Ultium battery spearhead in GM’s massive EV offensive
American carmaker, General Motors, is launching a $20 billion (€18 billion) ‘electric offensive’ spread over all its brands. Spearhead is its third-generation EV platform and GM’s proprietary Ultium battery, promising ranges above 400 miles (643 km).
“We believe in an all-electric future, and we will bring all the power and assets of GM to the EV opportunity,” CEO Mary Barra told the audience at GM’s Design Dome in Warren (Michigan) on Wednesday. Another clear statement from Barra’s mouth: “We believe climate change is real and will produce as many EVs as possible by 2025.” Read one million EVs per year.
Third-generation EV platform
General Motors has been a forerunner on EV technology among the US ‘big three’ carmakers for a long time with its Chevrolet Bolt, commercialized as the Opel Ampera in Europe.
Now GM puts all its money on its third-generation EV platform with flexible battery and drivetrain configurations, enabling the roll-out of electric models for all its brands (Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC) and all segments, including trucks.
All of them will use the Ultium battery GM developed in Michigan (US), and to be built in the new giga-battery factory, the carmaker is setting up in Ohio together with South Korean battery manufacturer LG Chem. That factory, with an initial capacity of 30 GWh, will, by the time (2025) GM plans 1 million EVs per year, produce 250 million cells per year.
GM’s Ultium battery consists of several large ‘pouch-style’ cells that can be stacked horizontally or vertically, which suits best the design of the vehicle and combine 6, 8, 12, or 24 modules. The latter would be the ‘vertical’ configuration for the electric GMC Hummer, for instance. In sedans and crossovers, the cells will be placed horizontally.
What makes the Ultium special is its focus on ‘NMCA’ chemistry (nickel, manganese, cobalt, aluminum) instead of NMC. By using the aluminum, the reliance on hard-to-get cobalt can be reduced by 70%, GM claims.
When produced in Ohio in the joint-venture with LG Chem, the costs of the battery will lower to $100 per kWh, and even further as technology is expected to evolve. To compare: the batteries of the current Chevrolet Bolt have a price tag of t$145 per kWh.
Twice as much as Tesla S
The Ultium battery packs will range from 50 kWh, which is comparable with that of a VW ID.3, to 200 kWh, double of today’s biggest electric car batteries in the Tesla Model S and X. That kind of capacity would be reserved for the Hummer SUT and SUV, and an electrified Chevrolet pickup. In that case, the battery pack would be some 45 cm (18 inches) thick presumably.
Vehicles built on the truck platform will have battery packs at 800V and can be fast-charged at 350 kW. Cars will have 400V battery packs up to 200 kWh, but fast-charging will be limited to 200 kW DC-charging. Along with the new EVs, GM is also working on specific charging infrastructure for use at home, at work, or in public places.