gm lauckner.automotiveIT

GM's Lauckner says EVs need to become cheaper and easier to recharge (Photo: GM)

General Motors sees a growing market for electric vehicles in China and is stepping up its local EV development activities.

"Electrified vehicles will play a critical role in efforts to conserve and ultimately displace petroleum as the major source of transportation energy,” predicted Jon Lauckner, GM's chief technology officer.

In an address to the Fisita 2012 World Automotive Congress in Beijing, Lauckner said GM will focus in particular on battery technology, which it considers key to the further growth of the EV market.

In 2011, the carmaker opened an Advanced Materials Lab in Shanghai that is conducting research on battery technology and lightweight materials.

GM , like other automakers, is working on the development of lighter and less costly batteries with much higher energy density than today.

"“We will apply innovative technologies to cell design and fabrication, test and validate advanced cell materials provided by suppliers, and ultimately integrate battery cells into future battery systems for our vehicles,” Lauckner said. “We believe the further development of lithium-ion battery technology is possible through improvements in cell chemistry, cell and pack design, and optimization of thermal management.”

GM is already selling three electrified vehicles in China: the Chevrolet Volt, Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. The US carmaker's Chinese joint venture ”“ Shanghai GM ”“ introduced the Sail Springo pure electric vehicle earlier this month.

Automakers have to take additional steps to make EVs a more attractive proposition, Lauckner said. "Greater adoption of electrified vehicles requires a greater breadth of offerings; cost reductions in technology for more competitive pricing compared to conventional vehicles; and, of course, more infrastructure for convenient charging,” he said.

GM is the leading automaker in China in terms of unit sales. In 2011, the company  sold more than 2.5 million vehicles in the world's biggest car market.