Sponsor Spotlight – General Motors’ Mark Maher

Mark Maher, global chief engineer for powertrain-vehicle integration at General Motors, has been involved in Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs) for the past 15 years, beginning with the Ethanol  Vehicle Challenge.

 

Mark Maher (far left) congratulates Ohio State University on their first place win in the EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge Year One Competition along with (on right) John Lushetsky, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy and Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources, Canada.

Mark Maher (far left) congratulates Ohio State University on their first place win in the EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge Year One Competition along with (on right) John Lushetsky, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy and Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources, Canada.

For more than 25 years, the U.S. Department of Energy has sponsored AVTCs designed to stimulate the development of advanced propulsion and alternative fuel technologies while providing the training ground for the next generation of automotive engineers. GM has co-sponsored many of these competitions, including EcoCAR 2, because the automaker is keenly interested in achieving these same goals.

“No other college-level program does what the AVTC series does,” says Mark. “EcoCAR 2 is putting students right in the middle of the difficult challenge of balancing consumer acceptability, improved fuel economy, criteria pollutant, and alternative fuel availability.”

Mark is heavily involved in GM’s efforts with alternative fuels like ethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). “These are basically gigantic exercises in powertrain and vehicle integration,” he says. “The biggest challenge at this point is the ability to provide the same level of utility to consumers that they’re used to, while meeting increasingly difficult emission and fuel-economy requirements. I can’t imagine a more challenging engineering exercise than trying to balance those competing needs.”

In his current role, Mark works with GM’s engine, transmission, controls and vehicles team around the world to establish technical requirements – both consumer-facing and regulatory – for powertrains in GM’s global portfolio.  This means working with the involved teams to enable the needed physical and function integration as each vehicle matures through the vehicle development process.   Additionally, his team is responsible for powertrain noise and vibration globally and emissions certification and compliance in North America.

Mark joined GM in 1985 after receiving a Master of Science Engineering and Bachelor of Science Engineering in Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Michigan. “I was always very interested in cars and powertrains and, quite honestly, alternative fuels,” he says of his start in automotive. “Alternative fuels and alternative energy was a key draw for me to a career in the auto industry.”

Now he gets to see students with a similar passion work with biofuels in their team vehicles. Mark judged one of the events at the Year Two Competition in Yuma.

“The teams are really starting to demonstrate an understanding of what it takes to reduce the mass of vehicles and improve the aerodynamics while also improving the efficiency of the powertrain in a practical, potentially production-capable way,” he recalls. “They are beginning to understand the balance between what you can do versus what you might like to do.”

Mark also works with students as a board of trustees member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Foundation. The SAE Foundation supports several programs that promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, including A World in Motion, which provides K-12 students with hands on activities that reinforce classroom STEM curricula.

“I really enjoy working with students and the academic community, so working with the AVTC series has been a great way of staying in touch with academia and what’s being taught on campuses,” says Mark. “From a GM standpoint, we benefit greatly from being able to bring on board students who participate in the competitions. They come to us with a very real understanding of the issues and challenges of meeting future emissions and fuel economy requirements.”

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