DC EcoWomen got a peek under the hood of hybrid car technology during its September Eco Hour when General Motors executive Monica Murphy brought two new Chevrolet Volts for the group’s inspection outside of Teaism in downtown DC.
The women’s hands-on exploration of the two new electric cars followed Murphy’s talk outlining GM’s new market strategy where Murphy also touched on her personal experience in a male-dominated field during her 21-year career with GM. She worked with Chevrolet dealer groups on marketing and advertising programs in the Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia areas and distinguished herself by persuading the dealers to order new inventory.
‘It’s not surprising that a field like automotive is male dominated. For 10-15 years of my career I felt like I was the only woman in the group. I felt like I had to work harder than my male colleagues to be noticed. I’m competitive so I liked making those sales quotas,’ she said.
Murphy moved from Sales to Research and Development where she said she felt more like ‘one of the guys.’ As the Manager of the Advanced Technology Demonstration Programs for the Eastern Region, she currently manages GM’s fleet of Chevrolet Equinox Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles and the new Chevy Volt electric vehicle. ‘It’s great to be on the forefront of two new technologies.’
She was very involved in GM’s ‘Project Driveway’ the company’s 30-month long, live market test of the Chevrolet Equinox beginning in 2007. For the test, GM loaned out 100 hydrogen fuel cell –powered cars to volunteers in cities around the world and drivers blogged their experiences. ‘As a result of the learnings of Project Driveway’, Murphy said ‘GM was able to reduce the size of the system in the Equinox and use about a third of the platinum from the original.’ The company is currently testing a production-intent hydrogen fuel cell system that can be packaged in the space of a traditional four-cylinder engine and be ready for commercial production in 2015.
‘Part of GM’s current market strategy is to have a car for everybody, from gas-friendly to gas-free’ Murphy said. The company is working to improve fuel efficiency in the combustion engines of small cars and introducing hybrid technology in its larger vehicles such as the Denali and Yukon SUVs. GM is also very focused on ‘getting women into our cars,’ Murphy said.
The DC EcoWomen audience quizzed Murphy about the safety, pricing and mileage of the Volt. The car sells for about $40,000, which can be offset by government rebates of up to $7,500. The Volt also features a 10-year, 10,000 warranty. Learn more about how the Volt works and see a comparison chart of the Volt versus other electric vehicles.
The number one question she gets from women about the Volt, Murphy said is ‘how does it work?
‘One of the unique features about the Volt is the range extending generator allowing drivers to go about 300 additional miles after the battery is depleted.’ Murphy said. ‘Meaning you won’t be left at the side of the road when the battery runs out.’
DC EcoWomen also asked Murphy about the availability of charging stations, which Murphy asserted that GM is encouraging localities to provide. ‘I encourage you to ask your community leaders to consider provisions for charging electric cars.’ GM can’t regulate the cost of the energy charge from the stations as the power is provided by local utilities, Murphy said
Beyond introducing fuel-efficient cars, GM is saving energy corporate-wide, according to Murphy. ‘From 2005 to 2009 we reduced energy consumption across the company by 40 percent; we have the largest rooftop solar installation in the U.S. at our California facility. Many plants use solar energy. We have reduced non-recycled waste by 49 percent at plants and many of our automotive plants are landfill free.
Join us for EcoHour next month, where we’ll learn about urban planning from Kennedy Smith.