Smart Energy Voices- Episode 62

Smart Energy Voices- Episode 62

The Electrification of General Motors

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This episode of Smart Energy Voices features a keynote conversation host John Failla had with Rob Threlkeld, Global Manager of Sustainable Energy, Supply, and Reliability at General Motors. In Episode 25, they talked about the future of General Motors, EVs, and Renewables. Listen in for this update on the dramatic changes at GM since their last conversation, including GM’s commitment to an electric future and how energy is driving the reinvention of the company.


You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...

  • Rob’s current role at GM [02:45]
  • Transformations in GM [06:10]
  • Becoming more dynamic as a company [08:21]
  • Culture shifts in GM [09:52]
  • What is BrightDrop? [12:18]
  • GM’s RE100 goal [16:07]
  • Technologies on the horizon [20:40]

Investments in EVs

Energy has always been something of a necessary evil for General Motors, as the company requires electricity, natural gas, water, and sewer to run its facilities successfully. Now, renewables are core to its business, GM has committed to a science-based target to be carbon neutral for operations and products by 2040. The company is investing $35 billion in electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles over the next five years. Those vehicles will represent about 40% of GM’s U.S. fleet.

Thanks to all the data and analytics that can be run, the timeframe car companies once needed for development has accelerated.GM also announced that it is investing in electric boats and Wabtec for fuel cells. GM is taking the whole transportation business of today and transforming how people drive tomorrow.

Working toward electrification

Addressing climate change requires a multitude of industries, not just automotive, to focus on electrification. That reality links well with GM’s renewable energy goals. GM is setting a bold path forward and leading in the renewable energy space. The company has backed up its commitment to renewables with large investments. 

Speed is critical for GM to reach its transformation goals and remain a leader in this space. The company has its teams set up to collaborate and make decisions quickly. The focus has been on breaking down barriers by working with leadership and those who build the vehicles. This process helps work be done more efficiently and utilizes the company’s available data.

Exciting technologies in GM’s future

With the EV movement, GM is looking at potentially having vehicle-to-grid applications. Combining EVs with fuel cells for locomotives means more technology development regarding battery storage solutions. In the end, these batteries would address some of the intermittency involved with renewables. 

Wind and solar alone aren’t enough to fulfill energy requirements. The addition of battery storage is a great way to respond to demand during peak times. Fuel cells and green hydrogen can then help with long-term storage issues. The energy sector needs to consider these and various other solutions that ultimately drive a decarbonized grid.

Resources & People Mentioned:

Connect with Rob Threlkeld

Rob Threlkeld is the global manager of Sustainable Energy, Supply, and Reliability for General Motors, leading the company’s energy procurement efforts, including the commitment to meet the electricity needs of its global operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Threlkeld is responsible for leading the team that supports GM energy procurement and regulatory efforts. These efforts include negotiating power purchase agreements, natural gas, green tariffs, and engineering onsite renewable solutions for GM facilities across the globe, including opportunities associated with battery storage, behind-the-meter applications, and EV integration. 

As part of GM’s Sustainable Workplaces team, Threlkeld shares best practices for renewable energy procurement with internal and external audiences, offering solutions for large and small businesses alike to benefit from the use of renewables. 

Threlkeld is a board member of the Renewable Energy Buyer’s Association (REBA), involved in the American Wind Energy Association and Solar Energy Industries Association, two energy groups advancing the use of these renewable forms of energy. He also serves as an industry advisor to the School of Environmental and Ecological Engineering at Purdue University. He is a member of the Association of Energy Engineers, the Engineering Society of Detroit, and the Solar Power International Education Council. This year, Energy Manager Today recognized Threlkeld as one of 50 top energy managers for driving GM and the energy management industry forward. 

Threlkeld began his career at GM in 2000 as manager of the powerhouse and wastewater treatment plant operations at GM’s Lordstown, Ohio Assembly Complex. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Purdue University. He is a registered Certified Hazardous Material Manager, Certified Energy Manager, and Business Energy Professional.


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