Electrification

Celebrating Engineers:
Meet the People Behind
GM’s All-Electric Future

7 minute read
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In the late 1800s, the first automobile was built, reshaping the world and radically changing almost every aspect of people’s lives. The automotive industry raced to put a motorized vehicle in every driveway.

However, with mass mobility also came environmental impact. General Motors believes in a shared responsibility to help protect the environment, which is the motivation behind its vision for a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. This vision drives GM employees each day.

Visit Careers at GM to learn more about GM engineering jobs

A Desire to Engineer EVs

“One of the things that draws you to engineering is a desire to learn and to be fascinated by the new,” said Jesse Ortega, architectural chief engineer of Chevrolet Bolt EV at GM.

Ortega has worked at GM for more than 38 years, designing and engineering vehicles around the globe across multiple vehicle segments. His experience spans chassis systems, vehicle architecture, vehicle performance and product design. In 2016, after leading the development of the vehicle architecture for all midsize passenger cars, Ortega was deciding what to do next and knew it had to be something that would fascinate him.

“The concept of electric vehicles – plugging in a vehicle and never having to go to a gas station – is captivating,” said Ortega. “It’s like when we put people in a capsule and sent them to the moon…How do you do that? How does that work? That was my draw to working on electric vehicles.”

Similar to the strategy for traditional combustion engine vehicles, bridging design and engineering is vital to delivering new EV products.

"As engineers, it’s our job to take what is in the creative designers’ heads and turn it into reality. It’s all about pushing each other so we get phenomenal-looking vehicles that are fun to drive and win in the marketplace."

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Jesse Ortega

Architectural Chief Engineer of Chevrolet Bolt EV

Hometown: Stockton, CA


GM Experience: 39 years


Education: UC Berkeley, B.S.


Awards:

  • Great Minds in STEM Hispanic Engineering National Achievement Awards Conference: 2020 Engineer of the Year
  • Society of Hispanic Engineers: Corporate Achievement Award

Why did you become an engineer?
I remember when man first landed on the moon – that was an incredible accomplishment due to world-class engineering. I knew I wanted to build things that would radically improve how people do things.


Why should students pursue engineering?
The world moves so fast, especially in our industry. A career in engineering makes you constantly learn new things and gain new skills – and to me – that’s exhilarating, and it provides many opportunities to find your passion.


What moment has made you most proud?
Personally, I’m most proud of watching my children grow. And professionally, I love the first time I see any vehicle on the road that I worked on. Driven by a real-world customer. Knowing they chose it over many other options.

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Designing EVs that people want to drive is another critical component in growing the number of EVs on the road. “Our goal isn’t just to make one of these. It’s to make hundreds of thousands of them, so we need to make sure they meet the demands of all our customers, and that the approach is scalable for mass production,” said Ortega.

Using insights from their flagship electric product, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the GM engineering team understands the value of its spaciousness, quiet performance and power as critical factors for future product development. These same qualities are revered not only by U.S. customers but by Chevrolet Bolt EV owners in Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil and the Middle East.

“EVs pull people together around the world,” said Ortega. “A world with zero emissions is something I think everyone can get behind.”

Perfecting the design and engineering of EVs to meet customer demand is just one step in achieving widespread EV adoption. Improving battery range and capability, and constructing a viable charging infrastructure are other areas the company is addressing on the journey to an all-electric future.

“Everyone is passionate and driving toward a single goal – improving batteries for our customers.”

GM’s Next-Generation Batteries

GM understands that driver experience is paramount. When it comes to switching from engine-powered to an electric vehicle, GM has demonstrated that the driver experience is far from sacrificed. EVs offer the same power, handling and control that drivers are used to, with the absence of a combustion engine. Advanced EV battery technology and development is at the forefront of administering a premier driving experience.

GM thinks about battery improvement in terms of the battery cells, the battery pack and the interaction between the two. The battery cells store energy, and the battery pack feeds that energy to the cells – or as the GM battery team says, “to protect and serve” the cells.

“Understanding customers’ needs for price, size, performance and range, it’s all about breaking the constraints that make these factors compete with each other, so the customer gets the best cell and pack designs,” said Oury.“Our next-generation batteries have a flexible, modular design that can be applied across our various brands and platforms.

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Andy Oury

Lead Engineer for New
High-Voltage Battery Packs

Hometown: Wheaton, IL


GM Experience: 21 years


Education: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, B.S.; Purdue University, M.S.

Why did you become an engineer?
Growing up, I knew I wanted to be an inventor. To me, invention meant creation, and I wanted to create new things.


Why should students pursue engineering?
There is so much left to be invented. So many problems to solve. As an engineer, you put your stamp on something special and change how people live.


What moment has made you most proud?
When I see my ideas on the road. Whether it was driving my Gen1 Volt on a road trip around Lake Michigan, or towing my boat with my eAssist GMC Sierra with the battery pack sitting under the console right next to me, nothing really compares.

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GM’s next-generation batteries take up less space and are lighter than past battery designs, allowing for more vehicle space and better aerodynamics.

Enabling the most advanced batteries to power every future GM vehicle is the company’s new battery electric vehicle architecture. Complementary to the modularity of the battery design, the architecture will be the underpinning of the future GMC Hummer EV*, electric trucks and Cadillac’s first fully-electric car.

“The flexibility and scale are what will unlock our all-electric future,” said Oury. “When we first saw how the architecture started to gel, the portfolio just exploded with diversity, and customers are going to love how we leverage it across our portfolio.”

General Motors’ team of battery experts ranges from engineers who worked on GM’s first electric vehicle, the EV1, to young professionals just out of college. Oury says the team is constantly learning from each other to create, innovate, design and produce the best batteries.

Constantly collaborating and experimenting, an average day for this team is brainstorming designs and then going to the lab to build and test the designs right away. The battery lab in Warren, Michigan features more than 100,000 square feet of technical battery-testing equipment, including power cyclers, vibration tables, environmental chambers, safety and abuse test cells, along with production materials.

The lab also includes state-of-the-art management software and specialized equipment with remote monitoring capability for running critical battery tests all day long.

“It’s a one-team culture where we look at what’s been done, ask ourselves how we can improve, how we can incorporate new learnings and technologies, and work together to design new solutions,” said Oury.

They aren’t just learning from each other; they are collaborating with top suppliers and manufacturers in the space. Aimed at building high-quality batteries at an industrial scale, GM has teamed up with LG Chem to produce batteries with the highest technology while reducing battery costs. This is a pivotal step in GM’s mission to make EVs more affordable.

*Initial availability for the GMC Hummer EV will be Fall 2022.

Improving the Charging Experience

To further support its emerging EV portfolio, GM is improving charging infrastructure to enable its commitment to put an EV in every driveway.

Aboona says GM takes a holistic approach to charging infrastructure to grow EV adoption. The team asks: How can we make home, workplace, and public charging experiences better for customers?

“Our end goal is to create an effortless charging experience in the home, at the workplace and in public spaces.”

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Dalya Aboona

Electric Vehicle Charging
and Infrastructure Lead

Hometown: Windsor, ON


GM Experience: 3 years


Education: University of Windsor, B.S.; Oakland University, M.S.

Why did you become an engineer?
I knew early on that I wanted to be an engineer. I loved math and science! My father is an engineer and my passion for cars comes from him.


Why should students pursue engineering?
Engineering teaches you the ability to think logically and to solve problems, which will help in not just potential career opportunities, but in life in general.


What moment has made you most proud?
Launching GM’s workplace charging initiative. It’s a huge win because we know the workplace is a primary charging source and it will help encourage EV adoption among our employees.

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GM recently announced plans to add 3,500 new EV charging plugs throughout its U.S. and Canadian facilities. Upon completion, the number of parking spaces at GM facilities with EV charging capabilities will be tripled.

The news kicked off the company’s EV Week, where GM gave employees, dealers, investors, analysts, media and policymakers a behind-the-scenes look at its EV strategy.

Aboona echoed Mark Reuss’s comments on the news by recognizing it as another step toward making EV ownership easier for everyone, especially for employees.

GM hopes to demonstrate the value of investing in workplace charging as an affordable employee benefit and encourages other companies to join them in working to improve charging infrastructure.

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“Our end goal is to create an effortless charging experience in the home, at the workplace and in public spaces,” said Aboona. “This is done by understanding our customers, being innovative and collaborating with utilities, suppliers, government agencies and other OEMs.”

Collaboration with utility companies is facilitated by the Open Vehicle-Grid Integration Platform, where GM, other OEMs and different utilities share expertise and insight to integrate EVs with the power grid. The same close collaboration happens with policymakers to stay integrated with both new technologies being developed and the new standards and regulations coming into effect.

“I love change and there are new things to learn, new challenges to solve and new people to work with every day in the EV space,” said Aboona.

Past, Present and Future

Broken down, EVs are a mix of old and new – integrating a mode of transportation that has been around for more than a century with the latest technology advancements. GM engineers talk about this same idea of how the past influences the work happening today. They also understand how their work will impact the future, and they want to lay the foundation now and encourage students and future generations to join them.

Blending scalable vehicle design and manufacturing excellence with new technologies – batteries and chargers – GM and its EV team are moving forward to making a world with zero emissions a reality.

“When we say we aspire for a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion, we mean zero. We have the leaders, people, resources and the vision to truly make a difference in the world – and that should resonate with any young professional looking to make a difference.”


Andy Oury

“It is rare when employees can see eye-to-eye with a CEO’s vision at a company of our size – especially when that vision can drastically change people’s lives. I feel empowered to think creatively, be innovative and solve problems that impact our customers. Everyone here has a voice and a seat at the table.”


Dalya Aboona

“This is such an exciting time for both the engineering field and for GM. So much is changing. And at GM we have articulated a vision to change with the world, by doing right by the world.”


Jesse Ortega

 
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