GM Calls Internal Combustion Engine 'Simply Not Sustainable'

January 21, 2009

On its Fast Lane Blog, General Motors makes the bold claim that the internal combustion engine will ultimately go the way of the horse and buggy, calling it "simply not sustainable." Larry Burns, GM vice president for R&D, quickly makes the point that high development costs of electric drivetrains and attendant new-tech batteries mean that "we must work together to overcome [these] challenges and make this technology a reality."

Burns wants you to seriously consider buying an electric vehicle from GM in the near future, and he wants the new powers at the helm in Washington to contribute - and contribute copiously - to this shift in automotive propulsion to make it an affordable, profitable enterprise for his ailing company. Estimated cost for a 2011 Chevrolet Volt, for example, rings in at around $40,000, and we imagine that only the greenest glitterati in Hollywood would likely shell out so many clams for a small Chevrolet sedan, perhaps consigning that vehicle to fate worse than another overpriced small Chevrolet Cadillac, the unloved Cimarron.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Enlarge Photo

Having rolled out E-REV (extended-range electric vehicle) concepts like its 2011 Chevrolet Volt and, most recently, the Detroit Auto Show's Cadillac Converj powered by the same Voltec powertrain, GM is showing us that it's serious about building electric. They have the double mission of enticing the public with sexy silhouettes like that offered up by the Converj while also making a dubious Congress believe that the company can pull a swift about-face from 9 mpg HUMMER H2s to 40 mpg E-REV misers.

Click through Burns' Powerpoint, below, used for his presentation last week to the Transportation Research Board and weigh in with your comments. Is Burns' argument convincing, worthy of your tax dollars, or a just a desperate plea to avoid chapter 11?

Converging on Sustainability: The New DNA of the Automobile

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