Personal Mobility, Then and Now

Personal Mobility, Then and Now

In May 1969, General Motors unveiled for the nation's press the latest results of its continuing investigation of various possible forms of automotive power.

The "state of the art" show at the GM Technical Center -- called "Progress of Power" -- included 26 special vehicles which were exhibited or demonstrated, many for the first time. These had a variety of unconventional power plants, including turbine, steam, electric and hybrid systems along with experimental piston engines with reduced air pollutant characteristics.

Outlining the purpose of the special showing, General Motors President Edward N. Cole said: "The cars and power systems you see here today are working experimental models developed by General Motors. They are designed to illustrate current technological progress by General Motors scientists and engineers and by our consultants in various fields.”

Four experimental special purpose vehicles for limited urban transportation were demonstrated as part of the presentation. Harry F. Barr, vice president in charge of GM Engineering Staff, described the cars as "engineering studies with actual vehicles of many shapes and sizes and various forms of power.”

Mr. Barr explained that the four cars were included in three separate projects. One was the three-car 512 series powered by gasoline, electric and hybrid units. The other, the 511 car, featured a three-wheel suspension -- single wheel in front and two in the rear -- with a conventional four-cylinder engine.

Developed by the General Motors Engineering Staff, the 512 gasoline vehicle is powered by a 19.6 cubic inch, two­-cylinder, 12-hp aluminum engine with an 11 to 1 compression ratio. Top speed is 45 mph and the car will accelerate from 0 to 30 mph in 18 seconds. With a four-gallon fuel tank, its range is approximately 280 miles. The car features an automatic transmission operating on the variable ratio V-belt principle with a centrifugal clutch, the first use of this system on an American vehicle.

The experimental 512 electric car has a 52-inch wheelbase and 86.3 overall length. Width is 56 inches and its curb weight is 1250 lbs. with an 84-volt power battery pack and 12-volt battery for accessories. The car also has a built-in battery charger and complete recharge of the battery pack from a 115-volt household outlet requires 7 hours. The car's range at 25 miles an hour is 58 miles. At 30 miles an hour, which is approximately top speed , the range is 47 miles.

The 512 gasoline-electric hybrid is one of the world’s first hybrids. Its power system consists of a 12 cubic inch gasoline engine coupled with a series DC electric motor through an electro-magnetic clutch. The electrical energy is produced by a 72-volt power battery pack. An additional 12-volt accessory battery powers accessories. The car operates either in all-electric or hybrid mode, and battery recharge is done with a built-in charging unit connected with a standard 115-volt household electrical outlet. In the hybrid mode, top speed is 35 miles per hour. Its range in the electric mode at 30 miles per hour is 5.2 miles. In the hybrid mode with three gallons of gasoline range is approximately 150 miles.

Also part of the experimental urban transportation presentation was the 511 commuter. The three-wheeled, gasoline powered vehicle features exceptional stability, fuel economy and maneuverability. The 511’s overall length is 149 inches, its wheelbase 86 inches and rear tread 54 inches. Its purpose would be to transport two people from suburbs to downtown offices at freeway speeds. The 511 is powered by a rear-mounted 4-cylinder 66 cubic inch Opel engine capable of 67 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. It has a three-speed automatic torque converter type of transmission and an 80 mile-per-hour top speed.

Lined up at the GM Technical Center are the three 512 vehicles and the 511 car developed by the General Motors Engineering Staff.

From Experimental to America’s Largest Electric Fleet

The evolution of automotive technology is ongoing. From the “Progress of Power” experimental cars to todays advanced electrics and hybrids, GM continues to lead the industry. In 2016, the Chevrolet Bolt EV joined the Chevrolet Spark EV and the Chevrolet Volt to create the industry’s largest portfolio of electric vehicles.

The way people get around is changing forever and electric vehicles will continue to be a big part of the solution. The Bolt EV is the next step in this evolution.

The Bolt EV is a front-wheel-drive, five-passenger, five-door all-electric vehicle built at GM’s Orion, Michigan assembly facility. Bolt EV will offer more than 200 miles of range on a full charge starting around $30,000. It also features advanced connectivity technologies designed to enhance and personalize the driving experience.

“It was less than a year ago that we revealed the Bolt EV concept and promised to deliver a long-range electric vehicle attainable by the masses,” GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said. “The Bolt EV is capable of using the latest mobile app technology to enable car sharing, advanced GPS routing and gamification, all designed to enhance the ownership experience now and into the future.”

Like most EVs on the road, the Bolt EV’s drive system uses a single high capacity electric motor to propel the car. But it’s the smooth, powerful and quiet motor design, gear configuration and shift-by-wire system that separates it from the pack.

The engineering team designed the Bolt EV’s electric motor with an offset gear and shaft configuration tailored to meet efficiency and performance targets – most notably more than an estimated 200 miles of range. The motor is capable of producing up to 266 lb.-ft. (360 Nm) of torque and 200 hp (150 kW) of motoring power. Combined with a 7.05:1 final drive ratio, it helps propel the Bolt EV from 0-60 mph in less than seven seconds.

Power delivery is controlled by Chevrolet’s first Electronic Precision Shift system. This shift and park-by-wire system sends electronic signals to the Bolt EV’s drive unit to manage precise feel and delivery of power and torque, based on drive mode selection and accelerator inputs. A by-wire shifter requires less packaging space than a traditional mechanical shifter, resulting in more interior space and improved interior layout.

Having more than 1.3 billion miles of EV experience from the Chevrolet Volt helped Bolt EV battery engineers and strategic partner LG Electronics to develop an all-new cell and battery pack to offer more than an estimated 200 miles of range.

The battery uses active thermal conditioning, similar to the Chevrolet Volt, to keep the battery operating at its optimum temperature, which results in solid battery life performance. The Bolt EV battery will be covered by an 8-year/ 100,000 mile (whichever comes first) limited warranty.

The battery system is mated to a standard equipment 7.2 kW onboard charger for regular overnight charging from a 240-V wall box. A typical commute of 50 miles can be recharged in less than two hours. Bolt EV also features an optional DC Fast Charging system using the industry standard SAE Combo connector. Using DC Fast Charging, the Bolt EV battery can be charged up to 90 miles of range in 30 minutes. Outside temperatures may affect charging times.

New Era of Personal Mobility

GM is also leading the industry with new ideas and technology to address key customer transportation and mobility needs. New technology is driving fundamental changes in how consumers use cars.

Evidence of this can be seen through two GM initiatives; Car-sharing service Maven and car-hailing service Lyft.

Maven’s mission is to give customers access to highly personalized, on-demand mobility services. The global Maven team includes more than 40 dedicated employees from the connected car technology industry as well as ride- and car-sharing professionals from Google, Zipcar and Sidecar.

Maven customers will experience seamless smartphone and keyless integration with the vehicle. Maven customers use its app to search for and reserve a vehicle by location or car type and unlock the vehicle with their smartphone. The app also enables remote functions such as starting, heating or cooling and more. Customers can bring their digital lives into the vehicle through Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, OnStar, SiriusXM radio and 4GLTE wireless. Each vehicle will provide an ownership-like experience with the convenience of car-sharing.

GM’s strategic alliance with Lyft is designed to create a network of on-demand autonomous vehicles. Key elements of the GM and Lyft alliance include:

  • Autonomous On-Demand Network: The joint development of a network of on-demand autonomous vehicles will leverage GM’s deep knowledge of autonomous technology and Lyft’s capabilities in providing a broad choice of ride-sharing services.
  • Rental Hub: GM will become a preferred provider of short-term use vehicles to Lyft drivers through rental hubs in various cities in the U.S.
  • Connectivity: Lyft drivers and customers will have access to GM’s wide portfolio of cars and OnStar services, leveraging two decades of experience in connectivity. This will create a richer ride-sharing experience for both driver and passenger.
  • Joint Mobility Offerings: GM and Lyft will also provide each other’s customers with personalized mobility services and experiences through their respective channels.

“GM is at the forefront of redefining the future of personal mobility,” said GM President Dan Ammann. “With the launch of our car-sharing service through Maven, the strategic alliance with ride-sharing company Lyft, and building on our decades of leadership in vehicle connectivity through OnStar, we are uniquely positioned to provide the high level of personalized mobility services our customers expect today and in the future.”

The engineers and designers involved with the experimental ideas in the Progress of Power demonstration would be amazed with GM’s progress in advanced technology today.