- General Motors unveiled a new electric-battery design called “Ultium” on Wednesday, saying it would enable the profitable rollout of nearly two dozen electric vehicles by 2023.
- GM CEO Mary Barra called the automaker’s EV program an “unprecedented investment in all-electric future.”
- The Ultium battery should undergird everything from the small Chevy Bolt EV to the forthcoming GMC Hummer, as its design gives GM flexibility depending on the vehicle.
- “GM sell more vehicles in the US than anyone else,” Barra said. “And we intend to leverage that.”
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DETROIT— It’s called “Ultium,” and it’s a shot across Tesla’s bow.
On Wednesday, General Motors staged an event at its historic Warren Technical Center near Detroit to showcase its rapidly evolving electric-vehicle strategy for investors, dealers, and the members of the press.
A small fleet of forthcoming EVs, bearing badges from Cadillac, Buick, Chevrolet, and Hummer, was arranged in the Design Dome on the 1950s-era campus, the locus of GM’s advanced electrification and battery-engineering work.
GM has been aggressively moving to launch almost two dozen electrified vehicles by 2023, and Wednesday’s event provided critical details about what will be at the heart of those cars, trucks, and SUVs: a new battery design and a specialized EV engineering platform.
“The heart of GM’s strategy is a modular propulsion system and a highly flexible, third-generation global EV platform powered by proprietary Ultium batteries,” the carmaker said in a statement. “They will allow the company to compete for nearly every customer in the market today, whether they are looking for affordable transportation, a luxury experience, work trucks, or a high-performance machine.”
Essentially, the Ultium design enables GM to create vehicles using anywhere from 50-kilowatt-hour to 200-kWh layouts, along with a GM-estimated range of up to 400 miles on a charge, acceleration as fast as three seconds, and product offerings featuring front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and high-performance platforms.
GM said the Ultium design, based on a scalable “pouch” arrangement, would involve a significant improvement and reduction in complexity over what the carmaker is now using for its Chevy Bolt EV. It added that there would initially be 19 possible “battery and drive unit configurations,” down from more than 500 for internal-combustion layouts. (GM’s pouch arrangement differs from the cylindrical battery-cell configuration that Tesla employs for its packs.)
The carmaker has made no bones about making money with its EVs — something that has been elusive for Tesla, the electric-vehicle sales leader. Executives stressed that GM’s electric-vehicles would be profitable in their first phases.
The reinvention of GM kicks into high gear
“Thousands of GM scientists, engineers and designers are working to execute an historic reinvention of the company,” GM President Mark Reuss said in a statement. “They are on the cusp of delivering a profitable EV business that can satisfy millions of customers.”
He added, looking around the Design Dome at the array of vehicles, that “all of this is real.”
Integral to the rollout of the new battery design is GM’s partnership with LG Chem. The companies are jointly constructing a $2.3 billion factory in Ohio. Together, they intend to push battery cost below an important industry threshold of $100 per kWh.
GM also said that beginning in 2020, it would launch a second generation of the Bolt, with a crossover version of the nameplate coming in 2021. (That vehicle will also be the first one not in the Cadillac lineup to have GM’s hands-free Super Cruise technology.)
The engineering platform that will use the Ultium design was already shown in January, when Cruise, GM’s autonomous ride-sharing arm, revealed its Origin shuttle. A new Cadillac, dubbed “Lyriq,” arrives in April, and the much-anticipated GMC Hummer electric pickup truck hits in May, GM said.
Vehicles will be produced at GM’s Hamtramck plant in Michigan, which is now completely devoted to electric-vehicle manufacturing.
“We are bringing the might of GM to bear,” Barra said at the event.