March 26, 2003

GM honours its top engineering innovators

Detroit, Michigan – General Motors honoured its top 44 innovators of 2002 at the 27th annual “Boss” Kettering Awards ceremony yesterday.

The “Boss” Kettering Award is GM’s highest award for recognizing technical inventions and innovations. Its purpose is to recognize individuals who have developed outstanding inventions and innovations that have had identifiable and substantial benefit to General Motors during 2002. Recognition of these accomplishments is intended to spur innovation and technology development.

The internal award is named for the legendary Charles F. “Boss” Kettering, who launched GM’s Research and Development organization in 1920 and was a prolific inventor, with more than 140 patents. The first “Boss” Kettering Award was given in 1976, and since then 210 awards have been presented to 622 individuals.

Of the 48 innovations considered for a 2002 “Boss” Kettering Award, 10 were selected for delivering substantial and identifiable benefit to GM and for their originality and creativity.

This year’s winning entries include advancements in safety systems, product development, vehicle maneuverability and handling, and emissions technology. Following are descriptions and names of “Boss” Kettering Award winners of 2002.

Passive Occupant Detection System

The passive occupant detection system is a reliable, low-cost system that detects a passenger’s weight. The system inhibits air bag deployment when a child or small passenger is detected to avoid the harm a deployed air bag may cause smaller passengers. The system also protects larger passengers by allowing deployment when a larger passenger is detected. GM was the first manufacturer to introduce this important safety technology with its mid-cycle enhancement of 2003 GMT 800 utility and light-duty pick-up trucks. GM plans to have the passive occupant detection system in all its product lines by the 2006 model year.

The passive occupant detection system team includes Richard Darvas, John R. Dolan, Romeo D. Garcia, Jr., David M. Kennel, Gino M. LeDonne, and Paul Van Rooyen, all of GM Product Development, in Pontiac, Mich.

Discrete Logic Low-Current Ignition Switch

The discrete logic low-current ignition switch is a new, low-current vehicle ignition switch that is more reliable and less costly, as compared to current GM ignition switches. With a projected future cost savings of $19 million, this new vehicle ignition switch is a common engineering solution, meaning it can be applied to all future vehicle applications. The switch was first applied on the 2003 Saturn ION.

The discrete logic low-current ignition switch team includes Tom M. Forest, Fred Huntzicker, Michael J. Kachman, David T. Proefke, and Thomas E. Utter, all of GM Product Development, in Warren, Mich.; and Kerfegar K. Katrak, of GM Powertrain, in Warren, Mich.

Engine-Off Natural Vacuum Fuel System Leak Detection

The engine-off natural vacuum fuel system leak detection method is an engine controller algorithm that detects small leaks by monitoring the presence of vacuum in a sealed fuel tank system after engine shut-off. The drop in pressure, or vacuum, occurs as the fuel cools down over several minutes following engine shut-off. If vacuum can be drawn, the system has no leaks, while if vacuum cannot be drawn a leak may be present. This extremely robust, low-cost method meets the stringent fuel system standard of detecting leaks as small as .02 inches in diameter and requires no vehicle hardware changes and only minor wiring changes. The first application is 2003 full-size trucks and is expected to be on most product lines by the 2005 model year.

The EONV development team includes Michael P. DeRonne, Marc J. Gonsiorowski, Gregory E. Labus, Chad W. Lehner, Kevin C. Wong, and William Western, all of GM Powertrain, in Milford, Mich.; Timothy E. McCarthy, and Gregory E. Rich, both of GM Product Development, in Milford, Mich.; and Sam R. Reddy, of GM Research & Development and Planning, in Warren, Mich.

Resistance Calculated Oxygen Sensor Heater Temperature

RCOHT is an engine controls algorithm that more reliably measures oxygen temperature. This results in a 20 percent reduction in tailpipe emissions, a savings of $11 per vehicle in catalytic converter precious metals, and reduced engineering calibration time. RCOHT has been applied to the control system used for all 2003 Vortec V-6 and V-8 engines, the LS1 and LS6 Corvette engines, and is being rolled out to other controller teams as well.

The RCOHT team is Christopher E. Whitney and Bradley E. DePottey, both of GM Powertrain, in Milford, Mich.

Thermoplastic Olefin Nanocomposite Technology

Thermoplastic olefin nanocomposite technology is an industry-first implementation that enables lower material costs, improved productivity, lower mass, and improved surface appearance of finished trim parts. This technology was first applied to produce step-assists for 2002 Astro and Safari vans and has since been applied to or planned for several other vehicles. Converting to nanocomposite materials across all vehicle lines could save GM more than $10 million annually.

The thermoplastic olefin nanocomposite technology team includes Robert A. Ottaviani, William R. Rodgers, Paula D. Fasulo, Tadeusz B. Pietrzyk, and David A. Okonski, all of GM Research & Development and Planning, in Warren, Mich.; and Charles K. Buehler, of GM Product Development, in Warren, Mich.

Magnetic Selective Ride Control

Magnetic selective ride control is an industry-first innovation that uses magneto-rheological fluid-based, semi-active suspension actuators, sensors and an on-board computer to control vehicle body motion, enhance road handling, control lateral and longitudinal load transfer, and reduce cockpit road noise.

A winner of Popular Science magazine’s prestigious 2002 “Best of What’s New” award and the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s (AJAC) award for Best New Technology of 2003, magnetic selective ride control currently is in the 2002 Cadillac Seville STS and the 2003 50th Anniversary Chevrolet Corvette.

The magnetic selective ride control team includes Chandra S. Namuduri, David S. Rule, Keith S. Snavely, Mark A. Golden, and Joseph Madak, all of GM Research & Development and Planning, in Warren, Mich.

Heat Resistant Fuel Injector

The heat resistant fuel injector’s two-colour design delays heat transfer, thereby providing a cost-effective way to avoid hot-restart injector problems. The injector also allows use of a more reliable, yet less expensive, low-pressure fuel pump. This heat resistant fuel injector was first applied to the 2001 1.9 liter Saturn engine, followed by the 2002 Ecotec 2.2-Liter engine and is estimated to have saved GM over $500,000 this year alone.

The heat resistant fuel injector team includes Scott W. Jorgensen, of GM Research & Development and Planning, in Warren Mich.; and Lewis Frostick, and Donald L. Thorson, both of GM Powertrain, in Warren, Mich.

Very High Compression Engine

Using the same basic geometry as GM’s current one-liter single overhead cam family one engine, the very high compression engine’s 12.6 to 1 compression ratio affords best-in-class performance, with lower fuel consumption. First applied in GM do Brasil’s 2002 Chevrolet Corsa 4300, and later in the Corsa 4200 and the 2003 Celta, this engine improves GM’s competitiveness in a segment that represents about 50 percent of Brazil’s market.

The Fiat-GM Powertrain team that developed the very high compression engine is Henedino Gutierrez, Jr., in Sao Caetano Do Sul, Brazil, and Jose Luis Minelli, and Waldemar Christofoletti, in Indaiatuba, Brazil.

Zafira Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Solution for General Motors of Europe

The Zafira compressed natural gas project was a novel approach to packaging a CNG system in a production vehicle without compromising storage space or passenger room. This product has a profit potential of $2.3 million this year alone and is credited for helping to rapidly increase the number of CNG fueling stations in Germany. The Opel Zafira CNG was first available in the 2002 model year.

Andreas Jauss, of Adam Opel AG, in Russelsheim, Germany, developed the Zafira compressed natural gas solution.

Vehicle Logistics Mode for Extended Battery Life

By programming the vehicle comfort and convenience systems to vehicle logistics mode after assembly, battery drainage during transoceanic shipping and storage is significantly reduced. Full vehicle functions are quickly and easily restored at the dealership prior to sale. This innovation has a direct savings of one Euro per vehicle shipped and is projected to reduce battery warranty costs by 50 percent. The feature was first used in the 2002.5 Opel Vectra.

The vehicle logistics mode for extended battery life team is Dr. Burkhard Milke and Udo Reuter, both of Adam Opel AG, in Russelsheim, Germany; and Axel Nix, of GM Product Development, in Warren, Michigan.

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