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General Motors is Opening a New Engineering Center in Michigan to Develop Low Cost & Advanced EV Batteries

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【Summary】General Motors is opening a new battery engineering center in Michigan to accelerate the development of more affordable electric vehicle batteries that will offer longer driving ranges. The automaker named the battery engineer center the “Wallace Battery Cell Innovation Center” as a tribute to Bill Wallace, former director of Battery Systems and Electrification at GM who passed away in 2018.

Eric Walz    Oct 05, 2021 9:30 AM PT
General Motors is Opening a New Engineering Center in Michigan to Develop Low Cost & Advanced EV Batteries
GM’s new Wallace Battery Cell Innovation Center will will accelerate the development of new EV battery technologies, including lithium-metal, silicon and solid-state batteries.

General Motors is opening a new battery engineering center in Michigan to accelerate the development of more affordable electric vehicle batteries that offer longer driving ranges.

GM named the battery engineer center the "Wallace Battery Cell Innovation Center" as a tribute to Bill Wallace, former director of Battery Systems and Electrification at GM. Wallace is best known for leading the team that designed and released GM's advanced automotive battery systems for the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, Malibu Hybrid and Bolt EV.  

Wallace also played a pivotal role in the development of the automaker's advanced battery technology and trained many of its current battery leaders, according to the company. He passed away in 2018.

The Wallace Center will be located on the campus of GM's Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.

"In addition to being a good friend, Bill was an innovator who enabled other innovators,"  said Doug Parks, GM executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. "He gave his team confidence to take risks and reach far beyond their wildest dreams in pursuit of our all-electric, zero-emissions future."

The facility will build on more than a decade of advanced battery development at GM Research and Development. GM will also use the facility to integrate the work of GM-affiliated battery innovators, helping the company to reach its stated goal of at least 60 percent lower battery costs with the next generation of Ultium batteries that will power GM's future electric lineup.

The Wallace Center is currently under construction and will be completed in mid-2022. However the facility is being designed for future expansion. GM expects the facility will triple in size as the company invests more in EVs and demand for more affordable batteries that offer longer ranges increases 

The facility is expected to build its first prototype battery cells in the fourth quarter of 2022.

"The Wallace Center will significantly ramp up development and production of our next-generation Ultium batteries and our ability to bring next-generation EV batteries to market," said Parks. "The addition of the Wallace Center is a massive expansion of our battery development operations and will be a key part of our plan to build cells that will be the basis of more affordable EVs with longer range in the future."

The Wallace Center will allow GM to accelerate new EV battery technologies, including lithium-metal, silicon and solid-state batteries. But the facility will also develop advanced production methods that can quickly be deployed at GM's battery cell manufacturing plants.

GM is currently building two battery factories as part of a new joint venture named Ultium Cells LLC with its partner LG Energy Solutions. One plant will be located in Lordstown, Ohio, and the other in Spring Hill, Tennessee. The total investments in the two factories is $4.6 billion.

Wallace also pioneered GM's relationship with LG Energy Solution, which resulted in the two Ultium Cells LLC battery cell manufacturing joint venture plants.

The Wallace Battery Cell Innovation Center will also connect GM's network of battery development sites located on its Global Technical Center campus in Warren, Mich. 

These sites include GM's Research and Development Chemical and Materials' Subsystems Lab, which currently leads the company's battery development including its work on lithium-metal anodes. The other site is the Estes Battery Systems Lab, the largest battery validation lab in North America, according to GM.

GM said that the 100,000 sq ft Estes Lab will enable it to perform major battery durability tests in-house at the cell, module and pack levels to ensure reliability and performance.

The Wallace Center will be capable of building large-format, prototype lithium-metal battery cells for EVs. The types of lithium-metal cells are currently used in small handheld devices. But they could be made larger up to 1,000 mm, which is nearly twice the size of the initial Ultium pouch cells.

GM's EV development work started over 30 years ago, well before Tesla came along. The automaker currently holds more than 2,000 granted and pending patents related to EV battery technology, including 46 pending in areas of future battery development, such as lithium-metal electrolytes, anodes and cathodes.

The battery engineering team at the Wallace Center will experiment with many types of future battery chemistry in addition to lithium-metal, including pure silicon and solid-state batteries.

The Wallace Center will include cell test chambers, cell formation chambers, a material synthesis lab where GM can design its own cathode active materials, an electrolyte production lab and a forensics lab with material analysis equipment. 

The Wallace Center is expected to build batteries ranging in energy density from 600 to 1200 watt-hours per liter, which could deliver ranges of 600 miles for GM's future EVs.

The lab's work will be further supported by software, big data and cloud computing. A data farm will enable GM's battery development team to harness the power of AI breakthroughs, with all the battery-related processes tied together in a giant data cloud, the automaker said.

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