General Motors Corporation (GM) announced an initiative on 7/10/09 to try to sell new cars on eBay. The pilot program will be limited to California. Consumers would be able to bid on new vehicles just as they would bid in a normal eBay auction, or they could choose “Buy it Now” to purchase the vehicle at the set price. Dealers would still distribute the cars.
A deal between eBay and GM hasn’t been completed yet. However, the partnership should be a fairly smooth transition as eBay already sells used cars. GM has been placing all of its pre-owned cars on eBay for over a year. With the new pilot program GM would offer new cars, too.
While shoppers can already check new vehicle inventories online by looking at dealers’ own individual websites, the eBay pilot project would allow users to search multiple dealerships at once and more easily compare products, features and prices.
“The power of the eBay brand mated up with the four core brands from GM could be a really good thing,” said Susan Docherty, general manager for GM’s Buick, Pontiac and GMC brands. “It takes the shopping process online up about 4 notches because you’ve got a lot more information at your fingertips.”
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The Volt program took a major step forward on 6/23/09 with the completion of the first pre-production Volt prototype, complete with the final bodywork and chassis. Known as “Integration Vehicle #1,” the prototype has already been out and about on public roads, with high-level engineers like GM’s Andrew Farah getting behind the wheel.
“We’re producing a few Volts per week now, but we’ll quickly ramp up to 10 per week and will have approximately 80 pre-production vehicles built by October,” wrote Farah, Chevrolet Volt Vehicle Chief Engineer, in a blog post on the company’s website. “By exceeding our own pre-production deadlines it allows us additional time to refine the vehicle.”
GM says the prototypes will go through extensive testing over the next several months. The automaker hopes to start producing Volts for retail sale by the end of 2010.
On 6/26/09, GE announced that it is in-sourcing a key R&D facility to a site just outside of Detroit. Over the next few years, the new Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center will grow to more than 1,100 scientists and engineers focusing on information technology, clean energy and aviation R&D.
The scientists and engineers at the Michigan site will develop next generation manufacturing technologies in areas such as renewable energy, jet engines, gas turbines and other high-technology products. The site will also house GE experts in software development, data architecture, networking, business intelligence and program management.
The center is expected to open later this year at Visteon Village in Van Buren Township, Wayne County. The research and development facility will be housed in a new $100 million, 100,000-square-foot building that GE will construct on the site. The state of Michigan is providing more than $60 million in incentives over the next 12 years to support the center.
For more information about the facility and GE, including videos, interviews and blogs, see the GE website.
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu announced on 6/23/09 that Ford has been approved for the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program.
Ford will receive $5.9 billion in funding through 2011 to help finance numerous engineering advances to traditional internal-combustion engines and electrified vehicles. The company says it is raising the fuel efficiency of a dozen vehicles, including the Focus, Escape, Taurus and F-150 trucks.
“Ford Motor Company is proud to be among the first automakers deemed by the government to be among the best companies with the best technologies in American manufacturing and fuel efficiency. This green partnership between Ford and the U.S. government will help accelerate the development of advanced technologies for even better fuel efficiency and emissions,” stated Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally.
In addition, Secretary Chu said that his department is in discussions with General Motors Corp. and Chrysler about their applications for a $25-billion retooling loan program intended to spur their fuel-efficient vehicle production.
On 6/29/09, the Midland-based Dow Chemical Company of Michigan announced its next inventive project as it partners with Algenol Biofuels, Inc. of Bonita Springs, Florida. The two companies will come together at a Dow facility in Freeport, Texas to build and operate the pilot-scale algae-based integrated biorefinery that will convert CO2 into ethanol.
“This project and the innovative technology involved offers a great promise in the battle to help slow, stop and reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions,” claimed Andrew N. Liveris, Dow chairman and chief executive officer. “We are very excited to be a part of this ground-breaking alternative energy project.”
Using Algenol’s advanced combination of CO2, salt water and sunlight, the project will pull ethanol from cyanobacteria, or blue-green, hybrid algae in photobioreactors all power generated by the sun. Also contributing scientific knowledge are the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Membrane Technology & Research, Inc.
Upon their recent $25 million federal economic-stimulus grant approval from the U.S. Department of Energy, the collaborative team will work to successfully prove this new and innovative technology can be functional on a commercial scale.
General Motors Corporation (GM) unveiled a new 33,000 square-foot Global Battery Systems Lab at the GM Technical Center in Warren on 6/8/09.
“This lab is an indication that Michigan is going to be the place we intend and aspire to be; the place where these breakthroughs occur,” commented Governor Granholm about the new lab, which is the largest in the country.
GM’s new advanced battery lab will be instrumental in the testing and development of automotive batteries and technologies to be used in the plug-in, hybrid, fuel-cell and electric extended-range vehicles that the company is banking on for the future. Production is slated to begin early in 2010.
The prototype for an exciting new technology was recently installed on the testing and validation platforms at NextEnergy in downtown Detroit. The product addresses two critical problems the U.S. State Department of Defense oversees — delivery of energy and waste management.
Historically, fuel-powered generators have been used to power the military’s tactical systems, field hospitals, communications equipment and even basic infrastructure. But they require an ongoing supply of fuel that must be trucked in — often through hostile territory. In addition, every battalion typically generates up to 2,500 pounds of solid waste daily, including paper, fiberboard, packaging, etc.
The new prototype will convert waste into energy, similar to the fictitious concept in the well-known movie “Back to the Future.” By utilizing a clean, advanced gasification technology, the prototype creates enough fuel from a one-ton daily stream of trash to run a 60-kilowatt generator. By comparison, a typical American home uses about 2 kilowatts daily on average.
What was pure fantasy is now a prototype and has the potential to grow into a commercially viable product and technology for tomorrow; building manufacturing partnerships and creating jobs and opportunities.
DTE Energy has launched a new program called “Your Energy Savings” to help its customers improve the energy efficiency of their homes and businesses. The program is one of several initiatives that kicked off on 6/29/09.
The program will offer customers a wide array of energy efficiency programs, including rebates and discounts, such as:
“The program will help stimulate Michigan’s economy by creating jobs in energy consulting, heating and cooling services, lighting and other home improvement and construction businesses,” said Gerry Anderson, DTE Energy president and COO. “Additionally, because energy costs are a major component in the cost of doing business, the programs have the potential to make the state more attractive for new businesses considering a location in Michigan.”
For more information on energy efficiency as well as details on the new programs, visit YourEnergySavings.com.
Governor Granholm announced 6/30/09 that Area Development magazine has awarded the State of Michigan and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) a Silver Shovel award. The competition recognizes state economic development agencies that drive significant job creation through innovative incentives, infrastructure improvements and programs to attract new employers and investments in expanded facilities.
“Strong cooperation at the state and local level was instrumental in winning these projects for Michigan against very strong national and international competition,” MEDC President and CEO Greg Main said. “Our local partners all across the state continue to be crucial to our success.”
Major alternative energy-related corporate locations and expansions in Michigan in 2008 include: Hemlock Semiconductor, Saginaw County; United Solar Ovonic, Battle Creek; Dow Chemical and Evergreen Solar, Midland; and Global Wind Systems, Novi. Among the year’s top defense and manufacturing projects are: Kaiser Aluminum and Graphic Packaging, Kalamazoo; General Dynamics and BAE Systems, Macomb County; North American Bancard, Troy; and Sequenom, Grand Rapids.