General Motors (GM) is working on a line-up of electrically propelled vehicles that goes way beyond the range-extender Chevrolet Volt and Vauxhall/Opel Ampera. It encompasses pure electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars by 2015, and electric pods that can drive and even park themselves by 2030.
China driving electric demand
Much of the development is being driven by the demands of the Chinese market, the largest in the world, where GM in conjunction with Shanghai Automotive is the number one player. The Chinese Government is also offering big incentives to car manufacturers to introduce electric cars. The technology will also appear in other areas of the world, however, as pressure to reduce the carbon footprint of personal transport intensifies.
'Every local manufacturer is aware of the expectation from the (Chinese) Government to move forward to EVs,' says Lowell Paddock, the vice-president for planning and programme management at GM International Operations based in Shanghai.
'China sees Europe as having driven the development of the internal combustion engine. They want to drive the development of EVs. At the Shanghai motor show next year you will see a lot of development from us.'
GM predicts electric future
GM believes EVs could gradually take over from petrol and diesel cars for urban and suburban use, while fuel cell vehicles and range-extender cars such as the Volt and Ampera would give drivers the longer range they need for inter-city driving. Long-term, it envisages a scenario where drivers simply hire whichever kind of car they need at a particular time.