During my recent visit I met with design executives from GM China and PATAC and in July I had the opportunity to visit the Technical Centre as part of the PACE Global Forum held in Shanghai.
Participants in the opening of Phase II of the GM China Advanced Technical Center in Shanghai (from left: Wulin Gaowa, Design Director of the GM China Advanced Design Center; Liu Zhengyi, Vice Governor of Shanghai Pudong New Area; Bob Socia, GM China President and Chief Country Operations Officer of China, India and ASEAN; Jon Lauckner, GM Chief Technology Officer, Vice President of Global Research & Development, and President of GM Ventures; and Dave Leone, GM Executive Chief Engineer
GM China Technical Centre and Advanced Design Centre in Shanghai
L-R: Designers Ian Wong, Wulin Gaowa, and Brigid O'Kane
SHANGHAI – General Motors China hosted its second annual “Tech Day” event in conjunction with the opening of the second phase of the GM China Advanced Technical Center.
With the theme of "Ignite! The Spark of Innovation," Tech Day showcased the automaker’s technology achievements and the key role China is playing in the company’s vehicle development initiatives globally.
“The completion of the ATC is an important milestone for GM in China,” said Bob Socia, president, GM China, and Chief Country Operations Officer, China, India and ASEAN. “It gives us the most comprehensive automotive technical center in our largest market. The center will serve not just China but also GM’s operations around the world.”
Up to 250 engineers, designers and researchers will work in advanced vehicle design, powertrain and vehicle engineering, telematics and R&D at the center. Their work is expected to impact product differentiation and competitiveness, especially in fuel economy, and accelerate GM’s introduction of innovative technologies in China.
Taking the Next Step in the Journey to Sustainable Urban Mobility
GM showed a life-size clay model of the EN-V 2.0, which is based on the EN-V concept introduced at Expo 2010 in Shanghai. The original EN-V, short for Electric Networked-Vehicle, was a two-seat electric vehicle designed to alleviate traffic congestion, parking availability and air quality issues for tomorrow’s cities. The concept embodies the company’s vision for sustainable urban mobility, combining electrification and connectivity. A sketch of the EN-V 2.0 concept was shown earlier this year at the Beijing auto show.
“EN-V 2.0 is being developed and will be tested first right here in China,” said Socia. “This is a further testament to the important role that China is playing in GM’s product development strategy.”
The EN-V 2.0 project is part of GM’s overall vehicle electrification strategy in China. GM currently offers the Buick LaCrosse with eAssist, Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and Chevrolet Volt. Last week, Shanghai GM’s Sail SPRINGO EV made its debut at Auto Guangzhou 2012. It is the first electric vehicle developed by a joint venture in China and will go on sale next year, initially in Shanghai.
Using Advanced Technology to Build a Future Blueprint
Jon Lauckner, GM Chief Technology Officer, vice president of Global Research & Development, and president of GM Ventures, said the ATC’s R&D team is focusing on battery cells, lightweight materials, manufacturing processes, engines and transmissions, and developing mobile apps for connected urban driving.
GM China already has made significant breakthroughs in the development of lightweight materials such as magnesium alloy to improve the fuel economy of its vehicles. The Micro-foundry and Formability Lab, part of the first phase of the ATC that opened in September 2011, has completed magnesium alloy low-pressure die casting testing, a milestone in lightweight materials research for the automotive industry.
GM has also had success in developing batteries in China for the next generation of electric vehicles. In August, it began fabricating and testing prototype battery cells and complete systems at the ATC.
GM is also making breakthroughs in connected driving and infotainment. For example, a Shanghai OnStar mobile app for the Sail SPRINGO EV will allow drivers to monitor the battery’s charge and remaining available EV range from their smart phones, as well as set the vehicle’s charging schedule remotely.
The R&D group is working on a number of “proof-of-concept” demonstration mobile apps. One example is a pilot app called “DiDi Weibo” that uses automatic speech and gesture recognition to help drivers connect to Weibo and stay in touch with their friends – all while keeping their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.
Engineers and technicians at the ATC will test vehicle subsystems and components under varying conditions in the labs dedicated to Concept Vehicle Integration, Structures and Chassis, Vehicle Assessment and Benchmarking, Electrical, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning), Materials and Fastening, and Powertrain. The labs will allow GM to explore alternative vehicle engineering solutions and to enhance the quality, reliability and durability of components in GM vehicles.
Leading Design with Advanced Technology
The ATC’s new Advanced Design Center includes state-of-the-art tools for designers to explore future mobility solutions and technology integration.
“Our new Advanced Design Center in Shanghai is part of the GM Global Design Center network, which webs from California to Germany to India and Korea and points beyond,” said Wulin Gaowa, design director of the GM China Advanced Design Center. “We are building a team of talented local designers and modelers that will enable us to deliver world-class work for China and other markets.”
For example, milling machines produce clay models in scale using computerized three-dimensional data. Designers use these models to evaluate vehicle proportions, finalize surfaces graphics and line-work, during the design process of refinement and balancing criteria.
The virtual reality room in the Advanced Design Center is an evaluation tool for high-resolution two-dimensional and three-dimensional data. Designers will also use it to evaluate full-size clay models from a distance in natural light in an expansive indoor viewing area.
Wulin and her team will collect and study information on Chinese customer mobility behaviors and needs, coupled with trends in automotive design and other industries in China that may be used by GM on a worldwide basis.
Developing Luxury Models with a Leadership Philosophy
Cadillac plans to add one new model each year to its lineup in China through 2016, starting with the XTS in early 2013. The luxury brand’s models will feature the latest automotive technologies.
“We are incorporating intuitive technologies into our models such as CUE (Cadillac User Experience), which merges intuitive interior design and advanced technology for customized in-vehicle connectivity,” said Dave Leone, executive chief engineer for Performance Luxury Cars.“We are also making the next generation of Cadillacs more fuel efficient and safer by integrating lightweight materials and innovative active safety features. This is critically important to our continued success in China.”
Cadillac is also adapting advanced technologies such as radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors to help drivers avoid crashes. Safety assistance includes lane departure warnings, forward collision alerts and seats that vibrate to alert drivers of vehicles in their blind spots. The brand is likewise adopting technology that can apply the brakes when the driver is not reacting to an object the car is sensing ahead or behind it.
In addition, Cadillac is road testing a semi-autonomous technology it calls "Super Cruise" that is capable of fully automatic steering, braking and lane-centering in highway driving under certain optimal conditions, Super Cruise is designed to ease the driver's workload in both bumper-to-bumper traffic and on long road trips by relying on a fusion of radar, ultrasonic sensors, cameras and GPS map data. The system could be ready for production vehicles later this decade.