GM’s Global Transmission Electrification Head Discusses EV Future

SEP 12 2018 BY STEVEN LOVEDAY 61

Electrified transmissions? Let’s have a look at what this General Motors executive is talking about.

So much uncertainty in the future of OEMs’ electrification plans is forever present. Thus, Autoline’s John McElroy interviews General Motors’ top dog for global transmission electrification, to get a better idea of what’s in store.

Executive Director of Global Transmission Electrification at GM, Mike Anderson titled his recent share “Navigating the Uncertainty.” While this may come across as pro- or anti-electric vehicles, one can certainly understand the dilemma. As electrification slowly unfolds and eventually becomes the norm, how can OEMs bank on the tried-and-true practices, all while preparing for the imminent future? From an EV aficionado perspective, legacy automakers aren’t doing enough. But in reality, people like Anderson seem to be aware of and on top of it.

Anderson realizes that flexibility is paramount and having the team ready is key. Now, it’s all a matter of the “if” and “when.” While we’d love to say that legacy automakers aren’t planning or doing enough, it all comes with the territory.

He reveals that even with an ICE or hybrid car today, electrified transmissions are already key. When it comes to transmissions for electric cars, next-gen transmission development is already on par and ready to go. Anderson admits that GM is already in “Lane 2” in terms of the development of this tech. He assures that for some EVs that are performance capable, a two-speed transmission makes sense.

GM is taking notes and has been for years in regards to its Chevrolet Volt and Bolt EV. Anderson admits that while some of the data was expected, the automaker has learned quite a bit along the way. Check out the video above for more information.

Video Description via Autoline Network on YouTube:

GM: Navigating the Uncertainty – CAR MBS 2018

Automakers have been adding more and more gears to transmissions over the years. But that trend won’t last, according to Mike Anderson, the Executive Director of Global Transmission Electrification at GM. With the move to EVs, he says were about to see more electrified transmissions in our vehicles.

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61 Comments on "GM’s Global Transmission Electrification Head Discusses EV Future"

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antrik

Interesting bit about how they are gathering usage data with their existing EV programs, which provides valuable input for future development. That way programs like the Bolt, even if not profitable in itself, should pay off long term — giving them an edge over makers who have no serious EVs on the roads at all today…

Joel B

That perhaps also says that even a “compliance” car can prove to be valuable. Learn from your mistakes before you make really big mistakes. It sort of makes sense to slowly make the transition for that reason – it’s a lot easier to correct a serious mistake on a small number of cars than it is to correct even a minor issue on a large number of cars.

James

Or, just build a freakin’ EV like tiny Tesla does.

This talking is worn out. The light hybrid era has passed and GM is still strategizing on how and when to insert light hybrids into it’s lineup.

Time to stop analyzing data and start building new era cars and trucks.

Tesla will have a semi and a mid-sized SUV by the time GM rolls out these light hybrids.

GM is still banking on the death of Tesla.

Joel B
I don’t envy GM’s position (or Ford, or Chrysler, for that matter). They are still catering to existing customers, and they are concerned about cannibalizing their existing sales with vehicles that carry a much lower profit margin. (Whether selling EVs would actually cannibalize their own sales is probably a moot point – it’s more likely that they’d be stealing sales from other ICE manufacturers, but they aren’t willing to take that risk). You are correct that part of this is their own doing, though. They are continuing to outsource battery production, and as a result, will almost certainly be paying more for batteries as a result. The one thing they have that Tesla doesn’t have is decades of large scale production experience. They have the economies of scale working in their favour, but if they have to pay more for the parts, it’s likely still going to be more expensive/lower profit margin for them. I feel like GM in particular is bipolar. There’s people within the company that want to do great things with EVs, but there’s other parts of management that keeps wanting to pump out the SUVs that have higher profit margins rather than planning for the future.… Read more »
theflew

Tesla outsources their cell production as well. Building packs is not difficult for most EV’s outside Tesla with their 1000’s of cells. Everyone keeps focusing on packs. There is nothing special about a battery pack. It comes down to cost, density, c rating.

G2

@theflew; if there is nothing special about battery production why haven’t the Big 2.5 done it and wiped out little Tesla?

antrik

Outsourcing battery cell production certainly means somewhat higher cost; but it also means outsourcing much of the risk — so it’s probably not a bad idea in a very dynamic market. (See Nissan stuck for years with a problematic battery technology…)

Cypress

I’m guessing GM will have a mid-sized SUV out on the market before Tesla does.

antrik

The think you are missing about mild hybrids, is that they can be easily added to their existing product range, with no disruption and at pretty small costs — thus enabling large take-up long before BEVs make up a major portion of sales. They make perfect sense as a transitional technology for the next couple of years.

pjwood1

They just don’t do much. They can be pushed, or “sold”, but given the improvement on offer, any material differentiation on pricing is hard to justify.

earl colby pottinger

You are right that small steps are better than huge steps that put out too many mistakes.

But at the same time we are talking GM who has more than enough engineers and quality assurance people to make a good design and put it out there.

No, they should not do HUGE steps, but they sure could do better. I would own a Bolt from last November 2017 if I had not been told that I would have to wait a year or more before I could get a car.

THIS IS GM! A YEAR PLUS!

Even GM should have plans in place if there is a larger than expected demand. And the claim they lose money on each one, of-course they do, They make so few! If on seeing the demand they had properly ramp up production GM would see the costs per unit fall and start making a profit.

GM should at-least had planned how to handle extra demand for their products.

Viking79

A point to make is that GM is a public company directed by its investors. Their investors largely want to invest in trucks and not waste money on EVs. Mary’s efforts to push EVs are being met with resistance from investors. This leaves you with compromises like the Bolt EV. It is a great car, but it could have been a lot better.

bro1999

Investors also want the company to MAKE MONEY, not incinerate cash left and right.

David

Investors also expect the company to opereate in perpetuity.

G2

@Viking79; the “investors” at the Big 2.5 are also Big Oil.

throwback

Sigh, this is such a tired trope. I suggest you google the largest investors in GM for example. The top 15 largest shareholders are institutional investors Like vanguard, blackrock, state street, Berkshire etc. Most of the shares are held in pension and 401k funds. The same is true of the other major carmakers.

antrik

To be fair, at the time the Bolt was designed, suppliers established etc., the surge in EV sales we are seeing right now was not something they should have expected…

G2

@antrik;
Seriously? Even little Nissan saw this coming a mile away and risked far more of the company to be part of the shift.
GM has zero excuses except for corporate mental deficiency.

CDAVIS

“GM: Navigating the Uncertainty…”
—————-

Perhaps if GM takes a good long look at the INSIDEEVs Sales Scorecard it will clear up some of the “uncertainty” GM seems to be constrained by.

“When the mind is in a state of Uncertainty the smallest impulse directs it to either side” q/ Terence

F150 Brian

Spend some time on non-EV car forums, especially pickup truck/off-road forums.
There are alot of people that still consider EVs a cruel joke, despite showing them Tesla drag videos.
I’m part of the bridge community – I love trucks and used them accordingly AND I’m pro-EV.
But trust me, you guys could never flame me over ICE comments like those guys would over EV comments.
Until their customer base is willing to accept EVs, they need to keep selling ICEs, or they will go out of business.

CDAVIS

F150 Brian said: “Spend some time on non-EV car forums, especially pickup truck/off-road forums…Until their customer base is willing to accept EVs, they need to keep selling ICEs, or they will go out of business…”
—————

I agree traditional car makers should continue selling ICE as long as current demand warrants.

But Ford’s flagship Ford F150 is at risk of loosing the title of North America’s best selling car to a future EV truck that’s not a Ford. Ford likely can’t imagine that now… the pickup truck/off-road forums likely can’t imagine that now…

Five years ago the traditional car makers could not imagine Tesla Model S today being the best-selling large luxury sedan or Tesla Model 3 today being the best-selling car by overall revenue (excluding vans, SUVs, and trucks).

My point earlier made that perhaps did not well translate is that it’s a huge mistake for the traditional car makers to treat EV as an *uncertain* contingent sideline project that is expected to be taken into production only what is minimum required for compliance & halo…

While in mean time allowing Tesla to further evolve their EV offerings and market share expansion nearly unchallenged… as clearly demonstrated on the INSIDEEVs Sales Scorecard.

Dav8or
Other than crazed rabid fandom, what makes you think a Tesla pickup is going to take over the market? Tesla made a CUV called the Model X. Has that vehicle made any significant dent in GM’s, Ford’s or Jeep’s sales of similar sized CUVs? No it hasn’t. Why not? Isn’t it 100x better? The CUV and SUV market is THE market to be in. It’s way bigger than pickups, or sedans. Why isn’t the Tesla product in this segment doing better? Why is Tesla screwing around with sedans and not cranking out Model Ys? Why did they choose Model 3 first and Model Y someday later? I believe the answer to Tesla’s strategy has a lot to do with what batteries can and can’t do on a practical cost to benefit ratio. A reasonably priced, long range, load capable full size BEV pickup is a significant challenge given today’s batteries. Tesla knows this and Ford knows this. There is no magic in electric motors, inverters and controllers. Even battery pack design an thermal management is pretty well understood. Developing a BEV pickup platform isn’t that difficult and can be done pretty rapidly should something change with regards to battery technology.… Read more »
CDAVIS

@Dav8or said: “Other than crazed rabid fandom, what makes you think a Tesla pickup is going to take over the market?…”
——————

Because a Tesla pickup will be a superior to an ICE Ford pickup in both performance and long-term maintenance costs.

Tid

The reason EVs appear to win over ICE in racing videos is because the editors always cut out the part at the beginning where the EV had to spend an hour refueling while the ICE only took 5 minutes.

EVs will need to acquire a reasonable amount of range in 10 minutes before most ICE people will take EVs seriously. The Porsche Taycan is getting close with the ability to use a 350KW charger.

dgate

The reason EVs appear to win over ICE in racing videos is because they are winning which is the reason to race. With your logic you might just ask how much preparation the ICE car had before racing ie modifications etc. Fueling the cars being irrelevant.

pjwood1

If you don’t like spending time re-fueling, than why go out of your way and stand there with an ICE? You have no more gas in the tank when you leave in the morning, than when you got home the previous night.

The idea of re-fueling time is out of sight, and mind, for modern EV owners not leaving the state.

Dav8or

They also never show when the BEV loses.

antrik

The scorecard shows that the trend is clearly up — but it’s not at all certain how fast. Until recently, the US market was almost stagnant for several years. How is GM — or anyone else for that matter — to know whether the market will quadruple over the next four years, or merely double?… A company like GM does have to keep options — they aren’t in a position to bet the entire company on a particular outcome that might or might not come true.

SJC

“a two-speed transmission makes sense”
Make it efficient to get better mileage.

Andy

But increases complexity and maintenance/repair requirements.

Makes you wonder if in the future we’ll end up with 10 speed transmissions in EV’s, just as we do in ICE vehicles.

theflew

EV’s don’t need 10 speeds because they have huge power bands unlike ICE. But there is a trade off between top end performance and low speed power.

Andy

While the powerbands are different the move to more and more gears is largely driven by efficiency, which is one of the reasons EV may start having gearboxes/transmissions.

David

Or dual motors.

antrik

The video is pretty clear about this. No 10 speed transmissions for EVs. It doesn’t makes sense.

Tid

If you consider an electric bicycle to be an EV, then EVs with 10 speed transmissions already exist and work very well.

HVACman

John McElroy – “So this is sort of ‘Son of 2-mode'”

Paging George S Bower….

Ben

I feel like this is the second coming of the “fuel cell”. Something that folks in the pocket of the oils companies can talk about safely. Anything that still lets them maintain control of oil dependence. Fuel cells will never materialize to the mass market, and adding electric motors to a transmission does nothing of value. Maybe gain some efficiency? When the standard ICE is only 20% efficient minimal gains mean nothing. Notice how pure electric lanes were not discussed at all in this video? He spend most of the time talking about the first lane where they continue the development of traditional propulsion. There has been no development on ICE’s for a hundred years. Time to step aside oil companies. You have your money and blood, even it that mean it causing international wars. Isn’t about time we rethink how inconvenient a 30 min top off vs a 3 min top off is when compared to our environment and our souls. (steps down from soapbox)

James

You are preaching to the choir, my friend.

Cypress

He talked a lot about the Bolt EV and their plans for 20 all-electric models by 2023 and that for some EV use cases a two-speed transmission makes sense. That was lane 3.

James
Here’s GM’s strategy in a nutshell. They have the money and manpower to deminvelop product and put it on a shelf. Lo As a key member of the Auto Alliance, they continue to fight EPA regulations by lobbying Congress and C.A.R.B. in the courts. Also ongoing are funding of lawsuits by state dealer associations against Tesla’s rights to direct sales. If Tesla’s growth remains mainly in the luxury car sector, GM will follow the European’s lead and develop a $65,000 luxury crossover EV and possibly a sedan variant. Thses are intended as niche vehicles with very low production numbers. If Tesla goes bankrupt, all electrified development projects remain on the shelf, tucked away in case a competitor decides to introduce electrification in a rival model (think Ford getting frisky and giving a hybrid F-150 some real EV range). In this way, GM counts it’s EV expenditures so far as a hedge against future competition. If Tesla were to survive and thrive, forcing everyone from Volkswagen, Toyota and Ford to begin electrification in earnest, GM can access their data, their stored work and have long range PHEVs, EREVs and BEVs out the door swiftly compared to their rivals. No talk here… Read more »
CDAVIS

@James said: “If Tesla goes bankrupt, …If Tesla were to survive…”
————

Tesla has been around for 15 years and currently selling more EVs in North America and Western Europe than any other car maker by a wide margin… so no need to wait to checkmark the “..if Tesla were to survive”.

Any car makers today sitting back with uncertainty about viability of EVs waiting to see if Tesla fails is in deep situational denial.

James

Yet they do. And hedge their bets by research and by putting out boutique EVs in tiny production runs, calling it good.

ffbj

Garbage.

TomArt

Sadly, you are probably right. It makes sense, given what we’ve seen so far in the 21st century.

theflew

Let’s be real there is a benefit to a simple 2 speed transmission in a EV. Tesla gets around this by putting two different motor in their higher performance vehicles. But they could reduce the size of those motors if they had a 2 speed transmission because the motor would be more efficient through its entire range. And let’s not forget Tesla did try to build a 2 speed transmission.

Bill Howland

Or, Tesla could just continue what they are doing – and have the 4 wheel drive models provide intrinsic ratio changing between the axles – thereby avoiding the complication.

Cypress

Problem with our theory, is that the world market for cars is more than just the US. GM has to produce EVs for China.

James

GM’s big announcement of preparing 22 electrified models for 2022 pretty much revolves around one or two new EV platforms specifically aimed at the Chinese market. Look for them to be built there and a small number of them shipped here to the U.S.A..

Djoni

Hope they will make a very compelling EV with all those collected data!

James

Liken this to Nokia giving a seminar on strategies and scenarios on how to move forward in the smartphone race in 2008. We know the iPhone was introduced in 2007.

Granted, heavy industry moves at a snail’s pace compared to the personal electronics field – yet, there is a point where one has to play, or pack up and go home. Talk is cheap, Tesla has three successful, top-selling models with refueling infrastructure …TODAY!

We all know what happened to Nokia, and where Apple stands today. How long will GM collect data, pay researchers, give seminars and peer through the looking glass before they just bear down and compete with Model 3 and Y?

TomArt

Agreed. They won’t even have the tax credit by the time these new EVs are out. GM is almost at the 200k US sales cap with the Volt and Bolt. They’ll only be phasing out about 6 months later than Tesla.

theflew

The difference is EV’s aren’t a fundamental shift in automobiles – just a different propulsion. Smartphones represented a convergence of mobile phones, PDA, MP3, and cameras.

Now true autonomous vehicles will be a shift. Even if you ignore public car sharing a family could easily share a car.

antrik

Cameras were standard on mobile phones long before smartphones became mainstream. In fact, much of Nokia’s leadership at the time was built on having the best cameras in the business.

ffbj

Slowly unfolding is right in the case of GM and many of the legacy manufacturers. But now the pace is picking up and those that don’t do the same will be left behind. Currently GM is a lot of talk, a lot of press release, lots of appearances on autoline, to talk with the good old boys, about this new-fangled thing electric vehicles, which they totally dissed for years, they looked like fools then and still do.

Bill Howland
HA! I sure wouldn’t use that Rube Goldberg complicated, inefficient CT6 PHEV as anything they’d be proud of, with its umpteen clutches and 3 Horsepower electric oil pump to operate them all, and kill the realistic mileage of the car to well under 1/2 what volt owners experience with the same size battery system. Its been such a ‘ hot ‘ seller besides. The ELR sold at more than 10X the rate that car has sold, since the CT6 PHEV has been manufactured for far longer but doesn’t have many sales under its belt. They discontinued the wrong car. Test drove it, and it is as Sluggish as any other ICE Cadillac they sell – unlike the very simple, single planetary gearbox – 2 electric motor system in the ELR, which Car & Driver said ‘seemed faster than its specs indicate’, and was the ‘best performing hybrid (plug -in or not) they had ever tested’. That 2 speed PowerGlide – that they disparagingly refer to as a ‘slushbox’ was actually used for years, and it was an efficient, highly reliable transmission that was used in zillions of gm products. Those 10 speed things are so complicated it took all of… Read more »
john1701a
Anyone who has closely watched GM over the years recognizes there’s a lot of hype. Press releases are ambiguous to serve as a means of stirring interest & discussion. That has led their reputation of “over promise, under deliver” to transform to a concern of “too little, too slowly”. We have witnessed the rollouts of BAS and Two-Mode go nowhere, despite so many expectations having been set. The real-world results of the technology didn’t meet the business return needed. That knowledge & experience was carried over to e-Assist and gen-1 Volt, which also fell well short of the hope outcome. Looking at Bolt and gen-2 Volt, we see nice technology struggling to compete with traditional vehicles, even with generous tax-credit help. So, what’s different from this latest round of annoucements? There’s no substance, just a looming phaseout of subsidies and a challenging market that’s becoming increasingly difficult to address. There is no spotlight for GM to take advantage of anymore. There is no politic will to support green offerings. There is still little understanding of what electrification actually means. Remember how GM said there would be 2 reveals within the next 18 months about 10 months ago? What should we… Read more »
Brian

Then I guess they still have 7 months to go, don’t they. Don’t forget we are heading into auto-show season. Something like the NAIAS is a great place to announce a new car or two.

G2

Doesn’t GM sell all the Bolts/Volts they can build without deep price cuts?
The EVs they make are Supply Constrained not Demand Constrained.

amta

Still beating that Dead Horse Called “ICE”

ModernMarvelFan

That is the difference between a leader and a follower.

GM is doing its best to “follow” the trend. They do a good job at “following”. Tesla is doing its job at “leading”.

The risk with leaders is that if you are wrong, then you are done. Tesla is betting it all.

GM is reducing its risk by following. Following is lower risk but you are losing the market leadership and brand image.