GM Breaks Ground On Historic Electric Motor PlantBy Scott Doggett May 17, 2011
General Motors broke ground today on what will be the first electric-motor factory by a major U.S. automaker when the plant opens in 2013. With Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on hand for a ceremonial shoveling of dirt by GM executives and local politicians, GM officially began construction on the previously announced addition to the GM Baltimore Operations complex that houses the company's two-mode hybrid and Heavy Duty transmission operations. The new $244.5-million plant will be adjacent to GM's Allison Transmission plant in White Marsh, an unincorporated area near Baltimore. The new rear-wheel-drive motor that will be built there is expected to power a new generation of GM plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles. The plant is expected to employ 190 people. More than 200 people currently work at the transmission plant.
The plant's construction will begin in earnest in July. It is expected to open for production in 2013. It will be built with a combination of federal, state and Baltimore County subsidies. GM is investing about $129 million, the U.S. Department of Energy $105 million, the county $6 million and Maryland $4.5 million.
GM believes electric-motor design and production will become a core business for it with the increasing development and manufacture of plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles. The electric-motor plant will be powered in part by a 1.23-megawatt rooftop solar array, expected to generate nine percent of its annual energy consumption and save approximately $330,000 during the life of the project.
GM's Baltimore Operations has the dual distinction of being powered by renewable energy and generating no landfill waste. It earned governmental zero-landfill status in 2007 by recycling, reusing or converting to energy all wastes from daily operations. Mike Robinson, GM vice president of energy, environment and safety policy, said that by harnessing solar energy from the rooftop array, GM will offset up to 1,103 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the air per year - equivalent to the emissions from 216 passenger vehicles.
GM's Modern Electric History
GM was the first American company in modern times to release an all-electric automobile. In 1990, it debuted the Impact battery-electric concept car at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It was the first car with zero emissions marketed in the U.S. in over three decades. The Impact was eventually produced as the EV1 for the 1996 model year. A limited number of EV1s were available for lease through dealers located in California, Arizona and Georgia. In 1999, GM decided to cease production of the vehicles and destroyed most of them.
In May 2004, GM delivered the world's first full-sized hybrid pickups, the half-ton Silverado/Sierra. Unlike GM's later designs, the mild hybrids did not use electrical energy for propulsion. A year later, GM introduced the Opel Astra diesel-electric hybrid concept vehicle. The following year, in 2006, the Detroit automaker brought out the Saturn Vue Green Line - the manufacturer's first hybrid passenger vehicle, which was also a mild hybrid. Mild hybrids are essentially conventional fossil-fuel-powered vehicles equipped with an electric motor that allows the engine to be turned off whenever the car is coasting, braking or stopped, yet restart quickly. Mild hybrids may employ regenerative braking and some level of power assist to the combustion engine, but they do not have the exclusive electric-only mode of propulsion found in two-mode hybrids.
Starting about four years ago, GM began offering two-mode hybrids in a variety of brands, including Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac. Most recently, in late 2010 it brought the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid with an onboard gas-powered generator that permits travel exceeding 300 miles between refueling. It is the most fuel-efficient mass-produced car with an internal combustion engine sold in the United States, as rated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Volt can travel 25 to 50 miles solely on electricity stored in its lithium-ion battery following a full charge, after which the gas-powered generator is required to supply electricity. The EPA estimated the Volt's all-electric range at 35 miles on average, and the total range between refueling at 379 miles. The EPA rated the Volt's combined city/highway fuel economy at 93 miles per gallon equivalent in all-electric mode, and at 37 mpg in gasoline-only mode. The EPA estimated the Volt's overall combined gas-electric fuel economy rating at 60 mpg. More models featuring the Voltec propulsion system (pictured) are in the works.