General Motor's new global Powertrain Engineering Development Center (PEDC) hardly lacks for conventional bragging rights. For openers, the 450,000-square foot facility located next to GM Powertrain's Global Headquarters in Pontiac, Michigan, is the largest and most sophisticated of its kind anywhere in the world. But among the many firsts and bests it also lays claim to are a pair of neat details that further set it apart when it comes to lean, green operation. According to GM, the PEDC disposes of at least 96 percent of the carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons it generates from various test processes via on-site regenerative thermal oxidizer units before it ever hits the atmosphere. It also uses engines being tested on its advanced dynamometer cells to generate nearly 15 percent of the energy required to actually operate the plant.
Beyond its eco-friendly aspects, the PEDC represents a stunning advance in pure design and development process. GM is projecting that state-of-the-art testing policies and data analysis on its 120 dynamometers and more than 100 component test stands will yield a 50 percent increase in operating efficiencies. Changeovers that previously required a full day to complete can now be done in 20 minutes and test component assemblies are transferred from point to point on pallets that float along on a cushion of air. Another major plus of the plant's computer-enhanced capabilities is that expensive testing once performed on actual vehicles has been converted into virtual simulations that GM says will help save up to $200 million on its collective global powertrain development costs by the end of the year. Tom Stephens, Vice President of GM Powertrain and Global Quality, says the plant will provide an unprecedented degree of streamlining. "We've reduced the time necessary to create our initial calibrations, saving us on average 10 weeks of critical development time in our programs, and we expect these savings to increase as we shift more work into the new lab."