The largest US automaker held an event on Wednesday to showcase their plan to take on Tesla and others in the electric vehicle market. Many feel GM, and other North American car makers, have fallen behind.
Part of this is due to the roll back of emission regulations brought in by the current U.S. Administration. While others have moved ahead, General Motors and the then larger automakers in the U.S. welcomed the draconian measures.
Now GM President Mark Reuss is saying, “Thousands of GM scientists, engineers and designers are working to execute an historic reinvention of the company.”
“Our team accepted the challenge to transform product development at GM and position our company for an all-electric future,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO. “What we have done is build a multi-brand, multi-segment EV strategy with economies of scale that rival our full-size truck business with much less complexity and even more flexibility.”
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. 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.
The new battery reduces the amount of cobalt GM will use in its upcoming lineup of EVs launching from 2021.
These batteries will offer power ranging from 50 to 200 kWh, which could allow for a driving range up to “400 miles or more.” Motors designed in-house will support front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and performance all-wheel drive applications.
GM altered the chemistry of its battery cells, in a move that’s distinct from most EV batteries in production today. The majority of batteries are made with NCM — nickel, cobalt, and magnesium. The Ultium batteries will add aluminum — so NCMA — and reduce the cobalt content by 70 percent. GM has also reduced by about 80 percent the amount of wiring from the EV architecture currently used in its Chevy Bolt vehicles. The hope is that this will drive battery cell costs below the $100/kWh level and allow GM to get more bang for its buck as it scales up its EV production capabilities.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) currently produces 63% of the world’s cobalt. Human rights activists and investigative journalists have reported confirmation that child labour is used in mining cobalt. The political and ethnic dynamics in the DRC have caused outbreaks of violence and years of armed conflict and displaced populations. The worldwide demand for cobalt has lead to more instability. Reducing the use of cobalt is a good thing.
GM says the Ultium-powered EVs are designed for Level 2 and DC fast charging. Most will have 400-volt battery packs and up to 200 kW fast-charging capability while our truck platform will have 800-volt battery packs and 350 kW fast-charging capability.
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