General Motor’s grand plans of unleashing an onslaught of new purely-electric vehicles—with “at least” 20 new EVs slated to be launched by the 2023 calendar year—remains on track.
Restating what GM chair and CEO Mary Barra assured investors last month, GM’s VP of autonomous and electric vehicle programs Ken Morris, said in a teleconference with global journalists that such a monumental shift towards electrification has led the company to start the retooling of its Detroit-Hamtramck production facilities in its Michigan base.
From this facility, the company committed to produce the mid-cycle Chevrolet Bolt EV, Chevrolet Bolt electric utility vehicle (EUV), GMC Hummer EV pickup truck, GMC Hummer EV sport utility truck, Chevrolet mid-size EUV, Cadillac Lyriq SUV, two Buick SUVs, and a hand-built flagship Cadillac luxury sedan called, “Celistiq.”
These future GM EV models will be based on two new platforms designed specifically for all-electric applications. These include the BEV3 , which is designed to underpin cars, crossovers, and light commercial vehicles, and the BT 1, designed for pickup trucks and SUVs. GM also has its new Ultium battery technology, which will power these forthcoming EV models.
The battery will be produced by Ultium Cells LLC, a joint venture of GM and Korean chemical company, LG Chem, with a manufacturing facility now being set up at Lordstown, Ohio.
To scale its future EV portfolio at a rapid pace, GM said the all-new modular platform features modular battery and drive unit combinations and is flexible enough to build a wide range of trucks, SUVs, crossovers, cars and commercial vehicles with outstanding design, performance, packaging, range and affordability. In particular, the BEV3 appears like a skateboard where a flat battery sits in the floor and electric motors are mounted at the axles. It will also be able to accommodate everything from compact cars to large, 7-seat luxury SUVs.
Combined with the power of GM’s Ultium batteries, these purely electric vehicle models could enable a GM-estimated range up to 644 kilometers (400 miles) on a full charge with zero to 100 km/h in as low as 3 seconds; have energy ranges from 50 to 200 kilowatt-hours; and support front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive applications.
High energy cells
The key building blocks of the Ultium battery system are large scale, high-energy cells that will be the best large-format cells in the industry. The battery uses both advanced chemistry and a smart cell design that’s optimized for GM’s broad portfolio of EVs.
The Ultium battery system is based on a newly developed chemistry for the lithium-ion cells that helps reduce the cost and improve the performance of the battery. Most current EVs utilize what’s known as an NMC chemistry consisting of nickel, manganese and cobalt coatings on the cathodes. But because of the cost of cobalt and the conditions where it is mined—primarily in central Africa—GM in collaboration with LG Chem developed an NMCA chemistry with the “A” being aluminum. This has allowed the cobalt content to be reduced by 70 percent (the chemistry will be proprietary to GM products).
GM is claiming that the new chemistry will drive cell cost down below $100/kWh. This is significant considering that these days, battery cell cost represents 80 percent to 90 percent of the total cost of the battery.
According to GM, Ultium is so unique that it can contain either vertically- or horizontally-stacked cells to integrate into vehicle design—vertically for trucks, SUVs and crossovers, or horizontally for cars and performance vehicles.
It gets even better with Ultium’s innovative feature—digital programming. As new chemistry is developed and becomes available, the battery management system could digitally update the modules.
In total, GM is planning 19 different combinations of battery packs and motors across this vast array of vehicle types. That compares to over 550 different engine and transmission combinations available on the current GM lineup.