EV booster: Progress is vast, sales are secondary
Burns: Take the long view on EVs.
The push for vehicle electrification is sputtering, if you judge by paltry sales, technology malfunctions and endangered governmental funding. But to renowned EV booster Larry Burns, who retired in 2009 as General Motors' r&d chief, those are minor bumps in the road.
"I couldn't be more excited about the progress that has taken place," Burns, 60, said last week at the NADA/IHS Automotive Forum in New York.
While at GM, Burns spun visions of fuel cell vehicles and self-driving electric pod vehicles. He hasn't changed much, except that today he's doing his future-thinking at places such as the University of Michigan and at Google, which has tested a self-driving car on public roads.
Burns regaled the audience at the event with a sobering vision: that the petroleum-powered car, long term, can't dominate the motor vehicle mix as it does today. He urged audience members to embrace the change to self-driving EVs, car sharing and the like.
Afterward, he brushed off the current woes of EVs, saying he had "seen it all, from the euphoria over the EV-1 to Who Killed the Electric Car? What's important, Burns says, is that new types of vehicles are on the road -- and that engineers are seeing real-world results that will lead to next-gen improvements.
But what about slow sales?
"If the scorecard is overall volume, you are disappointed," he said. "If the scorecard is, 'What do we know that we didn't know before?' we're doing great."