General Motors Announces a $20 Billion Investment Electrification and Reveals its New Global EV Platform as the Automaker Looks to Take on Tesla

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【Summary】U.S. automaker General Motors announced today it’s making a $20 billion investment by 2025 in electrification, including new EV architecture, new models and battery cell development. The announcement was part of the automaker’s “EV Day”, an event where GM shared its strategy to grow its electric vehicle sales and transition towards an electric future.

Eric Walz    Apr 10, 2020 1:00 PM PT
General Motors Announces a $20 Billion Investment Electrification and Reveals its New Global EV Platform as the Automaker Looks to Take on Tesla

U.S. automaker General Motors announced it's making a $20 billion investment by 2025 in electrification, including EV architecture development, battery cell development and investments in EV charging infrastructure.

The automaker also revealed its new Ultium electric vehicle propulsion architecture today as part of the company's "EV Day", an event where GM shared its strategy to grow its electric vehicle sales and transition the company for its future. 

Speaking at today's event at GM's Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, General Motors president Mary Barra reiterated the company's goal of selling 1 million electric vehicles annually in the U.S. and China by 2025.

As part of GM's "EV Day", the automaker invited hundreds of employees, dealers, investors, analysts, media and policymakers to its Technical Center to share details of of the company's strategy to grow its electric vehicle sales quickly, efficiently and profitably over the next five years.

GM is racing to try and catch up to Tesla in the electric vehicle space and the new initiatives are a company-wide effort as GM looks to transform itself into a zero-emissions company.

"Thousands of GM scientists, engineers and designers are working to execute an historic reinvention of the company," said GM President Mark Reuss. "They are on the cusp of delivering a profitable EV business that can satisfy millions of customers." 60% of the company's employees are dedicated to working on GM's transformation.

GM's New Ultium "Pouch Cell" EV Batteries

GM also revealed today for the first time details about the new Ultium platform and the batteries that will power its upcoming electric models.

The batteries are not cylindrical, like the ones Tesla currently uses for all of its vehicles. GM's Ultium batteries are "pouch cell" batteries, where the cathode and anode materials are rolled into flat sheets then stacked an enclosed in a flat pouch resembling a big envelope. Cylindrical cells on the other hand, are rolled into tightly wound cylinders.

The pouch cell batteries offer several advantages, as they can be stacked on top of each other or side by side when installed a battery pack, reducing unused space. With their smaller size more pouches can fit into a battery pack, which results in a more powerful and energy dense battery that delivers more range per charge. Pouch cell batteries are also lighter.

The Ultium energy options range from 50 to 200 kWh, which could enable a GM-estimated range up to 400 miles or more on a full charge with 0 to 60 mph acceleration as low as 3 seconds. 

The 200 KWh batteries are more energy dense than the 100 kWh batteries used by Tesla. Ultium-powered EVs are designed for Level 2 and DC fast charging.

The new cells will be produced at the new GM-LG Chem joint-venture plant in Lordstown, Ohio. GM and LG Chem are investing $2.3 billion in the new battery plant. While the plant is being built, other LG Chem facilities will provide the cells. The new plant in Lordstown should be fully-operational by 2022-2023. 

GM's joint venture with LG Chem will drive battery cell costs below $100/kWh the automaker says, about 40% less than they cost now. The new battery cells use a proprietary low cobalt chemistry and improvements in manufacturing will help reduce costs even further. 

GM also said its open to the idea of licensing the battery cells to other companies, including for energy storage systems like the ones Tesla produces.


General Motors revealed its all-new Ultium modular platform and battery system at its tech center in Warren, Michigan. (Photo: Steve Fecht, General Motors)

GM Has a New Modular Electric Powertrain System

The heart of GM's strategy to shift from building internal combustion engine models was the development of a global, third-generation scalable vehicle architecture that can be shared between models. The EV platform will help GM simplify EV production, thereby lowering costs.

Using its new modular EV platform allows GM to build more affordable electric vehicles at scale. Most will have 400-volt battery packs and up to 200 kW fast-charging capability. 

The modular electric propulsion system houses the electric motor and transmission and electronics in a single compact assembly. It's designed to be powered by the new Ultium batteries. 

GM said its all-new global platform is flexible enough to build a wide range of trucks, SUVs, crossovers, cars and commercial vehicles with "outstanding design, performance, range and affordability," the company said.

The vehicle and propulsion systems were designed in-house to minimize complexity and the number of components than today's EVs require. The new global platform is less complex than conventional vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. 

For example, GM said the new global platform can be configured in 19 different battery and drive unit configurations initially, compared with 550 internal combustion powertrain combinations GM builds today. The modular platform can be configured for front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive configurations.

"Everything you see today is real," Barra said about the new EV architectures and models on display today in Warren.

GM's truck EV platform, which will be used for the new electric Hummer will have 800-volt battery packs and 350 kW fast-charging capability. Soon GM's gas powered trucks may not be as appealing, given that GM's future electric trucks will offer much more power.

GM says its will "allow the company to compete for nearly every customer in the market today, whether they are looking for affordable transportation, a luxury experience, work trucks or a high-performance machine."

"Our team accepted the challenge to transform product development at GM and position our company for an all-electric future," said CEO 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."

Adoption of electric vehicles is expected 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, EV charging networks grow and the total cost of ownership to consumers continues to fall.

GM says its new EV architecture can be scaled to produce more than the more than 1 million EVs annually by 2025.

Upcoming Launches and a Bolt 'EUV'

GM said that its Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick brands will be launching new fully-electric models starting this year. The next Chevrolet EV will be an updated version of the Bolt EV using GM's latest architecture and will be launched later this year. That will be followed by the 2022 Bolt EUV (Electric Utility Vehicle), launching Summer 2021. 

The Bolt EUV will be the first vehicle to incorporate Cadillac's Super Cruise, which is GM's autonomous driving technology for the highway. Up until now, Super Cruise was only available on Cadillac models, now its will be offered in 22 new vehicles by 2023, including 10 models by next year, GM said.

GM also revealed today the name of the first electric model from luxury division Cadillac. The new crossover is named the "Lyriq." Details about its launch will be next month. The reveal of the new GMC Hummer EV will follow on May 20. 

Production of the Hummer EV is expected to begin in Fall 2021 at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, the automaker's first assembly plant dedicated solely to EV production.

"This is a historic moment for GM," said Barra. "I believe in my heart that we are going to be leaders in electrification. We're going to keep working at it no matter what others say. They will either believe, or we'll show them, and then they'll believe."

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