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Local News / Automotive

Wednesday, 28 January, 2009 11:01 PM

Denise Gray gives glimpse of battery-charged future at GM

PHOTO CREDIT: GENERAL MOTORS

Denise Gray, Director of Hybrid Energy Storage Systems for General Motors

by Pete Bublitz
as4893@wayne.edu

 

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In a packed Stamps Auditorium of the Charles R. Walgreen Jr. Drama Center, University of Michigan students and visitors received a charge from the special appearance of Denise Gray, Director of Hybrid Energy Storage Systems for General Motors.

For just over an hour, Gray addressed the matters of future change and production in an address entitled “GM - Leading the Electrification of the Automobile: Engineering for the 21st Century.” It was during her presentation that Gray discussed in extensive detail a special battery pack that could eventually be put to use by vehicles, such as the new Chevrolet Volt, in the upcoming years.

The product, she said, would be comprised of a lithium-ion combination for the sake of not risking the use of hazardous chemicals, while running on an estimated 300 volts. She added that GM would be the first major automaker to mass produce such batteries in a single facility.

The current research of such a product would be undertaken as a cooperative partnership between GM and U-M resources, which she added would comprise of a $1 Billion investment.

With an overhead projection providing visual aid, Gray explained that such an investment would establish the largest battery testing lab in Michigan, expand campus-based labs, and enable the LG Chem Company to provide cells for such batteries.

Such cooperation existed between the U-M Engineering School and GM, she said, that even over the past summer U-M interns gathered to assist in the battery’s implementation in campus labs.

In regards to the batteries that would be produced, according to Gray, their average single drive limit would be 40 miles, before being alternated by a combustive fuel engine once it ran out, while maintaining the lifetime usability of an average car.

The team of workers involved with the project numbers over 150, Gray said, adding that it positive expansion in her area despite cutback woes elsewhere at GM. “While we’re downsizing in traditional areas, in my area we are growing.”

She further added that the team comprised of experts and students from various age groups, with half of the total work force being under the age of 40. “We can harness all that learning for the better whole,” Gray said, later adding that “You [have] got to have people that understand high voltage and can operate that circuitry.”

During her appearance, Gray also noted the length of her work with GM for over 20 years. As far back as the early 1980s, just out of high school, Gray became involved with the company by entering Kettering. In 1986, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. In 2000, at the close of a graduate period at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, she was awarded a master of science in engineering science-management of technology.

Sponsored by Michigan Engineering, the presentation was part of the MLK 2009 Symposium, a series of events in recognition Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Gray herself alluded to a quote from Dr. King in alluding to overall future of GM: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

It was in allusion this statement, Gray explained, that although GM faced an unforeseeable future, such present projects like battery-charged vehicles can show that the company looks to continue forward through innovation.

“I want people to realize that GM still has a heartbeat,” said Gray. “We’re not dead!”

Related Video: Interview with Interior Designer Tim Greig about the Chevy Volt

 

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