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Under the Hood with an XL Engineer: Electrifying the 4.3L GM Van

GM4.3LEngineWith each new model year, trucks can come equipped with a bevy of vehicle improvements and modifications. When XL’s automotive partners introduce a design change to one of their vehicles, our electrified vehicle engineering team gets excited. Take the MY18 Chevy Express and GMC Savana vans, for example. The big vehicle change this year? The addition of a 4.3L gasoline engine.

To support the change, XL recently engineered our XLH hybrid electric system for General Motors Express and Savana passenger / cargo vans with GM’s new 4.3L engine.  In doing so, we remain compatible with all engine and wheelbase configurations of this popular GM van model, and further extend our industry leadership on the variety of electrified vehicles we’ve made available.

So, what went into the development and release of that product?  Quite a bit, actually.  I’d like to share a brief behind-the-scenes (or “under the hood”) look at what it took to bring this product to market.

When GM announced its new 4.3L engine on its Express and Savana vans, it also added a new 8-speed transmission (replacing the previous 6-speed transmission). GM’s new engine and transmission design meant XL had to relocate our electric motor, all while keeping the same great drivability and reliability our customers have come to expect from us.

GM’s new design presented many challenges. Moving XL’s electric motor meant new parts had to be designed and tested. With the help of 3D CAD models from GM, we were able to create prototypes before we even laid eyes on a vehicle. This support from GM also allowed us to cut down on the number of prototypes needed, and subsequently, the time required to design a working product. We were able to iterate multiple prototype designs in CAD to narrow down what we thought would work based on our experience with other platforms.

A lot of effort and testing went into proving out our initial designs. We spent time installing prototypes ourselves to verify that the designs worked as intended, allowing us to identify and fix any issues before moving on to production. Ultimately, this gave us valuable information that we could use to improve our designs. I believe this process is really something that sets XL apart as a product developer in this industry, and allows us to build a better product in a shorter amount of time.

In addition to the new designs, there was also the challenge of remaining compatible with GM’s long-running 6.0L engine, multiple wheelbases, and previous model years. There are many different aspects of creating a product that checks all those boxes, and a lot of collaboration between teams in necessary.

  • XL’s production team provided feedback from the field on where we could improve the design and reduce install time.
  • XL’s supply chain team gave insight into how to modify the design to be assembled more easily, and how to package components together better for shipping.
  • Each vehicle release is a team effort, and this example is one of many that shows how dynamic and skilled the team is here at XL.

The XLH hybrid electric upfit for GM vans is a product we are very proud of. We’re happy to continue supporting GM’s line of vans that so many fleet customers rely on for their work. Now that we’ve successfully brought this configuration to market, it’s on to the next challenge, the next vehicle, and the next hybrid electric platform to drive our customers forward.

Under the Hood with an XL Engineer: Electrifying the 4.3L GM Van

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