Ex GM engineer’s prison sentence highlights growing high-stakes world of hybrids and EVs

GM Hybrid Technology Case

You need look no further than the recent prison sentence handed down to a couple in Troy, Michigan to gauge how high-stakes the world of global hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) have become.

In a series of events that have played out more like a Hollywood espionage flick, a former General Motors engineer and her husband (above) have been sentenced to prison for conspiring to sell $40 million worth of GM’s hybrid technology to another company – namely, a Chinese car company.

According to the Detroit News, Shanshan Du, 54, and husband Yu Qin, 52, plotted to sell the vehicle technology to China’s Chery International, which has been exploring what Chery describes on its site as “limited” EV applications in three vehicles. 

For the crime, the ex-engineer was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, and her husband, a three year term − after being found guilty in November for conspiring to steal GM hybrid trade secrets from December 2003 to May 2006.


While the government doesn’t believe the information ever made it to Chery Automobile, which is the largest domestic Chinese passenger-vehicle maker (according to Automotive News), prosecutors said proprietary GM hybrid information was found on computers owned by the couple.

During sentencing, U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani, said “This crime, though not a crime of physical harm … is a crime in which our whole community and whole economic system is a victim,” repots the Detroit News.

GM reportedly sought the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.  

“Protecting trade secrets from improper disclosure and use is important to GM and directly impacts the nation’s economic well-being,” GM said in a statement Wednesday, as reported by the Detroit News. “GM is pleased that the Court sent a message that such theft will be punished.”

2012-Buick-Regal-with-eAssist-024_1Whether it’s the battery pack or new wheels that can help power a car using regenerative braking, most of the technology around hybrids and EVs is considered top classified information. Many carmakers are known for even trying to keep the cost of an EV’s battery pack top secret in the race to develop cheaper and more efficient hybrids and electric vehicles to meet consumers’ demands for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Couple that with stricter fuel and emissions mandates on the horizon and more start-ups looking to cash in on the business, and there’s greater potential that others could be lurking to steal information that could lead to the next great battery pack or electric motor technology.

Hybrid and electric vehicle technology is quickly becoming one of biggest and potentially most lucrative things driving the auto industry.

A IDTechX market research study predicts that the industrial/commercial hybrid and electric vehicle sector, which falls second in value behind mainstream hybrids and EVs, will be worth $93 billion alone by 2023. Worldwide, electric vehicles are expected to reach 3.8 million annually by 2020, according to Forbes.

While maybe a bit extreme, it all makes you wonder – could hybrids and electric vehicles be on the verge of becoming one of the next big things when it comes to crimes involving technology and industrial espionage?

Product Review

The all-new 3 Series proves BMW can still build a compelling sport sedan

Seat time in the entry-level BMW 330i ($41,425) and M340i xDrive ($54,995) will test the German automaker’s commitment to driving dynamics, powertrain refinement, and cutting edge technology.

The best compact cars pack full-size features in fun-size packages

The best compact cars on the market rival their counterparts in many ways, proving that bigger isn’t always better. Here, we've rounded up some of the better options available, including an SUV and an electric alternative.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to endangered cats

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.

Apple is still selling iPhones in China despite being ordered not to

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.

What’s next for in-car entertainment? Audi believes it knows

Audi is bringing two technologies to CES 2019. The first turns a car -- a luxury sedan, in this case -- into a drive-in movie theater. The second is presented as a new entertainment format that turns the journey into the destination.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

California wants all-electric public bus fleet on its roads by 2040

California approved a regulation that targets an all-electric public bus fleet for the whole state by 2040. The effect of the full implementation of the regulation is equivalent to taking 4 million cars off the road.

1,000-mph Bloodhound supersonic car project finds a last-minute savior

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has found a buyer. The project was going to be disbanded after running out of funds, but its assets were purchased by British businessman Ian Warhurst.

Ford’s prototype Quiet Kennel uses noise-canceling tech to keep dogs stress-free

Ford is ending 2018 by venturing into the doghouse market. The company's European division has built a kennel equipped with active noise-canceling technology and soundproof walls that help dogs sleep through fireworks.

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.

Lincoln revives its coolest-ever design feature for limited-edition Continental

The 1961 Lincoln Continental became a design icon thanks to center-opening "coach doors" (also known as "suicide doors"). Lincoln is bringing those doors back for a special edition of the 2019 Continental.
Product Review

Ford’s reincarnated Ranger feels like a car that does everything a truck can do

The 2019 Ford Ranger aims to be a tool for weekend adventures, and goes head-to-head with midsize pickup trucks from Chevrolet, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. Ford hasn’t sold the Ranger in the United States since 2011, so it has to make up…