Special Coverage

SAE World Congress

DETROIT – Dual-clutch transmissions and 8-speed automatics will be part of a drive by General Motors Corp. to diversify its powertrains in light of toughening fuel-economy regulations, says Daniel M. Hancock, vice president-GM Powertrain Global Engineering.

Hancock, speaking at an Original Equipment Supplier Assn. forum in conjunction with the SAE World Congress here, says the more advanced transmission are just part of a long list of new technology the auto maker will be relying on to meet mileage standards in the U.S. and elsewhere.

He says GM also will proliferate such things as turbocharging (improving fuel economy 7%-9%), cylinder deactivation (2%-4%), direct injection (1%-2%) and homogenous charge compression ignition (15%) for gasoline engines.

And it will introduce oxides of nitrogen aftertreatment systems in U.S. diesels for pickup trucks in 2010. Such systems cut 80% of NOx from the exhaust stream, he says.

“These are not just niche technologies,” Hancock says. “These are mainstream technologies.”

Hancock says GM now offers active fuel management on nine engines available in 16 models and 1 million units annually. Variable valve timing is offered on 28 engines good for 3 million units annually.

The auto maker will produce three direct-injection gasoline engines that will account for 900,000 units annually by the ’10 model year, he says.

In addition, cylinder deactivation is incorporated in six GM engine variants (500,000 units); 14 gasoline engine variants offer turbocharging, and 16 diesel engine variants are available in 41 vehicle lines (more than 1 million units annually).

GM will have 10 front-, rear- and all-wheel-drive 6-speed automatics in more than 3 million vehicles annually by ’10, Hancock says.

The GM engineer predicts ethanol will reduce gasoline consumption in the U.S. as much as 30% by 2030, adding controversy over fuel vs. food will die down as second-generation, cellulosic ethanol replaces corn- and sugarcane-derived ethanol.

GM has 3 million E85-capable vehicles on U.S. roads and has committed to having 50% of its annual production compatible with the fuel by 2012.

But Hancock says the ethanol push won’t be enough on its own to get GM to more stringent U.S. corporate average fuel economy standards now on the books for 2020.

“You can’t get to 35 mpg (6.7 L/100 km) in 2020 only with ethanol,” he says. “It helps with reducing CO2, but it won’t solve CAFE.”

Hancock also makes a pitch for standards over the makeup of B20 biodiesel and processes used to produce it.

Currently, all GM diesels are capable of running on B5, and some vehicles sold to fleets are compatible with B20. But the auto maker would like to make a bigger push with B20.

Asked how the industry is going to get consumers to switch to smaller cars, Hancock says auto makers could use some help from the government.

“As we make more fuel-efficient cars, consumers don’t always buy smaller vehicles,” he says. “That’s going to change as fuel costs increase. People will be encouraged to buy higher-tech, small vehicles.”

But it would help if the U.S. followed Europe’s lead and taxed less-fuel efficient vehicles or provided incentives for consumers to purchase high-mileage models, he says.

dzoia@wardsauto.com