GM to boost electric, autonomous investment by $7bn

Andrew Cummings
November 23, 2020

It is further developing its Ultium Cell platform at its Global Technical Center in Warren to support its EV growth.

At a press conference, CEO Mary Barra told the audience GM will offer 30 battery electric models globally by the middle of the current decade.

According to the automaker, U.S. $ 27 billion will be spent on fully electric vehicles by 2025, some of them autonomous.

"Ultium is already changing the way customers - and investors - view our company", Ms Barra said.

"We expect demand for capable, productive and affordable electric commercial vehicles, for example, to be massive", the spokesman said. She add the company is "transitioning to an all-electric portfolio from a position of strength" and can accelerate their EV plans "because we are rapidly building a competitive advantage in batteries, software, vehicle integration, manufacturing and customer experience".

He said GM will build its own batteries to take advantage of economies of scale as more electric vehicles are sold.

Another goal involves the launch of 30 electric vehicles in the next five years, including models from the Cadillac, GMC, Chevrolet and Buick lines - which should involve all possible price ranges. The Ultium platform provides the building blocks for everything from mass market vehicles to high-performance vehicles. But, they say investors are more enticed by pure-play electric vehicle companies that come without the lower-margin, capital-intensive aspects of traditional auto companies, including vast factory footprints and unionized workforces. The patented technology, according to the company, is expected to bring EVs closer to price parity with gas-powered vehicles.

The company continues to explore third-party licensing for its Ultium EV architecture, batteries, and propulsion systems, along with its Hydrotec fuel cell technology developed with Honda.

With more than half of GM's capital spending and product development team set to be devoted to EV and autonomous vehicle development, the brand is claiming its new Ultium-based models to be able to cover up to 724km (450 miles) on a single charge.

Sticking with batteries, GM said Ultium packs cost almost 40% less than those used in the Chevrolet Bolt. That's on top of the $20 billion it has already committed to its electric vehicle program.

GM says it has completed hundreds of test cycles on the multi-layer prototypes of this next-generation Ultium cell chemistry.

Less expensive cathodes, reduced active material, novel electrolytes, and the first use of lithium metal anodes in a GM battery. The batteries are also flexible enough to accept new chemistry and even cell types, without major tweaks to the design. The batteries will be easy to service without having to replace the whole pack.

"We want to lead in this space", GM product-development chief Doug Parks said during a media briefing. During her seven-year tenure, she has pulled GM out of Europe and many other global markets, redirecting capital toward electric and driverless cars and other technologies.

GM has shortened the development timeline for the GMC Hummer EV from 50 months to just 26 months.

No less than 12 vehicle development schedules have been accelerated as a result of the increased funding and technological advancements being made, those vehicles being the GMC Hummer EV, three other GMC Ultium variants, four Chevrolets and four Cadillacs.

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