GM takes aim at Tesla with ‘Ultium’ batteries and EVs

General Motors Co Chief Executive Mary Barra said last week the Detroit automaker will invest $20 billion by 2025 in electric and automated vehicles as it races to catch up with Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc as vehicles go electric.
The previously undisclosed investment figure was part of detailed presentations Barra and other GM executives gave to reporters and investors, to show that GM can make the transition from an internal combustion world to a battery electric one.
“We’ll grow” as the company offers more electric vehicles (EVs), Barra said at GM’s design centre in Warren, Michigan.
With its new Ultium battery technology, GM is on track to cut the battery cell costs — the single greatest expense in electric vehicles — to less than $100 per kilowatt-hour, Barra said. That would be down from about $140 now. That, in turn, could make battery packs — for electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt EV — up to 45 per cent cheaper, experts say.
Instead of 555 internal combustion powertrain combinations, GM will be able to move to just 19 different electric vehicle propulsion systems, slashing costs, GM officials said.
Barra reiterated a goal of selling 1 million electric vehicles annually in the United States and China by 2025.
The $20 billion investment would go towards planned engineering and capital spending, she said, adding it was not a figure “with crazy things added to make it look big.”
At the design centre, analysts questioned GM’s EV competitiveness, whether EVs can be sold at a premium and how the company will manage the transition away from gas-powered vehicles. Executives maintained GM is well positioned in the EV market, where they see profitable growth, especially on the US coasts.
Barra, GM President Mark Reuss and other executives outlined their electric vehicle strategy in GM’s 65-year-old vehicle design centre, ringed by prototypes of future electric vehicles ranging from a redesigned Chevrolet Bolt compact vehicle to hulking electric GMC Hummer trucks, an electric Cadillac SUV the size of the current, gasoline-fuelled Escalade and a never-before-seen prototype of a large Cadillac sedan called the Celestiq.
The first of the new generation electric vehicles, the GMC Hummer pick-up, will be launched in late 2021, followed by the Cadillac Lyriq crossover utility vehicle in 2022. GM has promised 20 new electric vehicle models globally by 2023.
A central part of GM’s pitch to investors focuses on the company’s new Ultium electric vehicle batteries, which will offer a GM-estimated electric driving range of 400 miles or more on a single charge.
These batteries use 70 per cent less cobalt and less nickel than current designs, and they are packaged in long, thin “large format pouch” type cells that hold 20 times more energy than conventional cylindrical cells, GM engineers said.
The Ultium batteries use chemistry called NMCA, for nickel-manganese-cobalt-aluminium, GM officials said.
Cobalt and nickel are two of the most expensive raw materials used in electric vehicle batteries.