Driving Toward the All-Electric Future

Written by: Richard Miksi

The University of Alabama EcoCAR team’s mission is to prepare the next generation of engineers and business leaders to address the nation’s future energy and transportation challenges. Our team leaders are constantly looking for ways to further educate our members about future technologies and infrastructural advancements to maximize their chances of being part of the group of industry leaders for the coming generations. Having the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge’s headline sponsor, General Motors, as our sponsor collaboration partner was not only a great honor, but also the best way for the UA EcoCAR team to further educate those within and outside our organization. In January 2021, General Motors announced that their entire vehicle fleet will be all-electric, and their facilities will be carbon neutral by the year 2035. GM has been working tirelessly to turn their vision of the future into reality, and this envisioned future was the focal point of the sponsor collaboration activity between General Motors and the UA EcoCAR team.

Our communications team worked with Trevor Thompkins, AVTC Alumni and now Senior Manager in Car, Performance, and Motorsports Communications at General Motors, to plan a two-part sponsor collaboration activity. The first part of the collaboration was a social media campaign focusing on infrastructure developments that are under way in preparation for the envisioned all-electric future of road transportation. These advancements entail efforts such as GM’s Dealer Community Charging Program, installation of accessible charging stations in Alabama and across the United States, and research conducted by the Alabama Transportation Institute to further improve the safety, security, and accessibility of transportation. Additionally, our team featured some of GM’s latest electric vehicles including the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV, the 2023 Cadillac LYRIQ, the 2024 Chevrolet Equinox EV, the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV, and the 2024 GMC Hummer EV. The social media campaign was conducted on the UA EcoCAR’s main social media channels, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

For the second part of the sponsor collaboration activity, the UA EcoCAR communications team received an invitation to the Cadillac LYRIQ Launch Celebration at GM’s Spring Hill Manufacturing plant in Tennessee, on March 21st, 2022. The launch of this extraordinary vehicle, which is the first entrant to the luxury electric vehicle market, was a major milestone for not only General Motors, but also for the EV industry. The Cadillac LYRIQ is the brand’s first all-electric vehicle built on GM’s Ultium Platform which encompasses a common set of propulsion components – battery cells, modules, packs and a family for Ultium Drive units. GM kicked off the production of the LYRIQ nine months ahead of schedule, which is a significant accomplishment for the 3,000 employees working at the Spring Hill plant, and everyone else involved across the nation.

Four members of the UA EcoCAR team traveled to Spring Hill, Tennessee, with the main purpose of gaining experience and newfound knowledge, which will be later shared with the young aspiring students at The University of Alabama and in surrounding communities. Our members were fortunate enough to be able to have conversations with GM executives, such as General Motors President Mark Reuss and Cadillac Vice President Rory Harvey. It was great to hear that both Reuss and Harvey share UA EcoCAR’s and the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge’s passion for educating the upcoming generation of students to become members of future AVTCs and leaders within the automotive industry.

During his speech, Reuss further emphasized the importance of this matter, stating that “It’s part of GM’s steadfast sport of STEM education here in Tennessee, and across all the communities where we live and work. We’re building the future at Spring Hill with LYRIQ, and we’re also dedicated to educating our future designers, engineers, and manufacturers.” With General Motors focusing on not only its products, but also the education of the next generation of industry leaders, we can be sure that the future they are driving towards is not only all-electric but electrifying as well.

During the EcoCAR EV Challenge Press Conference on April 22, 2022, in Washington D.C., Steve Carlisle, GM executive vice president and president- North America, unveiled the 2023 Cadillac LYRIQ as the EV Challenge competition vehicle platform.

“We are proud to support EcoCAR and its mission to help prepare the next generation of the automotive workforce,” said Steve Carlisle, GM executive vice president and president, North America. “As students work on the LYRIQ they’re developing real-world knowledge and skills that will help accelerate their impact on the transformation of the auto industry. The EcoCAR program provides an exceptional educational experience for students and an exceptional talent pipeline for GM. We look forward to working with these students on our journey toward a zero emissions future.”

“I was very surprised by the reveal of the Cadillac LYRIQ as the vehicle for the EcoCAR EV Challenge,” said Oakley Prell, University of Alabama Project Manager. “My teammates and I are very excited to have the opportunity to work on this beautiful vehicle and contribute to GM’s vision of a zero emissions future. Attending the celebration event at GM’s Spring Hill manufacturing plant for the production launch of the LYRIQ was an incredible experience. By seeing where this vehicle is made and meeting the leaders behind its creation, I appreciate the hard work and technology that goes into building such a vehicle and I can’t wait to begin working on it,” he added.

GM will donate a 2023 Cadillac LYRIQ to each team, challenging them to design, build, refine, and demonstrate the potential of their advanced propulsion systems and CAV technologies over four competition years. Teams will be tasked with complex, real-world technical challenges including enhancing the propulsion system of their LYRIQ to optimize energy efficiency while maintaining consumer expectations for performance and driving experience.