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Wagoner: GM is not California's enemy

Wagoner: GM is not California's enemy

GM's Rick Wagoner said that electric cars were the best long-term solution for today's energy challenges CNET Networks

SAN FRANCISCO--General Motors' CEO Rick Wagoner braved protesters in San Francisco Thursday at an event designed to lay out GM's strategy for addressing global warming and energy security. During the event, entitled "Can GM really be Green Motors", Wagoner discussed the various alternative-fuel and advanced drive-train products that GM is working on including hybrids, ethanol-powered cars, fuel-cell vehicles, and plug-in electric vehicles including much-hyped Chevy Volt plug-in vehicle. Wagoner also defended GM's opposition to California's proposal for stricter emissions standards (which include a 30 percent reduction in tailpipe emissions by 2016), but stated that "General Motors is not the enemy of California's environmental movement". This wasn't enough to convince a group of environmental protesters who disrupted the meeting demanding that GM commit to being the most fuel-efficient car company in the country by 2012.

On plug-in electric cars: Wagoner said that GM believes that electric vehicles are the "best long-term solution" for addressing society's energy and environmental concerns. He said that prototype testing for the battery packs for the Chevy Volt had been quite encouraging and that GM remained focused on the target getting the Volt into Chevy showrooms by the end of 2010. Pressed by journalists, Wagoner said that despite the "disproportionate share of mind" that the Volt was occupying at GM, the company still had important work ahead in meeting the 2010 deadline. He said that despite being late to the hybrid segment, GM expects to be "leading the parade" on electric cars in 10 years' time.

On biofuels: While he recognized the limits to grain-based ethanol, Wagoner said that GM still believes that ethanol makes sense, especially cellulosic ethanol. He announced that GM had today formed a partnership with Mascoma, an ethanol start-up; the news follows GM's investment in Coskata, another cellulosic ethanol producer, in January. Wagoner stressed the challenge of ethanol infrastructure saying that GM had met a lot of resistance in trying to modify existing fuel stations to provide ethanol.

On hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles: Wagoner highlighted GM's Project Driveway pilot program through which 100 fuel cars are being put in the hands of customers and outlined GM's ongoing work with the California Hydrogen Highway, and the CA Fuel Cell Partnership to develop hydrogen filling-station infrastructure. However, he sounded unenthusiastic at the prospects for large-scale production of fuel cell cars in the near future due to vehicle cost and infrastructure challenges. He suggested that if and when fuel cell vehicles do first come to market, it would possibly be outside of the U.S.--possibly in China.