all 3 drums were severely warped, and the brake linings were past red-hot, being ORANGE.

      What was happening was, when the machine cycled. the motor would scream past the brakes and was sending around 400 hp (300 kw, or over 1,000,000 btu/hour heating each brake lining.

      The basic problem was the brake coils were 250 volt direct current, about 4 amperes. And, unfortunately the electric brake was about 50 henries.

      So it took several seconds for the brake to release.

      Solution: I limited the motor current so that it couldn’t break free of the brake, therefore causing no heating..

      Why the original application engineers who installed the machine couldn’t figure this out is a real head scratcher. They didn’t know why the machine was doing what it was, let alone figure out on a theoretical basis what was happening.

      So therefore, I’m not too hard on John Q. Public. My complaint with him in general is that he’s not skeptical enough, and tends to believe much of what he is told.

      1. ffbj says:

        I believe that is so.

  10. Warren says:

    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.

    1. Mister G says:

      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.

      1. Warren says:

        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.

    2. Bill Howland says:

      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.

      1. Warren says:

        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.

  11. Warren says:

    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.

  12. ModernMarvelFan says:


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

  13. JP white says:

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