New GM Powertrain Facility to Speed Engine Tech Transfer

The GM Powertrain Performance and Racing Center is connected to the automaker’s global powertrain engineering center and consolidates competitive engine builders with production engineers.

James M. Amend, Senior Editor

February 2, 2016

4 Min Read
Nicholson opens GM Powertrain Performance and Racing Center
Nicholson opens GM Powertrain Performance and Racing Center.

PONTIAC, MI – General Motors opens the doors to its new Powertrain Performance and Racing Center, a $200 million advanced testing and development hub for accelerating the transfer of technology between the racetrack and the showroom.

“Co-locating the two will turn a 2-way street into a superhighway,” says Dan Nicholson, vice president-global powertrain at GM.

The 111,420 sq.-ft. (10,351 sq. m) PRC is connected to the automaker’s global powertrain engineering headquarters here, about 20 miles (32 km) north of Detroit, and relocates 100 engine builders, engineers and support staff from a former location some 35 miles (56 km) away.

The PRC team has responsibility for developing engines for GM racing interests in NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA, IMSA and other circuits. Just as importantly, the co-location of PRC with GM’s production powertrain operations means the two entities literally can share technical expertise over the water cooler.

Mike Anderson, executive director-engine hardware and engineering at GM, says the connectivity between GM’s powertrain operations in the U.S., Europe and at satellite units in other regions creates a seamless sharing of information. But now engine developers can shout across the hallway to each other.

“It sounds crazy, but as much time as we spend in the conference room, a lot of engine development occurs in the hallway,” he tells WardsAuto ahead of a tour of the facility, which is roughly 50% operational and will be in full service by August.

Prabjot Nanua, director-advanced and racing engines at GM, says the PRC also will raise enthusiasm on the campus, where 3,500 engineers on production programs will get a daily glimpse at the work their colleagues perform to put the Chevrolet and Cadillac brands in the winner’s circle every weekend.

Ironically, the PRC opens two days after the Corvette C7.R racing team finished a historic 1-2 in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, one of three notable endurance racing competitions around the world that tests the power, durability and efficiency of engines.

Engine developers on the production side will not just get a look at the work of their peers, either, Nanua adds. They also will have the opportunity to cycle into GM racing programs and take that experience back to production, where he admits longer development cycles can lead to a degree of hesitancy.

“It improves decision making,” he says. “On the track, you have to make split-second decisions. They can take that back with them.”

The PRC also will serve as hook for recruiting young engineers to GM, a growing shortfall facing the entire industry.

“Recruiting can be a struggle sometimes,” Nanua says. “But when I bring them in here, their eyes will light up.”

Nanua says the sharing of technical information between racing and production programs has grown into every aspect of the powertrain, from optimizing combustion processes to putting breakthrough lightweight components into use and utilizing emerging 3-D printing processes.

Highlights of the facility include 10 all-new engines bays with the latest development tools; access to more than 30 machine tools for blocks, cylinder heads, fuel rails and engine components; and four dedicated, state-of-the-art dynamometer cells from engine development expert AVL.

The engine dynos are similar to those GM uses on the production side, the automaker says, but rated for high-output racing engines.

PRC also boasts a custom engine-calibrations lab, but engineers have the ability to make running calibration changes in the new dyno cells, going so far as to replay an engine’s entire race to assist in developing new engines and making calibration changes for existing ones.

Visitors to the PRC are greeted by an open, airy lobby with displays for various GM racing engines, race cars and trophies from competitions around the world celebrating the automaker’s motorsports legacy. Together with meeting rooms that seat up to 125 people, the area can be reserved by racing teams, suppliers and enthusiast clubs and organizations for a fee beginning Aug.1.

“Imagine this as a starting point for the Dream Cruise,” says Jim Campbell, vice president- Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, referring to the international crush of cruisers that descends on suburban Detroit every August.

To underscore the dual role of the PRC between competition and production, NASCAR champion Ryan Newman attends the grand opening. Newman is unique to NASCAR in that he holds a B.S. in Vehicle Structural Engineering.

[email protected]

About the Author(s)

Subscribe to a WardsAuto newsletter today!
Get the latest automotive news delivered daily or weekly. With 5 newsletters to choose from, each curated by our Editors, you can decide what matters to you most.

You May Also Like