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Skip Fire System Could Slash Fuel Consumption

GM invests in promising Silicon Valley start-up.

by on Jan.06, 2015

A diagram showing the Dynamic Skip Fire system at work, selectively shutting down cylinders.

Facing tough new fuel economy standards, automakers are frantically searching for ways to boost mileage, and General Motors is betting it may have found one of the possible solutions coming out of Silicon Valley.

The maker’s investment arm, GM Ventures, is pumping cash into startup Tula Technology which is developing a system it calls Dynamic Skip Fire. The technology allows a vehicle to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 15% by briefly shutting off individual cylinders when the demand for power is reduced.

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“This technology holds the potential to improve fuel economy on select GM vehicles without degrading power capability when it’s required,” said Jon Lauckner, GM chief technology officer, vice president of Global R&D and president of GM Ventures. “This joint effort combines software expertise from Silicon Valley with powertrain expertise from General Motors.”


GM Ups Stake in Battery Bus Maker

Just the latest move by the automaker’s aggressive new venture capital subsidiary.

by on Nov.21, 2012

Proterra's bus can log 40 miles before needing a 10-minute quick charge.

General Motors is increasing its stake in a South Carolina start-up producing battery-electric buses.

The move is just the latest by GM Ventures targeting potentially lucrative opportunities that can help it develop lighter, cleaner, smarter and lower-cost vehicles – while also generating potentially significant new sources of cash if the subsidiary can match the performance of other high-risk investors.

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GM Ventures is one of six venture capital firms, or VCs, pumping $23 million into Proterra, Inc., of Greenville, S.C.  Among the other investors is the giant Silicon Valley VC fund Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which has joined GM in several other projects funded by GM Ventures. It’s the second round of funding for Proterra that the Detroit-based investment fund has participated in.


GM Betting on “Game-Changer” Battery

New technology could yield huge jump in range.

by on Aug.10, 2012

GM may have found a partner that could double the range of battery-based vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt.

Perhaps the single biggest problem with electric vehicles is the limited range of today’s batteries.  But General Motors is betting that a small California company may have a breakthrough that could substantially increase so-called energy density yielding a major increase in the distance battery cars can travel between charges.

The automaker’s investment arm, GM Ventures LLC, is investing heavily in Envia Systems, based in Newark, California. The firm claims to have developed a new way to pack about 400 watt hours of energy into a kilogram of battery.  Put into perspective, that’s a full ten times as much “juice” as the nickel-metal hydride battery in a Toyota Prius can hold and as much as twice the energy even the best of today’s advanced lithium-ion batteries can manage.

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That would potentially permit a Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid to go 70 miles on a charge, for example, compared to 35 today.  And pure battery-electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf or Ford Focus Electric, could deliver range closer to what a gas-powered vehicle might yield on a tank of petrol, rather than the 70 to 100 miles they can eke out today.

“I think we’ve got better than a 50-50 chance to develop a car that will go to 200 miles on a charge,” says GM CEO Dan Akerson, who calls Envia’s technology a potential “game-changer.”


Steel Aims to Take on All Challengers

GM invests in a “game-changer.”

by on Aug.09, 2012

Cadillac used new ultra-high-strength steels to slash the weight of the 2013 ATS sedan.

General Motors will make an unspecified investment into a small start-up hoping to turn a low-tech material into a high-tech solution to one of the auto industry’s most challenging problems: making safer, higher-mileage vehicles without pricing them out of the reach of the average consumer.

With the industry facing tough new fuel economy standards even as government regulators continue to add new safety mandates, many industry observers have forecast that will require automakers to increasingly shift from steel to more advanced – but significantly more costly – alternatives, such as aluminum and carbon fiber.

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Indeed, BMW is one of several manufacturers that has lately partnered with various carbon fiber ventures hoping to bring the cost of that exotic material down to a level tolerable in the mainstream automotive market.  But GM Ventures LLC, the venture capital arm of General Motors, is instead putting its money down on Rhode Island-based NanoSteel, betting the firm’s new steel-making process will pose a serious challenge to the newer materials.


GM Parterning with Solar Power Provider

Maker betting use of sun power will double by 2016.

by on Jul.28, 2011

Sunlogic solar canopies will be used at a variety of GM dealerships and other operations.

General Motors Ventures, GM’s private venture capital fund, will investment $7.5 million in Sunlogics PLC, a firm specializing in solar projects.The investment reflects estimates that the use of solar panels will double between now and 2016.

Sunlogics will shift its headquarters to Michigan and in the process create 200 new jobs in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills.

Officials say GM Ventures is looking for more projects in which to invest, and is particularly interested in projects in infotainment, advanced materials and advance manufacturing.

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“There is an obvious bias towards clean energy,” saiid John Lauckner, president of GM Ventures, the $100 million fund created last year to invest in companies with advanced technology.

About $45 million of the initial $100 million GM put into the fund has been invested in six different projects, Lauckner said. The fund has also assumed control of two investments in biofuels made before the fund was created.