GM Fuels Expert Addresses April Luncheon  

By Lee Stephens

About 25 members and guests attended the second monthly luncheon for the Southern Automotive Media Association and heard Eric Kaufman, an engineer in GM’s Energy Center, talk about the company’s strategy to cope with automotive energy needs of the future.

 GM was the sponsor of the luncheon on April 20 at the Country Club of Coral Gables.

 Kaufman noted that by the year 2020 more than 1.1 billion vehicles – yes, billion – will be in use around the world, and petroleum-based fuel sources simply are not going to be adequate to support those kinds of numbers.

 Incremental improvements to internal combustion powerplants, including hybrid-electric vehicles, already are in progress as the company continues to add to its fleet of “Over 30 mpg vehicles,” now at 24 for the year 2007.

 The next step in GM’s three-prong approach to reduce dependence on fossil-fuel vehicles are flex fuel vehicles that are capable of running on gasoline or ethanol-based E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline). They are followed by electric vehicles such as the Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid, and what Kaufman called the “holy grail” of automotive power, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles such as the Chevy Sequel.

 On display outside in the parking lot as Kaufman spoke were two Saturn Aura Green Line sedans, GM’s first hybrid passenger car. Kaufman and Peter Barkey from the company’s Energy Diversity Communications Department also gave media members a quick walk-around preview for the two vehicles, which also were available for brief ride-n-drives.

 Among business items discussed at the meeting, SAMA President Ron Beasley announced that Gigi Cerboncini had come up with six proposals for a logo for the new organization. Those proposals can be seen on the website, and members are asked to vote their preference.

 Treasurer Bill Adam noted that membership dues are “trickling” in, and that secretary Jaime Florez -- unable to attend because he was out of the country on business -- is in the process of completing incorporation papers for the organization. Adam also has spoken to officials at Homestead-Miami Speedway about using the facility for different events that would include a seminar for SAMA members covering what to look for in evaluating different kinds of vehicles.

 Vice President Paul Borden said he has spoken with John Kiskinis about SAMA’s participation in the South Florida Auto Show and will have more information about what opportunities we can consider at the next meeting.

 Details for the May meeting have yet to be worked out, but the date likely will be around May 24. As noted at the inaugural meeting, the third Thursday of the month will be the target date, but we intend to remain flexible. The April meeting was on a Friday because of conflicts with other events at the Coral Gables Country Club and auto-related events earlier in the week.

 Please watch your e-mail or visit the website, www.SAMAonline.org   for more information about the May meeting. Suggestions as to sites for future meetings are welcome.