- General Motors is bullish about electric cars, spending billions of dollars on their development.
- Under CEO Mary Barra, a team of engineers and project leads are making it all possible.
- These are the 12 people driving the EV charge at GM.
After a century dedicated to gas-powered cars, General Motors has made it clear it’s all in on electric power.
GM is dedicating $35 billion to electric and self-driving vehicles through 2025, and says it won’t sell any gas-powered cars, SUVs, or light pickups after 2035. Earlier this month, it set one of its biggest goals yet: doubling revenue to $280 billion by the end of the decade, driven largely by new electric models.
But making good on those promises requires that GM go into battle without the armor on which it’s relied for decades: a nearly unmatched depth of knowledge about how to design, build, and sell cars. That expertise won’t cut it for the new generation of vehicles. Designs have changed. So have materials, wiring, supply chains, tires. Building the EVs of the future means solving new challenges like battery chemistry, infrastructure, and even sales.
Certainly, CEO Mary Barra and her C-suite are striving to make the transition. But their efforts would matter little if they couldn’t count on teams of engineers, project managers, and program leads figuring out this new kind of car business at a furious pace.
Here are 12 of the little-seen people leading the GM’s charge into an electric future.
Tim Grewe, director, electrification strategy
Batteries will be crucial to GM’s electric future, and Tim Grewe oversees battery cell production and company strategy surrounding the shift away from gas-powered engines. He’s been in the role for two of the nearly 22 years that he’s spent at the company. He was previously executive chief engineer and program manager leading GM electrification strategy.
Grewe was the technical lead who created the Ultium Cells joint venture between GM and South Korean battery manufacturer LG Chem, according to his LinkedIn bio. The $2.3 billion partnership, which includes jointly operating a battery factory in Lordstown, Ohio, bolsters the automaker’s battery development as it seeks to make good on its aggressive EV promises.
“We need to make better batteries that cost a lot less,” Grewe said earlier this month.
Travis Hester, chief EV officer
Travis Hester was named chief EV officer nearly one year ago. In the role, he heads the automaker’s EV growth operations, some of which includes charging infrastructure. As with batteries, getting infrastructure right is critical to an automaker’s EV future, as EVs are only as good as their charging offerings.
“There’s a lot more to EV adoption than just buying the vehicle and just having a large connected network,” Hester said earlier this year. “Our mission is to help every single person get over whatever anxiety they have and help them into an EV in the most convenient way possible.”
Tom Gallagher, plant director, Ultium Cells LLC
Tom Gallagher’s role in the Ultium Cells JV is critical in GM’s bid to strengthen its battery development.
Gallagher is responsible for day-to-day manufacturing operations management. He spent one year as plant director in Lordstown; before that, he served in other plant and manufacturing shop roles with the automaker, according to his LinkedIn.
Mei Cai, director of battery cell systems research, GM R&D
Mei Cai is leading GM’s next generation battery chemistry efforts. She’s been with the automaker for 21 years, according to her LinkedIn.
GM placed an emphasis on batteries when it announced earlier this month that it plans to build a battery cell center to work on reducing the cost of EV batteries and bolstering vehicle range. The center will open in southeast Michigan mid-next year.
Cai was recently named Technologist of the Year by Women of Color magazine for her role in advancing battery cell manufacturing and contributions to GM’s Ultium battery chemistry.
Liz Rojewski, director of engineering, BrightDrop
GM launched BrightDrop, its electric delivery and logistics business, at the start of this year with the vision of applying the automaker’s expertise in electrification and fleet management to efficient first-to-last-mile goods movement.
As director of engineering for the unit, Liz Rojewski has led the venture’s development of new projects, including that of the EP1, an electric pallet that can move goods over short distances.
The division has also developed an electric delivery van, the BrightDrop EV600, which is powered by GM’s Ultium battery platform. BrightDrop’s first customer, FedEx, will receive 500.
Rojewski was previously program engineering manager for autonomous engineering for the Cruise Origin, the driverless shuttle developed by GM’s electric, self-driving technology startup.
Alex Keros, director, charging infrastructure development
Alex Keros is responsible for executing GM’s approach to electric vehicle charging.
In addition to developing EVs, the automaker has been working to ramp up its role in charging them. GM announced Ultium Charge 360 in April, a “holistic charging approach” that integrates charging networks, GM mobile apps, and other services related to juicing up owners of GM electric vehicles. The company has a partnership with charging network provider EVgo to install more than 2,700 fast chargers across the country through 2025, among other major plays in the charging space.
Prior to this role, Keros served as smart cities chief of Maven, GM’s urban mobility brand and car sharing service, which shut down last year. Keros joined GM in 2007.
Mike Lelli, senior manager, battery cell advanced technology group
A veteran of General Motors for 36 years, Mike Lelli is currently the senior manager of the automaker’s battery cell advanced technology group.
“My group is responsible for the technology roadmap relative to all these different spaces within the cell,” Lelli told TechCrunch earlier this year. “We work in all of these spaces simultaneously to reduce costs.”
For example, the automaker announced a partnership with SES (formerly SolidEnergy Systems) in March in an effort to improve the energy density of lithium-ion batteries.
Lelli has been a key member of the automaker’s shift toward electrification in recent years. Prior to his current role, he served as chief business and strategy architect working on improving the battery cost structure for EVs, according to his LinkedIn. He was also vehicle chief engineer of the electric Chevrolet Bolt.
Gerard Connell, director, EV retail strategy
Gerard Connell is overseeing the automaker’s EV retail strategy.
As GM seeks to sell 30 new all-electric models globally by 2025, its approach to retailing will be key. Currently, only about 2 percent of new vehicle sales in the US are electric, but automakers and startup manufacturers alike are racing to find ways to convince consumers to ditch the pump for the plug.
With some nascent players going direct to consumers instead of using the traditional dealer model, and others considering subscription models, the way cars are sold is changing. It will require legacy companies to assess how their play in the landscape changes as well.
Connell was previously director of sales and marketing for OnStar and connected services.
Jamie Brewer, executive chief engineer, battery electric vehicles
Jamie Brewer leads the team that develops and manages the automaker’s EV projects.
Most notably, Brewer helped lead engineering of the Cadillac Lyriq, the brand’s first all-electric vehicle. Cadillac plans to have an all-electric lineup by 2030.
The $59,995 Lyriq SUV sold out in minutes last month. It will deliver more than 300 miles of range.
Brewer has held a number of other roles at GM, including chief engineer of launch vehicle remediation, and director and global bill of materials leader, according to her LinkedIn.
“History will look back at this point in time and say this was a major inflection point for the automotive industry, and I think that General Motors is at the forefront of it,” Brewer told CBS Local earlier this year.
Kelly Helfrich, EV grid integration and strategy manager
Kelly Helfrich oversees EV grid integration and strategy at GM.
“The tools are there, the range is there and the charging rates are there to make people more comfortable, and it’s only going to get better from here,” Helfrich said earlier this year, when she was manager of electric vehicle charging and infrastructure.
In that role, she led strategy development and execution of vehicle grid integration initiatives. She’s also been manager of electric vehicles at Maven, according to her LinkedIn.
Jeff Morrison, executive director, global electrification and battery systems engineering
A veteran of GM for 15 years, Jeff Morrison now oversees battery systems engineering and global electrification. He is responsible for the automaker’s EV hardware development, which includes electric motors, chargers, and battery cells, modules, and packs. Morrison also leads vehicle electrical components and systems engineering, and overall EV driving performance, according to a SAE bio.
Morrison was previously executive director of a number of areas, including global purchasing and supply chain, program management; electrical systems and advanced product purchasing; and global purchasing, strategic planning and development, according to his LinkedIn. He’s also been a director of areas such as logistics, powertrain purchasing, and global chassis purchasing.
Fiona Meyer-Teruel, system lead, battery system electronics
At GM since 2016, Fiona Meyer-Teruel joined its team focused on electrification in 2018.
“I really like where electrification is going right now,” Meyer-Teruel told Automotive News last year. “GM’s vision of zero crashes, zero emission and zero congestion — I really like that emission part because I think there’s so much we can do there.”
She has had a hand in GM’s wireless battery management system, which can monitor the health and temperature of individual battery cells wirelessly, thus reducing vehicle weight, increasing vehicle range, and making software updates easier.
Meyer-Teruel is a graduate of Stanford University.