Wednesday, July 10
GM took a radically different approach. Realizing that a fuel cell system could allow for an utterly new shape, the designers tossed out the design requirements of a conventional engine and devised a car from scratch. Once GM walked through that door, a universe of possibilities opened up; except for the familiar four wheels, the AUTOnomy bears almost no resemblance to a traditional auto. The implications go way beyond design and deep into the economics of manufacturing. By replacing most of the hardware in today's cars with wires and circuits that will be standard across multiple models, the AUTOnomy will allow GM to streamline its production system and drastically cut costs. That's the trick that might make the fuel cell car a reality in eight years instead of 30. Moreover, GM sees this as a way to extend car ownership to the 88 percent of the world's population that can't afford one today, opening the door to exponential increases in profits. It turns out that concentrating on the car, instead of just on the fuel cell, makes all the difference. And nobody is more surprised than General Motors.