Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2002   by CARS Magazine

GM concept vehicle promises mix-and-match possibilities for body and chassis

General Motors has unveiled a radical automotive engineering concept that the firm believes could profoundly change the industry by decoupling the body and chassis in the manufacturing process."AUTOno...


General Motors has unveiled a radical automotive engineering concept that the firm believes could profoundly change the industry by decoupling the body and chassis in the manufacturing process.

“AUTOnomy is more than just a hot new concept car, it’s the beginning of a revolution in how automobiles are designed, built and used,” said Larry Burns, GM’s vice-president of research and development.

Millions of chassis — which GM calls “skateboards” — could be manufactured to achieve economies of scale, reducing the cost of the fuel cell system. Small satellite assembly plants could make unique bodies for both emerging and established markets. These plants could operate profitably and at niche volumes — an automotive oxymoron today.

Powering cars with fuel cells also provides powertrain flexilbility. “If you need to double the kilowatt output, you double the number of plates in the stack,” Burns explains. “It’s very easy to scale up or down.”

The skateboard would also afford GM maximum flexibility. It could likely only vary in length — short, medium and long. Issues of safety, stiffness and ride-and-handling would not have to be re-engineered to accommodate different body types.

“You could envision a body docking onto this driveable skateboard and the interface is just a software interface, much like a laptop docks into a docking station,” Burns said. “So you could steer by wire, brake by wire, or control your ride and handling by wire.” GM is seeking 24 patents covering business models, technologies and manufacturing processes related to the concept.


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