Several years ago, General Motors’ CEO Mary Barra outlined the company’s vision for zero crashes, zero congestion and zero emissions. GM is developing and rolling out various technologies related to autonomous vehicles (AV), electric vehicles (EV), sustainability and more to obtain these ambitious goals.

The company has pledged $27 billion in investments in EV and AV products by 2025, including the GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac CELESTIQ. In January, it unveiled the Ultium hyperscale battery platform that will serve as the foundation for GM’s next-generation EV lineup. Designed for both mass market and high-performance vehicles, the Ultium will allow vehicles to go up to 450 miles on a full charge.

GM also aims to achieve at least 50% sustainable material content in its vehicles by 2030, measured by total vehicle weight. Hitting this target – and the others set forth by GM – requires collaboration among cross-functional teams, including material and product engineering. Composites Manufacturing magazine sat down with Mark Voss, engineering group manager for body structures advanced composites and pickup boxes at GM, to discuss the company’s vision for the future and how composite materials – and companies within the composites industry – can help GM meet its goals.

CM: What are the biggest engineering challenges facing GM today?
Voss: The biggest challenge we have is tied to the leadership vision put in front of us – zero crashes, zero congestion, zero emissions. That really defines our path for the foreseeable future. Obviously, electrification and vehicle autonomy will be a big part of that. So, making vehicles that meet customer expectations, while accomplishing that zero, zero, zero initiative, is hands-down the biggest engineering challenge we face.

CM: Meeting all three goals sounds arduous. You may find solutions for each one separately, but then how do each of those individual solutions impact the others?
Voss: It is difficult. And again, we can’t just meet our own objectives. It’s got to be an integrated solution that the customer is willing to spend money on, while simultaneously being profitable for the company. But our engineers are up for the challenge: Without that vision guiding us, we would be doing the same thing over and over. So, we’re lucky to have that vision and shift the industry in that direction, too.

CM: What can companies in the composites industry do to better position themselves as partners with GM and meet that triad of goals you talked about? 
Voss: GM is material agnostic. We are looking for materials that best meet our goals. Those could be for a customer-facing technology, such as the CarbonPro™ pickup beds or the exterior body panels of the Corvette Stingray. These lightweight composite components offer a unique solution set that takes the customer experience to another level.