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General Motors to Boost Investments to $27 Billion for the Development of New Electric Vehicles as the Company Transforms for the Future

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【Summary】U.S. automaker General Motors (GM) is going all in on electrification in a bid to gain some ground on Tesla and other rival automakers with billions in new investments. The automaker’s total investments to develop new electric vehicles now totals $27 billion through 2025, which is more than half of GM's capital spending.

Eric Walz    Nov 19, 2020 1:00 PM PT
General Motors to Boost Investments to $27 Billion for the Development of New Electric Vehicles as the Company Transforms for the Future
GM's Ultium EV platform will serve as the foundation for future electric vehicles.

U.S. automaker General Motors (GM) is going all in on electrification in a bid to gain some ground on Tesla and other rival automakers with billions in new investments. 

Speaking at the virtual 2020 Barclays Global Automotive Conference On Thursday, GM CEO Mary Barra and GM's executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, Doug Parks, shared key elements of GM's new aggressive timeline to develop new electric vehicles.

The plans include boosting spending an additional $7 billion to develop new battery-powered models. GM's latest investment is on top of the $20 billion the automaker pledged earlier this year. The automaker's investment to develop new electric vehicles now totals $27 billion through 2025.

More than half of GM's capital spending and product development team will be devoted to electric and electric-autonomous vehicle programs, the company said.

GM plans to offer 30 all-electric models globally by mid-decade and said that 40% of its U.S. models will be battery electric vehicles by the end of 2025.

"Climate change is real, and we want to be part of the solution by putting everyone in an electric vehicle," said Barra. "We are transitioning to an all-electric portfolio from a position of strength and we're focused on growth. We can accelerate our EV plans because we are rapidly building a competitive advantage in batteries, software, vehicle integration, manufacturing and customer experience."

GM said that all of its brands will offer electric models, including Cadillac, GMC, Chevrolet and Buick. The electric models will be offered at all price points to make them more affordable.

The new EVs will be built on GM's Utium battery platform, which will serve as the foundation for GM's future battery-powered vehicles. GM unveiled its Utium batteries and EV architecture in March. The EV platform standardizes many of the electronics and components and will allow GM to build more cost efficient electric vehicles. 

The Ultium family of powertrains includes five different units and three electric motors, which are configurable for rear wheel, front wheel and all-wheel-drive electric models and are collectively called "Ultium Drive." The electric motors are expected to offer industry-leading torque and power density across a wide spectrum of different vehicle types, GM said. 

The automaker also announced that its Utium batteries will offer a longer range than previous estimates. Due to engineering advances, GM increased the previously stated estimated maximum range of Ultium-based vehicles from 400 up to 450 miles on a full charge. The company said its has already completed hundreds of test cycles on the prototypes for the next-generation Ultium cell chemistry. 

GM's second-generation Ultium battery chemistry is expected to deliver twice the energy density at less than half the cost of current batteries. The automaker said its already prototype testing the new batteries. Which are expected to be available mid-decade.

The improvements include better integration between vehicles and their battery packs, enabling fewer cells and modules for each application. GM also will develop less expensive cathodes and electrolytes, as well as new lithium metal anodes.

The lower cost batteries are expected to lower the cost of GM's electric vehicles closer to or equal to that of combustion engine models.

The batteries for GM's future EVs will be manufactured in Ohio at GM's joint venture battery factory with South Korean battery maker LG Chem. The two companies are investing $2.3 billion in the new plant to produce the Utium battery cells.

"GM's EV development times are speeding up and costs are going down rapidly, so we expect our Ultium EV programs to be profitable from the first generation on," said Parks. 

GM is doing most of the development work on the new battery cells at its Chemical and Materials Systems Lab, located at the Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.

Another big announcement today was that GM is speeding up its development timeline for its upcoming EV, including the Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq SUV. The Lyriq was unveiled in August and is poised to compete with the Tesla Model Y crossover and Ford's Mustang inspired Mach-E. 

But during its reveal, GM initially said the Lyriq won't be available until late 2022. Now this timeline is being pushed up to the first quarter of 2022, nine months ahead of schedule.

The upcoming Hummer EV will also arrive sooner. The Hummer's development time was originally around 50 months, but now 26 months is the new benchmark, GM said. 

The updated timeline was a result of using virtual development tools and lessons learned during the Hummer EV development process, allowing GM to bring EVs to market much faster than it had originally planned.

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The Lyriq will be the first fully-electric model from GM's luxury brand Cadillac.

11 New Electric Models From GMC, Chevy and Cadillac

Also in the works are three new GMC branded electric vehicles, including a fully-electric pickup truck. The Chevrolet brand will get four new EVs, including a pickup and compact crossover. Cadillac, which is being positioned to be an electric only luxury brand, will get four new models.

All of these new models will be built on GM's Utium-powered EV platform. Although many of GM's future EVs might look different on the outside, they will all share one of the five Ultium powertrains.

"Ultium is already changing the way customers – and investors – view our company," Barra said on Thursday. "We are resolved as a management team to move even faster to expedite the transition to EVs. The all-electric future we are building integrates all the things we do better than anybody else – so we can put everyone in an EV, generate profitable growth and create shareholder value."

GM's expedited push to introduce a new electric vehicle comes as GM's U.S. rival Tesla rose to become the world's most valuable automaker this past summer with a market cap of over $400 billion. Tesla achieved this just eight years after the Model S sedan was first introduced and now the company will be included in the S&P 500 in December along with GM. 

Tesla's rapid growth as an electric automaker has put the entire auto industry on a path towards zero-emissions and electrification or risk being left behind. But GM's bold EV plans will help ensure that won't happen.

On Nov 9, GM announced that it's hiring 3,000 new employees through the first quarter of 2021 for high-tech roles in fields such as software engineering, IT and design. The new roles will contribute to GM's overall electrification strategy, including its work on autonomous driving and vehicle connectivity.

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