Today, we have a chance to peek into GM Powertrain Global to determine how their engines are designed from the ground up. Unfortunately, I was unable to take any photos of this facility, but the information is still quite valuable.
GM Global Powertrain Headquarters is where engines and transmissions are designed, manufactured, and tested. Due to the confidential nature of this, I was unable to take photos, but what I will share is what I learned, which should be infinitely more valuable. None of the pictures would have made any sense to most people anyway.
Engine development at GM is, to put it plainly, state-of-the-art. The have perfected this to a thing of beauty, beyond just excellence and superiority. Yes, I’m referring to its competitors. GM’s Powertrain Global Headquarters is the largest and most advanced powertrain engineering complex in the world. It is the product of 30 years of planning and restructuring inside GM, and I can honestly say the future is looking blindingly bright for GM.
Engine development begins in the planning phase. It takes about 1.5 years for GM to design an engine, and during this time, no physical products are actually created. Engineering teams from around the world coordinate to develop these motors using the most sophisticated proprietary engine simulation software that exists. That software is something that sets GM above other manufacturers.
Once an engine is designed, a few prototype engines are created. These engines are built by elite engine builders, who spend 3-4 days assembling one engine, while measuring each individual specification, tolerance, gap, and measurement that can be taken with absolute precision. Once these engines are assembled, they are sent to one of GM’s 120 out-of-car dyno cells, where they are subjected to the equivalent of thousands of miles of testing in temperatures from -40 to +60 degrees Celsius. They have two dynos with the ability to instantly shift +54 to -54 degrees of rotational freedom in 360 degrees of direction, simulating up to 1.3g of vehicle load in order to test fluid behavior.
This facility houses development of hybrid powertrains, electric powertrains, and all types of transmissions for cars, trucks, hybrids, and electric vehicles including RWD, FWD, and AWD transmissions, up to a maximum torque of 950Nm (701 ft-lb).
Once an engine has begun testing in one of the dyno cells, it is constantly monitored by engineers with high resolution cameras, and every single aspect of that engine is being measured and recorded. During the life of that testing cycle, gigabytes of data is gathered. What’s special about GM is not just their ability to do this, but their ability to adapt their software to incorporate the results of all of this testing in new engine simulation. Startup companies like Fisker don’t even stand a chance and have no idea what they’re even getting into. It’s probably why they don’t even aspire to compete with GM. As a side note, GM’s 2.0 Turbo is what’s being fitted into the Fisker. As a result of all of this testing, data gathering, and improving of their proprietary software, they are able to design engines like never before. Instead of producing 5, 30, and then 500 engines to test in various configurations in an expensive fleet of test mules, they can do 500 engines’ worth of testing in their simulations with the ability to change any variable, needing only to produce a much smaller test run.
During this testing, engines are also sent to GM’s proving grounds for in-vehicle testing. Once they are tested, they are brought back to the lab, where an elite engine builder then disassembles the engine, checking for torque, gaps, tolerances, and every specification that can be measured during the disassembly period, which is then used to make any changes needed to the motor. The whole process for developing a motor takes about 3 years.
…stay tuned for the next part of the tour…