As General Motors prepares for a future of fully electrified vehicles, it is boosting its testing capabilities and workforce with more software engineers, while hiring workers to assemble Ultium battery cells in Lordstown, OH.
This week’s announcement that GM will hire 3,300 new engineering, design and information technology employees in the first quarter of 2021 comes days after the Detroit-based automaker said it needs more than 1,100 workers in its newly constructed 3 million square feet. (84,960 mÂ²) in northeast Ohio to manufacture batteries for the fully electric GMC Hummer, Cadillac Lyriq and Cruise Origin autonomous shuttles, as well as other vehicles to come.
The battery plant, located near GM’s closed Lordstown plant that assembled the Chevrolet Cruze compact car, is owned by Ultium Cells LLC, a joint venture with LG Chem.
In a conference call Monday, Ken Morris, GM’s vice president of autonomous and electric vehicle programs, said the automaker’s Ultium battery architecture, unveiled earlier this year, is capable of range of 644 km on a single charge, can be configured 19 different ways and is a flexible technology platform that can be quickly adapted to a wide range of vehicles, from performance cars to work trucks.
He says the 4,400 additional employees, both in product development and manufacturing, are critical to managing the gradual transition of today’s internal combustion vehicles to a fully electric future.
Along the way, he says GM’s century of manufacturing expertise is a huge advantage. âIt’s at the heart of what we do at GM,â he told reporters.
In addition to software engineers, GM is looking for electrical systems engineers, control engineers, and developers for Java, Android, iOS and other platforms.
Most of GM’s engineers, including Morris, have been working remotely since March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Morris says the engineers working from home have been extremely productive and the 3,300 new hires (mostly software engineers) “can completely work remotely.”
After the call, GM told Wards that most of the new engineers will be based in North America, rather than overseas. “We will also increase our software development workforce through skills upgrading and continuing education for our current employees,” spokesperson Phil Lienert wrote in an email.
âIt helps to have these essential employees based in the same or similar time zones and available for essential business travel as needed, which is one of the many reasons we primarily recruit. in North America, âsays Lienert.
Morris (photo, left, at this year’s WardsAuto Engine & Propulsion Summit) says GM’s workforce transition began in earnest in 2018, as the company considered where it needed to devote the most engineering resources.
âWe are accelerating towards an electrified future, but we are also accelerating in the field of infotainment and vehicles are increasingly driven by software. That’s what customers want, âhe says. âIt’s like making the transition from the days of carburetors. At some point you stop making carburetors and move on to fuel injectors.
For engineers, the switch from carburetors to fuel injectors was not that difficult, just as transmission engineers now switch to work on electric drive units, Morris says, noting that software engineering requires a unique set of skills.
The company is working faster and developing the Hummer EV prototype in about 18 months, with the help of virtual reality, Morris says.
Physical testing is still required for product validation, but Morris says âit’s amazing what we can do today compared to five years agoâ¦ We figured out how to do it very quickly. “
He says faster product development capabilities have enabled GM to advance two major programs “because we’re doing things more efficiently than ever.” “
The plan to embark 3,300 new engineers comes after GM recently revamped its powertrain operations, which were renamed Global Propulsion Systems in 2016 to embrace more electrification.
Today, GM’s powertrain and propulsion systems operations are no longer a stand-alone entity within the company, as all powertrain engineers now report to GM’s global product group.
Engineers are assigned to vehicle programs so that they can be more directly aligned with product development and ensure that the engine, transmission, electric motor or high voltage battery pack is optimized for the application.
At the start of this year, before the pandemic, some 3,500 powertrain personnel were located at the Global Technical Center in Warren, MI, while 1,200 engineers were based 30 minutes away in Pontiac, MI, at the Engineering Development Center on Joslyn Road, where 93 dynamometers are used for testing and validation and where motors can be mounted in gyro dynamic tilt brackets to be shaken while they are running.
The large capital investments in equipment at the Pontiac plant mean that many of these engineers cannot work from home. When other GM employees will be able to return to work in physical locations depends on local and national conditions related to the pandemic. The current target is June 30, 2021.
Earlier this year, GM said it had about 20,000 total engineers at the Warren Technology Center and 5,000 other engineers at GM’s Proving Grounds in Milford, MI.
GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra will discuss the automaker’s electric vehicle plans on November 19 at the Barclays 2020 Global Automotive Conference.