General Motors on Wednesday provided the first details on an expansive electrification program that will see multiple battery-electric models launched across the automaker's brands.
It all centers on a highly flexible EV platform that will usher in vehicles with batteries ranging up to 200 kilowatt-hours in capacity, or enough for more than 400 miles of range on a single charge.
“Our team accepted the challenge to transform product development at GM and position our company for an all-electric future,” Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO, said in a statement.
First details on GM modular EV platform - presentation slide from January 2019 investor meeting
The new platform is a dedicated EV design and represents the third generation of GM EV platforms. The second generation features in the current Chevrolet Bolt EV. Code-named BEV3, the new platform will be flexible enough to spawn vehicles from the subcompact segment right up to large SUVs and pickup trucks. It will also support front-, rear- and all-wheel-drive configurations, as well as performance applications—we're talking powertrains with enough juice for 0-60 mph times of less than 3.0 seconds.
The platform actually made its debut in January in the Cruise Origin self-driving shuttle. Its next stop will be a Cadillac crossover SUV called the Lyriq that's due for a reveal in April.
GM stressed that its upcoming electric vehicles will be profitable thanks in part to less complexity than their internal-combustion counterparts because of the modular nature of core EV components like batteries and motors. The automaker is also making advancements in battery technology together with LG Chem, its partner in the battery space. One of the advancements is a new battery called Ultium which relies on large-format, pouch-style cells that are unique in the industry in that they can be stacked vertically or horizontally within a battery pack. This will provide engineers with more flexibility when it comes to fitting batteries into various vehicle types.
Teaser for Cadillac Lyriq electric cossover SUV based on GM BEV3 modular platform
GM also said that the Ultium battery has a low requirement for the rare earth material cobalt, which should help drive down the cost to the $100/kwh mark. And further developments could see that cost driven down even lower. GM said it is willing to license the batteries to rivals.
Ultium batteries will range in capacity from 50-200 kwh and deliver over 400 miles on a charge for some vehicles. Most vehicles using Ultium batteries will have 400-volt battery packs that will charge at up to 200 kilowatts. However, trucks using the batteries, the first of which will be the GMC Hummer EV due for a reveal in May, will have 800-volt battery packs that can charge at up to 350 kw. At such a rate, 80 percent charges in well under 30 minutes would be possible, as seen in the Porsche Taycan which already uses an 800-volt battery.
We won't have to wait long too see the first of GM's future EVs. We already know the Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer EV will be revealed in the coming months. An updated Bolt EV is also confirmed to arrive in late 2020 and a new crossover variant dubbed the Bolt EUV will follow in the summer of 2021.