There was a surprise guest at this weekend’s AltCar Expo in Santa Monica.
Not Pam Fletcher, executive chief engineer of electrified vehicles at GM, who was on hand to discuss the barriers to adoption of alternative-fuel vehicles, but what she arrived in: the Cadillac ELR.
The luxury EV rolled up in front of the Chevy Recharge Lounge and drew a crowd immediately.
Underscoring a point Fletcher made during her panel, the ELR represents an ongoing effort by General Motors to offer alternative fuel vehicles that are as viscerally exciting as they are environmentally friendly.
“In the beginning, alternative fuel cars were solely [about] air quality. We tended to offer cars that were smaller, and maybe didn’t have all the feature functions that — I’ll call it the ‘conventional portfolio’ — had,” said Fletcher. “Now we see that changing.”
Case in point: the ELR’s CUE system, a cutting edge in-car infotainment system that pairs with a driver’s phone and provides a sleek interface for accessing music, call functions and select apps. CUE is standard in ELRs (which go on sale early next year and are eligible for green HOV lane access stickers in the state of California).
Fletcher noted that broad acceptance of EVs will benefit from the ELR, but it won’t be the “silver bullet” that launches the world into an all-electric future. In fact, there may not be a silver bullet. Widespread adoption of electric vehicles will happen when there’s variety of EVs available – EVs that appeal to all customers.
Take the Spark EV, which was also front-and-center at the Chevy Recharge Lounge at AltCar. Starting at $19,995, the Spark emphasizes thriftiness rather than luxury. But its appeal goes beyond its diminutive price tag. The Spark EV includes MyLink, Chevrolet’s revolutionary infotainment system that is the first on the market to pair with the iPhone’s Siri.
It’s little touches like this that elevate the user experience for the everyday buyer. After all, not everyone is as interested in vehicle electrification as passionately as the attendees at AltCar.
The expo came on the heels of an announcement by GM last Monday that it is hard at work on an affordable all-electric car with a 200-plus mile range to effectively end the issue of range anxiety. As soon as the price of battery technology comes down, cars like this can become a reality.
In the interim, GM is putting its money where the customer wants it: into the advances that make the driving experience an actual experience.