At an event in the GM Tech Center campus in Warren, Michigan, General Motors unveiled the core of its new strategy to grow the company’s EV sales quickly, efficiently and profitably. 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.
GM’s all-new modular platform and battery system, Ultium. (Photo by Steve Fecht for General Motors)
GM’s new Ultium batteries will have the highest nickel and lowest cobalt content in a large format pouch cell; large format pouch cells require less wiring and plumbing than small cylindrical cells.
The battery management system (BMS) is integral, which eliminates 80% of the battery pack’s wiring compared to the Bolt EV. GM’s joint venture with LG Chem to develop and mass produce battery cells will drive cell costs below $100 per kWh. Ongoing technological and manufacturing breakthroughs will drive costs even lower, the company said.
Ultium energy options range from 50 to 200 kWh, which could enable a GM-estimated range up to 400 miles (644 km) or more on a full charge with 0 to 60 mph acceleration as low as 3 seconds. 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 400-volt battery packs and up to 200 kW fast-charging capability while the electric truck platform will have 800-volt battery packs and 350 kW fast-charging capability.
GM’s new large-format, pouch-style Ultium batteries can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack. GM’s ability to stack batteries vertically is unique in the industry and it allows for a flat cabin floor and more interior room than comparable EVs that use cylindrical battery packs. This allows engineers to optimize battery energy storage and layout for each vehicle design.
The pack also allows engineers to deliver vehicles with an optimized weight distribution and a lower center of gravity to improve ride and handling.
In North America, GM EVs will be powered by rectangular, pouch-style battery packs that are simple, lightweight and space-efficient.
GM’s EV battery cells will be mass produced at a $2.3-billion joint venture plant that GM and LG Chem plan to build in Lordstown, Ohio. The plant, which will be about the size of 30 football fields, will have annual capacity of more than 30 gigawatt hours and room for expansion. Site assessments and the permitting process are underway, and groundbreaking is expected to occur in the spring of 2020.
GM proposed that its flexible and modular approach to EV development will drive significant economies of scale and create new revenue opportunities, including:
Continuous improvement in battery costs: GM’s joint venture with LG Chem will drive battery cell costs below $100/kWh. The cells use a proprietary low cobalt chemistry and ongoing technological and manufacturing breakthroughs will drive costs even lower.
Flexibility: GM’s all-new global platform is flexible enough to build a wide range of trucks, SUVs, crossovers, cars and commercial vehicles with outstanding design, performance, packaging, range and affordability.
Capital Efficiency: GM can spend less capital to scale its EV business because it is able to leverage existing property, including land, buildings, tools and production equipment such as body shops and paint shops.
Complexity Reduction: The vehicle and propulsion systems were designed together to minimize complexity and part counts beyond today’s EVs, which are less complex than conventional vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. For example, GM plans 19 different battery and drive unit configurations initially, compared with 550 internal combustion powertrain combinations available today.
New Sources of Revenue: By vertically integrating the manufacture of battery cells, the company can reach beyond its own fleet and license technology to others.
Third-party forecasters expect US EV volumes to more than double from 2025 to 2030 to about 3 million units on average. GM believes volumes could be materially higher as more EVs are launched in popular segments, charging networks grow and the total cost of ownership to consumers continues to fall.
GM claims that the first generation of its future EV program will be profitable. The initial programs will pave the way for further accretive growth. 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.
New technologies under development to improve charging, cycling, range, cost and battery life include:
Zero cobalt and zero nickel cathodes
The use of electrolyte additives to heal cell “scratches” that reduce cycling