EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: GM Envisions a Future with Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions and Zero Congestion

September 29, 2020

Photo: ACT News

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An ACT News Virtual Executive Interview with Steve Carlisle, Executive Vice President and President, North America, on how GM is creating a roadmap to a zero emission future.

General Motors is one of the world’s largest and most established vehicle manufacturers and remains committed to a revolutionary vision of transportation. By aligning themselves with other innovative, forward thinking companies, GM will make this zero emission vision a reality. Across both the light- and heavy-duty sectors, GM is charting an ambitious path forward with multi-billion-dollar investments, unprecedented joint ventures, and market-making new technologies.

Steve will make keynote remarks at ACT Virtual on Tuesday, November 10 and share how the automaker is leveraging its scale, transformative leadership, and strategic partnerships as a leader in the advanced, clean transportation sector.

ACT News sat down with Steve to learn firsthand how GM is working towards a future with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.

ACT News: You will be the Keynote Speaker at the upcoming ACT Virtual episode on November 10 as part of “The Main Stage” online event series. The episode is “Setting a New Bar for Clean Transportation Solutions in Urban Mobility.” Can you tell us some of the insight you plan on sharing with attendees related to how GM is exploring the cutting edge of cleaner transportation solutions?

Steve Carlisle: GM’s electrification strategy is critical to our Zero Crashes, Zero Emission, Zero Congestion vision.

GM has a powerful story to tell of our roadmap to a zero emissions future and how we are bringing advanced technologies to consumers at scale, now and in the future.

“GM is committed to making EVs attainable for as many people as possible.”

Research confirms that people identify GM’s scale, ability to make new technologies attainable, and our transformative leadership, as unique advantages, even versus newer entries and companies.  GM is committed to making EVs attainable for as many people as possible.

GM’s Ultium Battery System will be a critical enabler for future models, for cost, range, and performance. From an off-road GMC HUMMER EV, to a luxury Cadillac Celestiq.

GM is drawing innovative solutions like this from our diverse geographies and talent.

GM’s winning formula for an all-electric future is based on our:

  • Technology plans, including our advanced Ultium Battery System combined with our flexible architectural platform, which should help GM secure a multi-brand, multi-segment portfolio of EVs for consumers and help position GM to offer a portfolio of EVs that is among the broadest in the industry
  • Strengths in design and performance
  • Redefined Customer Experience that will showcase how fun EVs are to drive and a how they offer a new and rewarding ownership experience
  • Commitment to an infrastructure and ecosystem that will help to enable an all EV future, including charging infrastructure and policy support for EV adoption

“GM’s Ultium Battery System will be a critical enabler for future models, for cost, range, and performance.”

ACT News: GM is committed to a zero emission future, which is bolstered by strategic alliances the company has formed with other companies to support renewable energy efforts. Please tell us more about what GM is doing to bring this vision to life.

Steve Carlisle: Achieving a zero emission future will require a team of internal and external relationships. Internal groups like OnStar and our Global Connected Vehicle team are advancing vehicle connectivity, while Cruise Automation is developing autonomous vehicles. We’re also working with LG Chem to develop proprietary battery systems and collaborating with charge point operator EVgo to expand the electric charging infrastructure. We also just announced key collaborations with Honda, Nikola and Analog Devices. These are but a few of the many companies we are working with!

What we’re talking about is an automotive future that is revolutionary, not evolutionary. For the past 120 years, the automobile and the auto industry have been evolutionary in nature. There’s no doubt that automobiles have added new safety features and become more efficient over the decades, but they have remained basically the same in their means of propulsion.

Can you imagine never visiting a gas station again? Never getting an oil change? Never changing a spark plug? Can you imagine a vehicle that has zero tailpipe emissions and can be re-charged easily and efficiently? Can you imagine vehicles that are connected to the world…and to each other? Can you imagine a vehicle with flexible seating, that may not even have a steering wheel, yet can maneuver safely even in challenging environments?

“Achieving a zero emission future will require a team of internal and external relationships.”

And can you imagine working with cities to support and leverage these technologies? That is the world GM envisions.

ACT News: On the topic of ethical sourcing of high-quality raw materials for batteries to power EVs, could you share insight into how the company is working toward achieving this, while simultaneously focusing on making EVs affordable for every driver?

Steve Carlisle: GM’s new lithium-ion battery with NCMA chemistry (nickel, cobalt, manganese, and aluminum) uses about 70 percent less cobalt than what is currently used in a Bolt EV battery. We do that by adding aluminum and increasing the amount of nickel. We expect that this new battery will offer more range at lower cost, and by greatly expanding our EV portfolio based on a single, flexible vehicle platform, GM EVs should become more affordable for our customers over time.

ACT News: GM has accepted the challenge of striving for an all-electric future, and early this year unveiled its new modular EV propulsion and battery system, Ultium. Please tell us about GMs EV strategy, and the infrastructure the company is working on.

Steve Carlisle: I would say that we are challenging ourselves to reach this vision, rather than reacting to some external “challenge.” I can honestly say that there are few people at GM who aren’t touched by this vision in some way.

The Ultium platform modularity and flexibility will help enable a complete lineup of dedicated EVs, where the vehicle and the Ultium system will be engineered simultaneously, rather than trying to retrofit an existing vehicle platform.

“The Ultium platform modularity and flexibility will help enable a complete lineup of dedicated EVs.”

GM is investing $2.3 billion in a joint venture with LG Chem called Ultium Cells LLC, to manufacture battery cells in Lordstown, Ohio. By sourcing battery cells internally, and locally, we can better protect ourselves from future battery and material supply constraints.

GM is also investing $2.2 billion at our Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant to produce all-electric vehicles. This plant will be dedicated entirely to producing electric vehicles and its first product, the GMC HUMMER EV, an all-electric pickup, is scheduled to begin initial production next year.

Challenging ourselves also means building an ecosystem around our customers, whether it is leveraging connectivity, improving their day-to-day life, or supporting access to charging when and where they need it. We will leverage GM’s breadth and tools to surround our customers with a great experience.

ACT News: How critical are funding and incentive programs to building the infrastructure to support wide scale deployment of electric vehicles? Can public funding help drive private investment?

Steve Carlisle: There is no question that the best and fastest way to build an electric charging infrastructure is through a combination of both public and private initiatives and investments. GM’s vision is to build a charging ecosystem that is seamless for our customers across home, public, workplace and fleets.

“The best and fastest way to build an electric charging infrastructure is through a combination of both public and private initiatives and investments.”

In March, GM announced a commitment to add 3,500 chargers for our employees at our U.S. and Canadian facilities. GM also recently announced that we will work with charge point operator EVgo to add over 2,700 fast charging plugs nationwide over the next five years. When complete, the EVgo network will be three times larger than it is currently.

ACT News: What advice would you give to recent new hires at GM?

Steve Carlisle: The first thing I would say to new hires at GM is, “Congratulations, you are now part of one of the most innovative and well-managed companies in the world!” I’ve been at GM for nearly four decades, and I can honestly say that there has never been a more exciting time to be at GM than right now! The future for these smart and energetic young men and women is very bright!

Just think of our products, including the many future electric vehicles we’ll soon be introducing, like the GMC HUMMER EV and Cadillac LYRIQ. GM currently has a great portfolio of cars, crossovers, SUVs, trucks, and commercial vehicles. GM is now a company with a very clearly defined mission and one that puts the customer at the center of everything we do!

As for advice, I would say, “Stay focused, stay engaged, be a team player, and always do more than what is expected of you.” I believe that if young people at any organization can do those things, they will succeed. One more thing. I would tell them to buckle up, because they are in for one heck of a thrill ride!

ACT News: How do you define “success?”

Steve Carlisle: At the corporate level, success means designing, engineering and building products that people want to buy, own and buy again. It’s imperative that the world becomes a safe, better place as a result of these efforts. I’m a sales guy, so success means exceeding our sales and profit commitments, and doing it in a way that provides an exceptional customer experience. And, of course, success means delivering value to our various stakeholders.

“Success means seeing others succeed around you. They will be your lasting legacy.”

At the personal level, success means doing your job so well that it brings you, and others, satisfaction. Success means doing your job with enthusiasm, which can be contagious, and treating people with respect along the way. Finally, success means seeing others succeed around you. They will be your lasting legacy. That applies to everyone in the company, from top to bottom, regardless of your level or responsibilities. Do those things and success will find you.

There’s a great quote about success from the 19-century writer and poet Henry David Thoreau. He said, “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” How true.

ACT News: What is the most interesting thing about you that we would not learn from your resume alone?

Steve Carlisle: I’m Canadian, so I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I enjoy the game of hockey. But it might come as a surprise that even at the age of 58, I still like to lace up my skates and play whenever I can. Did I ever dream of playing professional hockey? I won’t say, but I think joining General Motors was the wiser career choice!