GM's Akerson Wants Lighter Cars, 200-Mile Electrics

At a conference in Texas, General Motors CEO Dan Akerson said his company would build lighter cars and would develop an electric car that can drive 200 miles per charge. The pronouncements were part of an ambitious speech outlining GM's plans to produce more efficient, environmentally friendly cars.

Akerson said that thanks to the implementation of fuel efficient technologies, GM vehicles built between 2011 and 2017 will use 12 billion fewer gallons of fuel over their useful lifetimes. That's reportedly equivalent to 675 million barrels of imported oil. The automaker also plans to make 125 of its facilities landfill-free -- meaning they recycle more than 97 percent of their waste -- by 2025, compared to the 105 landfill-free plants in operation today.

To improve vehicle efficiency, Akerson announced two main research directives. First, he said GM will endeavor to reduce vehicle weight 15 percent by 2016. Using lightweight materials like aluminum, carbon fiber, and magnesium will reportedly help put future models on a diet. Akerson claimed that could improve fuel economy by more than 6.5 percent. Currently, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is the only GM vehicle to use a significant amount of carbon fiber in its construction.

Second, Akerson announced that GM plans to have 500,000 hybrid or electric vehicles on the road by 2017. He said the automaker is developing two electric cars which can travel 100- or 200-miles per battery charge. That would be a remarkable improvement: today's Chevrolet Volt can drive just 38 miles on electricity alone, and Akerson said the Spark EV will have a driving range of about 80 miles.

Despite the focus on efficiency, Automotive News reports that Akerson reassured attendees at the Texas conference that future GM vehicles would still be desirable. "But if you're worried that we're going to throw safety, comfort and performance out of the window to get there, you can breathe easy," he said.

He confirmed that the automaker will continue to produce V-8 engines, primarily for Camaro, Corvette, and truck customers. Advancements like direct fuel injection, turbocharging, and cylinder deactivation will allow GM to sell more efficient internal combustion engines for some time, Akerson said.

Akerson also touted the efficiency benefits of commercial trucks and vans powered by compress natural gas, and called on the Obama Administration to form a commission to evaluate the nation's energy framework every five years for the next three decades.

Sources: GM, Automotive News

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