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General Motors & German Company Vacuumschmelze Announce Plans to Build a Magnet Factory in the U.S. for EV Motors

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【Summary】General Motors announced a new partnership with German company Vacuumschmelze (VAC) to build a plant in the United States that will manufacture permanent magnets for the electric motors for GM’s future electric vehicles. The permanent magnets will be used in the electric motors of the GMC HUMMER EV, Cadillac LYRIQ, Chevrolet Silverado EV and more than a dozen other EVs in development that will be built on GM’s Ultium EV Platform.

FutureCar Staff    Dec 09, 2021 2:55 PM PT
General Motors & German Company Vacuumschmelze Announce Plans to Build a Magnet Factory in the U.S. for EV Motors

General Motors announced a new partnership with German company Vacuumschmelze (VAC) to build a plant in the United States that will manufacture permanent magnets for the electric motors for GM's future electric vehicles. VAC is a leading manufacturer of magnetic alloys. 

The permanent magnets will be used in the GMC HUMMER EV, Cadillac LYRIQ, Chevrolet Silverado E and more than a dozen other electric models in development that will be built on GM's Ultium EV Platform. 

The new plant would also use locally sourced raw materials, GM said. The finished magnets will be delivered to facilities building EV motors for GM's Ultium-powered EVs.

The automaker announced that a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has already been completed. GM and VAC expect to finalize definitive agreements in early 2022.

The factory is expected to begin production by 2024.

VAC is the largest producer of permanent magnets in the Western Hemisphere with nearly 100 years of experience. 

"VAC's deep magnetic materials knowledge and extensive e-mobility technology expertise, in partnership with GM, will enable a cleaner global future for our communities," said Dr. Erik Eschen, CEO of VAC. 

The plant is expected to start production in 2024 and create hundreds of new jobs. The location of the facility will be announced at a later date. The finished magnets will be delivered to facilities building EV motors for GM's Ultium-powered EVs.

Magnets are a core component of electric motors. An electric motor uses a coil to generate a magnetic field to push against strong magnets which rotates the motors, creating the instantaneous torque that electric vehicles are known for.

The upcoming GMC HUMMER EV powered by GM's Ultium Platform may have as many as three motors, which can deliver up to 11,500 lb-ft of torque (15,590 Nm). The powerful motors can propel the HUMMER EV to from a stop to 60 mph in just three seconds.

The partnership with VAC is part of GM's North America-focused vertical integration strategy for its proprietary Ultium battery platform. The automaker expects the majority of the Ultium platform will be sourced, processed or manufactured in North America by 2025.

Previously announced supply chain collaborations include Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR) to supply GM with lithium to build batteries. GM is also working with GE Renewable Energy for rare earth materials for EV motor magnets and semiconductor company Wolfspeed for silicon carbide for electric vehicle inverters, as well as steel producer Nucor Corporation for structural components for EVs.

At the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference in September, GM President Mark Reuss revealed GM's group of three all-new electric motors that will power its Ultium-based EVs.

The family of electric motors includes a 180-kilowatt front-drive motor, 255-kW rear- and front-drive motor and a 62-kW all-wheel drive assist motor. All three motors were calibrated in-house to ensure the highest level of performance in Ultium-based EVs, and all three provide excellent torque and power density, according to GM. 

The 180- and 255-kW units are permanent magnet motors designed to minimize the reliance on heavy rare earth materials. 

GM engineers have also developed the software for Ultium Drive's motor controllers, which the automaker says is key to serving the propulsion needs of various vehicle types.

"Twenty years of electric drive system development and more than 100 years of high-volume vehicle engineering are helping GM pivot quickly from conventional vehicles to EVs," Reuss said at the conference.

Last week, GM announced a separate joint venture with South Korean battery materials company POSCO Chemical to construct a factory in North America to process battery materials for GM's Ultium electric vehicle platform.

The joint venture will process what's called "Cathode Active Material" or CAM, which is a key battery material. CAM represents about 40 percent of the cost of a battery cell, according to GM.

"We are building a resilient and sustainable EV manufacturing value chain in North America from raw materials to components to drive GM's growth and support a mass market for EVs," said Shilpan Amin, GM vice president, Global Purchasing and Supply Chain. "Our work with VAC is another bold step forward that will help ensure that we meet our goal to lead the EV industry in North America in more than just sales."

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GM is investing billions of dollars in EVs, software and autonomous driving. The automaker has committed to investing $35 billion by 2025 and will launch more than 30 EVs globally by then.

GM expects to sell 1 million EVs globally by 2025 and will drive down costs of EVs through economies of scale. The automaker wants to reduce first-generation Ultium cell costs by 40% than those currently being used in the Chevrolet Bolt EV. It includes delivering twice the energy density at 60% lower cost in the second generation Ultium cells.

Looking forward, GM plans to double its annual revenues from a five-year average of about $140 billion by the end of the decade, expand margins, and grow EV revenue from about $10 billion in 2023 to approximately $90 billion annually by 2030.

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