General Motors Begins Site Prep on its $2.3 Billion Joint Venture EV Battery Plant in Ohio

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【Summary】General Motors has started site preparations for its new joint venture electric vehicle battery factory in Lordstown, Ohio. The plant will produce the advanced Ultium battery cells for GM’s future electric vehicles together with South Korean battery maker LG Chem.

FutureCar Staff    Jun 26, 2020 2:00 PM PT
General Motors Begins Site Prep on its $2.3 Billion Joint Venture EV Battery Plant in Ohio
A rendering of GM's new joint venture EV battery factory in Lordstown, Ohio. (Photo: General Motors)

General Motors has started site preparations for its electric vehicle battery factory in Lordstown, Ohio. Last December, the Detroit automaker announced a joint venture with South Korean battery maker LG Chem. The new JV company will produce the advanced Ultium battery cells for GM's future electric vehicles at the new factory.

On Tuesday, the Detroit automaker said its $2.3 billion battery production joint venture with LG Chem will be called Ultium Cells LLC. GM unveiled its Ultium battery technology in March. 

The EV battery plant is being built on a 158 acre site near GM's former Lordstown assembly plant. GM announced that it was closing the factory in Nov 2018 along with three others in North America as part of a broader restructuring move to cut costs. As part of the restructuring, GM also announced it was eliminated around 15% of its salaried workforce.

However, the former GM factory is being repurposed. EV startup Lordstown Motors purchased the shuttered facility from GM and is converting the facility to build electric vehicles.

The new EV battery factory will have an annual production output of 30 GWh annually, which is enough cells for around 300,000 vehicles. For comparison, Tesla's Nevada gigafactory has the capacity for up to 35 GWh annually and its currently the world's largest battery factory. Tesla's batteries in Nevada are produced in a joint venture with Panasonic.

GM's new Ultium batteries differ from the cylindrical cell batteries currently being used by Tesla. Instead of being rolled into a cylinder shape, the "pouch cell" batteries are flat and resemble a large envelope that can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack. The flat design allows GM engineers to fit more battery cells into each vehicle battery pack, which offers more power and a longer range.

Ultium energy options range from 50 to 200 kWh, which could enable a range of up to 400 miles and  a zero to 60 mph acceleration time of 3 seconds, according to GM. The Ultium batteries are designed to work with GM's new modular EV vehicle platform.

The heart of GM's electrification strategy is developing a modular propulsion system and a highly flexible, third-generation global EV platform powered by the proprietary Ultium batteries. The modular EV platform can accommodate a wide range of vehicles and battery configurations.

Ultium-powered EVs are designed for Level 2 and DC fast charging. Most of the vehicles will be equipped with 400-volt battery packs and up to 200 kW fast-charging capability. GM's future electric trucks, such as the Hummer EV, will have more powerful, 800-volt battery packs and 350 kW fast-charging capability.

GM's electrification strategy is part of a broader shift towards electrification of its future vehicle lineup and move away from internal combustion engine vehicles. 

"Thousands of GM scientists, engineers and designers are working to execute an historic reinvention of the company," said GM President Mark Reuss in March when the new Ultium batteries were revealed. "They are on the cusp of delivering a profitable EV business that can satisfy millions of customers."

Although U.S. auto production was suspended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, GM has kept busy working on development work on its future electric and autonomous vehicle portfolio. The automaker plans to introduce 20 new electric models by 2023. So far, those plans are still on track, despite the effects of the coronavirus on the global auto industry.

GM also announced that production timing remains on track for the upcoming Cadillac Lyriq EV and the GMC Hummer EV. GM resurrected the Hummer nameplate as a new electric truck brand. Both vehicles will be powered by the GM's new Ultium battery system. 

The Ultium batteries will also power the Cruise Origin autonomous shuttle, which was revealed in San Francisco earlier this year. GM is working on a commercial robotaxi service with its autonomous driving subsidiary Cruise, which is based in San Francisco.

On Tuesday, GM announced it is working on next-generation batteries even more advanced than the Ultium batteries unveiled in March, according to GM Executive Vice President Doug Parks, who was speaking at an online investor conference.

GM is "almost there" on developing an electric vehicle battery that will last one million miles, a top executive said on Tuesday.

He did not specify a timeline for introduction of the million-mile battery, but said "multiple teams" at GM are working on such advances as zero-cobalt electrodes, solid state electrolytes and ultra-fast charging.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra reiterated earlier this year that the automaker intends to sell 1 million electric vehicles a year in 2025 in the United States and China.

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