In a page ripped from the Tesla Motors publicity playbook, General Motors leaked word yesterday that work on its highly anticipated GM Bolt EV is coming along nicely thanks to an “unprecedented” joint development agreement with the Korean battery and electronics leader LG dating back to 2011. Okay, so there doesn’t seem to be much new here except that it demonstrates how electric vehicle technology is transforming the US auto industry from a top-down exercise into a collaborative process that leverages innovation all along the supply chain.
GM Bolt EV Takes The World By Storm
Of course CleanTechnica happened to be stopping by the North American Auto Show last January in Detroit when GM unveiled the new GM Bolt EV as a concept car, which is how we happened to get the exclusive photo above.
By February, GM was promising a full production Bolt EV and our sister site Gas2.org has been following the GM Bolt EV action since then, including last month’s news that the car will go on sale in Europe under the Opel brand.
The Bolt EV has been making waves for a couple of reasons, one being its affordability relative to, say, the Tesla Model S, and another being its impressive 200-mile battery range (more on that in a minute).
The Bolt EV & Global Collaboration
Remember how in school you had to work in teams and groups to get stuff done? The collaborative model is beginning to chip away at the insular corporate model and we know who to blame: your kindergarten teacher (true fact: our class churned butter in a Mason jar, which got passed around to the next guy when your arms got tired).
GM must have had the same teacher for kindergarten because, back in 2011, the company announced a groundbreaking EV partnership with Korea’s LG. The arrangement broke the mold for automakers, which traditionally come up with component designs in-house and job out the production to suppliers.
Here’s then-GM Vice Chair Steve Girsky explaining how the butter gets made:
Many solutions for tomorrow’s transportation needs may be available more quickly by building on our partnership strategy. Consumers benefit by getting the latest fuel-saving technology faster if we work with the best suppliers and we save time and money in the development process.
The new partnership grew out of a successful endeavor for GM’s Volt hybrid EV, which launched back in 2010. The Volt deploys a gas tank to extend the range of its all-electric drive train, providing a cushion of comfort and convenience.
Not for nothing but GM rolled out its 2015 Volt at last January’s auto show in Detroit and we snapped that, too:
Where were we? Oh, right. The 2011 GM-LG partnership paired teams of engineers from both companies with an eye to developing components for the international market.
And, shades of the VW emissions scandal, the partnership announcement included a prescient statement about the direction in which the auto industry must go:
Accelerating the pace of roadworthy technology is more important than ever with the announcement of a number of more stringent emission and fuel consumption regulations around the world, including the recent agreement calling for a U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) of 54.5 mpg (23.2km/l) by the end of the 2025 model year. Electric vehicles, which have no tailpipe emissions and require no gasoline, are expected to play a major role in reaching the CAFE goal.
Getting back to the here and now, our source for yesterday’s GM Bolt announcement is The Detroit News, which cited GM head of supply chain Mark Reuss to explain why the new EV development relationship is the wave of the future:
Automakers not that long ago acted as dictators in past supplier relationships, said Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development, purchasing and supply chain.
“We told them what to do, how to do it and how much we’d pay for it. And what we found is that behavior blows up in your face, frankly,” Reuss told reporters during a media briefing at GM’s Warren Tech Center.
Group Hug For The Bolt EV
Anybody remember the global financial crash of 2008, when GM and other US automakers almost bit the dust? Of course you do! GM was one of the companies that got some big love from us taxpayers (Tesla Motors was another, by the way) after President Obama took office in 2009.
The payoff has been a thriving, job-creating domestic auto industry and a drop in the true cost-of-ownership for electric and hybrid electric vehicles.
We taxpayers can also take some credit for LG’s successful effort to get a toehold in the US market. Back in 2010, LG was part of a “web of battery plants” that were to form a platform for economic revival in Michigan and other rust belt states, helped along by matching funds through the 2009 Recovery Act.
Photo by Tina Casey.