General Motors (GM) is promising a wide array of less-expensive electric vehicles (EVs) thanks to battery technologies it is developing, improved product design processes, and plans to scale EV production to the size of its truck business.
“Our team accepted the challenge to transform product development at GM and position our company for an all-electric future,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “What we have done is build a multi-brand, multi-segment EV strategy with economies of scale that rival our full-size truck business with much less complexity and even more flexibility.”
The heart of GM’s strategy is a modular propulsion system and a highly flexible, third-generation global EV platform powered by proprietary Ultium batteries.
“Thousands of GM scientists, engineers, and designers are working to execute an historic reinvention of the company,” GM President Mark Reuss said. “They are on the cusp of delivering a profitable EV business that can satisfy millions of customers.”
Ultium batteries use large-format, pouch-style cells that can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack. By avoiding rigid, cylindrical cells, GM engineers can optimize pack shapes and layouts for each vehicle.
Energy options range from 50kWh to 200kWh – enough for 400 miles of range on the larger battery side. Motors designed in-house will support front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and performance all-wheel drive applications.
Ultium-powered EVs are designed for Level 2 and DC fast charging. Most will have 400V battery packs and up to 200kW fast-charging capability. Trucks will get 800V battery packs and 350kW fast-charging capability.
Developed with LG Chem, GM’s joint venture partner on a battery cell plant in Ohio, upcoming cells reduce use of expensive cobalt, a development the companies believe will drive cell cost to less than $100/kWh. At $100/kWh, GM’s 200kWh batteries would cost $20,000, before considering the cost of the rest of the vehicle, so lowering cell costs is critical to affordable EVs.
Reuss said engineers are designing future vehicles and propulsion systems together to minimize complexity and part counts compared to adapting gasoline-powered vehicles for electric drive. GM plans 19 different battery and drive unit configurations initially, compared with 550 internal combustion powertrain combinations.
GM’s technology can be scaled to meet customer demand much higher than the more than 1 million global sales the company expects mid-decade.
Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, and Buick will all be launching new EVs starting this year.
- 2021 Bolt EV, launching in late 2020, updating GM’s first mass-market all-electric
- 2022 Bolt EUV, launching summer 2021, larger crossover version of the Volt will be the first non-Cadillac GM to get Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving
- Cruise Origin, self-driving, electric shared vehicle, debuted at shows but no production plans announced
- Cadillac Lyriq SUV, unveiling set for April 2020
- GMC HUMMER EV, debuted in Super Bowl ads, more details coming May 20, production to begin fall 2021