GM News Release


MILFORD, Mich. -- By implementing a select group of advanced powertrain technologies and leveraging its expertise in systems integration, General Motors plans to achieve significant improvements in automotive performance, fuel economy and emissions controls in the new millennium.

The improvements will be driven by new generations of powertrains based on flexible architectures, combined with the management of the electronic interfaces between the vehicle and powertrain system, according to Arv Mueller, group vice president for GM Powertrain.

"Over the past 20 years or so, the vehicle has become a complicated network of systems," Mueller said. "Today, the powertrain has to interact with other systems on the vehicle to fully optimize its character and performance. Major advances in fuel economy, performance and reduced emissions will come not only from hardware changes, but from the artful integration of the interfaces between the powertrain and the entire vehicle system," said Mueller, in a media briefing held at the GM Milford Proving Ground to showcase GM's advanced powertrain technologies.

GM has cut fuel consumption in half and has reduced emissions by 90 percent over the last 30 years. Mueller said GM has set a goal to improve powertrain system fuel efficiency by 15-to-25 percent for its 2004/2005 programs. In addition, GM will continue to address overall vehicle emissions, with targets to reduce approximately 80 percent of hydrocarbons, 40 percent of CO, and 90 percent of NOx by 2009, compared to 1998 levels.

"While GM is continuing development work on alternate propulsion systems, the internal combustion engine will remain the primary powerplant for automotive vehicles for the foreseeable future," said Ned McClurg, vice president and general manager - engineering operations for GM Powertrain. "It's important that we continue to develop ways to make gasoline and diesel fuel burn more efficiently and cleaner, and that's what we're doing," McClurg said.

Building on GM's long heritage of innovation in powertrain technology, GM Powertrain is constantly pushing the envelope to find new ways to meet customers' requirements and generate enthusiasm for its products. Customer requirements for excellent horsepower and torque need to be balanced with other factors, Mueller said. These factors include global concerns for reduced CO2 and tailpipe emissions, the long-term availability of fossil fuels, emerging global markets, intense competition, and increased complexity of the vehicle itself.

Factoring in these requirements, GM Powertrain has established three strategies to successfully develop powertrains that are cost effective, innovative and are consistent with the brand character of each vehicle. The strategies are:

  • Refining its product portfolio by developing a more flexible family of architectures that will meet a broad spectrum of customer requirements while helping to improve quality, reduce cost, speed time to market and build brand equity.
  • Leveraging global resources and technology to offer customers powertrains with excellent acceleration, smooth operation and shift feel, quiet performance and great fuel economy.
  • Focusing on the integration of the powertrain with the entire vehicle system as a key enabler to drive improvements to performance, fuel economy and emissions.
GM is developing global engine and transmission product lines with the flexibility to respond to the demands and efficiency requirements of different markets. Over the next five years, GM will introduce many new engines including 4-cylinder engines, in-line truck engines, V6s, V8s, and several advanced diesel engines worldwide. Over the same time period, several new transmissions will also be introduced including both continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) and also step ratio transmissions with more than four speeds.

A new 4-cylinder engine that is the result of GM's first truly global engine program illustrates the flexible architecture approach. It features a modular design that allows for the incorporation of different technologies, allowing GM to consolidate its 4-cylinder engines in a single family. The first version - a 2.2 liter - debuted on the 2000 Saturn LS sedan and LW wagon.

"With this single architecture, we can deliver a high-performance, fuel-efficient turbocharger for Europe, a multiport fuel injection version, and a direct injection-gasoline version," McClurg said.

The Small Block Gen III engine is another example of a modular approach that can incorporate different technologies, such as direct-injection, supercharging, cam phasing and displacement on demand. As a result, this engine family is appropriate for a range of vehicles, from durable trucks pulling heavy loads to a performance-tuned race car on the American Speed Association (ASA) circuit in North America, to the Holden Statesman marketed in Australia and the Opel Omega that must be fuel efficient and meet European targets for CO2 emissions.

In the future, GM will introduce a new family of in-line DOHC (dual overhead cam) truck engines built on a flexible architecture to meet a range of design and market needs. "We can offer 6, 5 or 4 cylinders off the same block to go from 2.4-liter displacement all the way up to 4.2 liters," McClurg said.

"Flexible architectures give us tremendous economies of scale. Offering fewer base powertrain families with a wider variety of regional variants will free up resources to refine our core products and develop new technology to meet market needs."

With a manageable group of products, GM Powertrain will focus resources on building brand identities. "As we refine our portfolio, we will be building the brand equity of our products, including our Northstar, Vortec, Ecotec and Duramax engines, to the point where customers ask for them by name," Mueller said.

GM is using both hardware and software changes to achieve improvements to performance, fuel economy and emissions.

"As we work to achieve future targets, we are not going to rely on one technology to meet all needs," McClurg said. "The diversity of products we support demands that we choose carefully on a vehicle by vehicle basis."

For example, Electronically Controlled Capacity Clutch (EC3) technology allows the automatic transmission torque converter to be locked up earlier without drivetrain vibration, benefiting fuel economy by 2 percent to 3 percent. In the 2000 model year, this technology will be on 4 million vehicles.

GM Powertrain also has announced plans to produce CVTs for small cars by 2002, a technology estimated to improve fuel economy by about 7 percent.

For European customers, Opel plans to soon offer the first 4-liter medium compact sedan, with a frugal 1.7-liter turbocharged direct inject engine that consumes less than 4.5 liters per 100 kilometers.

While pushrod engines such as the LS1 engine continue to earn awards for their excellent performance, GM Powertrain also is intensifying its focus on overhead cam engines. During the 2000 model year, GM Powertrain will build approximately 4 million overhead cam engines and 5 million pushrod engines. In five years, the mix will favor overhead cams by a nearly three-to-two margin. Over the same period, GM Powertrain also will increase its production of all-aluminum engines by 300 percent to about 3.2 million units.

GM also will continue to develop innovative diesel engines for appropriate markets through its strategic partnership with Isuzu. A totally new direct-injected V8 turbo diesel engine, called Duramax, will be introduced in heavy-duty pickup trucks in the 2001 model year. The Duramax boasts improved fuel economy of 15-to-20 percent, with excellent horsepower and torque ratings.

GM also is actively developing potential fuel economy and emissions solutions based on alternate propulsion systems. GM's efforts build on its experiences in compressed natural gas, ethanol and electric-powered vehicles, while leveraging partnerships with other automakers, technology companies, energy suppliers, governments and universities.

Integrating the vehicle's hardware with its software will allow GM Powertrain to harmonize and balance emerging technologies on all fronts, including the transmission, engine and vehicle. GM Powertrain focuses both on seamless integration of the engine and transmission, as well as integrating the powertrain with the vehicle's electronics.

"We are very optimistic about the future, because vehicle and system integration is GM Powertrain's number one competitive advantage. We do it better than anyone else in the industry," Mueller said.

In 1980, GM created a Powertrain Control Systems group to develop a unique control logic for GM vehicle systems. The first powertrain control module produced by the group had 2K of memory and could perform 200 operations a second.

Today's control module has 512K of memory and does 2,000 operations per second. The GM Powertrain Operating System manages the engine, the transmission and the electronic controller to operate as a seamless unit.

"We've grown this expertise from the ground up, and it has resulted in some of the most innovative features in the industry," Mueller said. Prime examples are the electronic throttle controller available on Corvette, and Cadillac's StabiliTrak and Performance Algorithm Shifting.

These advances are made possible by the sophisticated programming of the controller and the integration of inputs from various sensors on the vehicle. For example, StabiliTrak utilizes information from sensors that measure steering angle, yaw rate, wheel position, lateral acceleration, throttle position, brake position and vehicle speed.

"We have developed this expertise in-house, because we know that it takes a special knowledge to control an analog machine like an automobile with digital technology," Mueller said. "You need more than computer wizards. You need people who also understand and love cars and trucks."


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