Senior Vice President, Virgin Galactic
LG Chem Power
Denise Gray, a Detroit native, has worked in the automotive industry for four decades, following in the footsteps of her mother, aunts, and uncles, but her work has never gotten old.
In her words, Gray, an electrical engineer, “grew up at General Motors.” She started working at the company through a high-school program when she was 17, and she didn’t leave the company until she was almost 50.
An electrical engineer, and one of the few Black employees, Gray was tasked with electrifying everything at GM.
In her early days, it was the brakes, the lighting system, and the steering. Then, it was the propulsion system, the battery that propels hybrid and electric cars.
“The propulsion system was just the next thing,” she says, as if making an electric car was the next task on a simple to-do list.
Gray led battery development for the first-generation Chevy Volt, GM’s first mass-market plug-in hybrid. And in the years since, she’s become something of a battery czar.
Today, she helms LG Chem Michigan Tech, a subsidiary of the South Korean giant LG Chem, which supplies lithium-ion cells and batteries to carmakers like Ford, Chrysler, and GM.
“We’re just starting, frankly,” she says referring to the transition to electric transportation. “When people look at all-electric or autonomous driving it opens up a whole new world of where we can go and what we can do.”