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By A.J. Roan
For Metal Tech News 

Ultium EV battery powers new GM legacy

Shows an old company can learn new tricks for brighter future Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – March 11, 2020

 

Last updated 6/27/2020 at 5:32am

GM Ultium electric vehicle modular platform EV battery system

Steve Fecht for General Motors

General Motors reveals Ultium, a new electric vehicle modular platform and battery system, on March 4 at the Design Dome on the GM Tech Center campus in Warren, Michigan.

Detroit-based auto giant General Motors has taken an enormous leap towards an all-electric vehicle future with the reveal of their new Ultium battery and a plan to rapidly grow its EV portfolio, further ushering in the next generation of transportation.

Household names from the Detroit carmaker, such as Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick have gone all-in towards the production of their electric vehicle models, expanding the EV lineup under GM to 22 vehicles by 2023, including 10 this year.

Furthermore, to show they mean business, an additional 3,500 EV charge stations will be built throughout the U.S. and Canada, tripling the current amount GM now provides.

"This is another step down the path to making EV ownership easier for everyone, especially for our own employees," said Mark Reuss, GM president. "Charging infrastructure is crucial to wider acceptance of EVs, and we'll continue to do everything we can to improve it, both for our employees and for all our customers. We encourage other companies to do likewise."

While prioritization of the new charging installation sites will be based on their employee's needs, GM has accelerated its commitment to powering 100% of their global operations with renewable energy by 2040. With 100% of their facilities in the U.S. being fully renewable by 2030.

With renewable infrastructure being set in place, expansion of the GM vehicles being built to use them are fast underway with the first product revealed using GM's third generation EV platform and Ultium batteries, the Cruise Origin, being showcased earlier this year.

Yet possibly the most surprising of models to branch into electric vehicles is the GMC Hummer.

One of the most infamous vehicles for its carbon footprint, GM has pushed the limits of what their battery can offer and has equipped their urban tank with a more green approach, showing the shift towards EV is happening and a market for high-end luxury electric vehicles is alive and well.

The electric Hummer is slotted to debut in full on May 20 ahead of its on-sale date of fall 2021. Offering more than 1,000 horsepower while generating a reported 11,500 pound-feet of axle torque. The truck should hit 60 miles per hour in about 3 seconds.

This massive overhaul towards a low-carbon future is due in no small part to the introduction of their new Ultium batteries, which GM has claimed to be a Tesla killer, as well as a proprietary propulsion system that puts some luxury sports cars to shame.

"GM is building towards an all-electric future because we believe climate change is real," GM CEO Mary Barra said.

While the difference in charged range is minimal over Tesla- the current distance being roughly 390 miles for Tesla, while Ultium has reached 400- the difference structurally has made it worth its investment.

The vehicle and propulsion systems have been designed together to minimize complexity and part count beyond today's EVs, which are less complex than conventional vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

Involving an entirely new manufacturing process, GM has said it will be cheaper to produce, meaning more affordability.

Previous iterations of lithium-ion batteries have very little differences when it comes to their chemical makeup, but as battery technology has progressed, the ingenuity with which they are designed and the auxiliary systems built as support have made lithium-ion batteries the direction of the future.

To maximize their performance with as little wastage as possible has pushed the field to new heights.

In this now highly competitive lithium-ion industry, GM has found their way to maximize performance with low cost.

Unlike Tesla's cylindrical cell design, Ultium utilizes a stacked "soft" design, this gives engineers more flexibility when designing vehicles to fit dozens, if not hundreds, of battery cells as efficiently as possible, into irregular shaped spaces.

As with most lithium-ion focused companies, GM's batteries need cobalt, a metal fraught with controversy. GM, however, insists the battery requires very little ethically sourced cobalt and that overall manufacturing costs are continuing to fall.

Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle at GM EV charging station

General Motors

Plugging in a 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV. GM recently announced it is building 3,500 additional EV charging stations, tripling the amount the company now provides.

There must be some truth to the matter as the company continues to make an unprecedented push to go as electric as possible.

This includes releasing ever more electric models of their existing brands, renewable infrastructure, new designs and concepts and investing several billion to convert the iconic Detroit-Hamtramck factory into their first facility 100% committed to EV production.

GM says it plans to license its new battery technology to other automakers. As of right now, Tesla is the metal-battery titan in electric vehicle sales, accounting for as much as 90% of those sales. The lukewarm sales of the Chevy Volt and other all-electric vehicles have paled in comparison.

Could a lower cost and more innovative long-range battery finally begin to close Tesla's huge industry lead? The answer might be just 400 miles away.

 

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