General Motors will launch a demonstration fleet of Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in vehicles in China this month after the automaker's China division reached an agreement with the China Automotive Technology Research Center (CATARC) to oversee the fleet for a year.
GM and CATARC will study the Volts for, among other things, real-world performance and usage habits, GM said in a statement last week. The automaker has also installed charging stations at its China headquarters in Shanghai as well as a Chevy dealership in Beijing, the office of SAE China and Tsinghua University. Another station will be added to CATARC's offices in Tianjin.
GM is hoping that overseas demand for the Volt may make up for what have been lagging sales in the U.S. GM missed its goal to sell 10,000 Volts in the U.S. last year by about 2,400 vehicles and last month started a five-week shutdown of production in order to get some of the Volts off of dealer lots. Meanwhile, both the Volt and its sister vehicle, the Opel Ampera, were awarded European Car of the Year last month and former GM vice chairman Bob Lutz said recently he predicts March would show signs of improvement.
Additionally, China is expected to account for a large chunk of the growing plug-in vehicle market. By 2017, Asia-Pacific will account for about 617,000 battery-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle sales, almost double the total in North America for that year, green-technology firm Pike Research said last year.
CATARC deal expected to help facilitate new energy vehicle policy development
BEIJING – General Motors China has signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC) to manage GM's Chevrolet Volt demonstration fleet in Beijing for one year and to help organize workshops and seminars that will build support among decision makers and key stakeholders for vehicle electrification policy in China.
The demonstration fleet vehicles will be delivered to CATARC during April.
GM and CATARC will form a joint working team that will be responsible for gathering feedback from Volt demonstration fleet usage to better target discussions and actions to support new energy vehicle policy in China. Specific objectives and goals of the partnership will be developed through the working team. According to the MOU, both GM and CATARC will also study how real-world performance, charging and infrastructure for the Volt and other electric vehicles can address the varying needs of Chinese consumers.
"This partnership is strategically important to us," said CATARC Director Zhao Hang. "The Volt, with its cutting-edge and practical technologies, will provide information to assist us in preparing the Chinese market for future electrified vehicles."
According to Ray Bierzynski, GM China executive director of Electrification Strategy, GM's relationship with CATARC will provide GM access to top opinion leaders and policymakers.
"It is important for us to offer those in key positions to affect policy an opportunity to experience firsthand our variety of electrification solutions for reducing the automotive industry's dependence on petroleum," he said.
To support the development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, GM has recently installed charging poles at Tsinghua University, the office of SAE China, a Chevrolet dealership in Beijing as well as GM's China headquarters in Shanghai. The company plans to install charging facilities at CATARC's Tianjin headquarters as well.
China is among the initial markets to introduce the Volt following the United States. As the world's first extended-range electric vehicle, the Volt is the only electric vehicle that can operate under a full range of climates and driving conditions without limitations or concern about being stranded by a depleted battery.
CATARC is the most important third-party automotive technology service organization recognized by the Chinese government. It is playing a critical role in the development of new energy vehicles.