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Advancing Battery Technology

Reducing carbon emissions

The heart of our EV strategy is a highly flexible global EV platform powered by our proprietary Ultium batteries.

This platform and propulsion system can power transportation across all price points, luxury vehicles, work trucks and high-performance vehicles. As a result, GM can compete for nearly every customer type and preference in the market. Some vehicles built on this platform will be capable of offering:

GM's Ultium-based lineup will use less than one quarter of the propulsion combinations currently used for internal combustion engines.

In North America, initially, GM's Ultium-based EVs will be powered by rectangular, pouch-style battery cells that are simple, lightweight and space-efficient. Our ability to stack the long pouch cells vertically or horizontally is unique in the industry and allows for a flat cabin floor and more interior room than comparable EVs that use cylindrical battery packs. The pack also allows engineers to deliver vehicles with an optimized weight distribution and a low center of gravity to improve ride and handling.

Designing common cells that work across many applications yields benefits of scale. It allows us to work in multiple vehicle segments at once and respond quickly to market shifts. This ability to make many cells for a range of vehicles improves quality and equipment efficiency and reduces cost and waste.

The most significant drivers of cost, however, are related to battery chemistry—and we are also making progress in this area. GM’s Ultium batteries boast a proprietary, low-cost chemistry and an easy-to-manufacture design. These batteries have high nickel and low cobalt content—reduced by 70% as compared to Bolt EV—in a large-format pouch cell, which requires less wiring than smaller cells. Our joint venture with LG Energy Solution to develop and mass produce battery cells is expected to drive cell costs below $100 per kWh at full volume. We expect to drive costs even lower through ongoing technological and manufacturing breakthroughs and working to enhance the sustainability and reliability of the battery materials supply chain. By the time we release the next generation of Ultium, likely in the middle of this decade, costs will be 60% less than today’s Bolt EV with twice the energy density.

Ultium batteries will feature an almost completely wireless battery management system (wBMS). The wBMS, developed by GM and Analog Devices, Inc., is an industry-first innovation that will reduce wires within the batteries by up to 90%. This technology is poised to transform the way we design our EVs, the scope of our connected technology and pace at which we manufacture and bring our vehicles to market.

Reducing the amount of wire in our EVs will decrease weight, potentially allowing us to extend charging range and fit additional batteries into a vehicle. The wBMS also enables vehicles to receive new features as software becomes available, much like a smartphone, with over-the-air updates provided by GM’s Vehicle Intelligence Platform (VIP). VIP is available now, and will be rolled out to 29 additional vehicle models by 2023.

Finally, the wBMS will help us bring Ultium-powered EVs to market faster, as time will not be needed to develop specific communications systems or redesign complex wiring schemes for each new vehicle. Instead, the wBMS will enable the scalability of Ultium batteries across GM’s future lineup. It will be a primary driver of GM’s ability to ultimately power many different types of EVs from a common set of battery components.

Even with the accelerated pace of EV innovation, there is room for more in the future. Already, we are envisioning a future of zero cobalt and zero nickel batteries. We are working on cathodes that have zero cobalt in order to lower costs and solve potential supply constraints. Similarly, we are working on cathodes that have zero nickel, the second-most-expensive cathode material.

Integrating Battery Safety

Safety is just as much of a priority in the design of EVs as it is in ICE vehicles. We have a dedicated high-voltage battery safety team with a key goal to protect the battery in a crash, much as we protect fuel systems in ICE-powered vehicles. Our batteries are packaged below the seating area and designed to be an integral part of the vehicle structure that helps to protect the occupants’ safety cage in case of a crash. We developed crash evaluations to assess the unique characteristics of a high-voltage battery system, and our process includes shutting down and isolating the electrical system in the event of a crash or flood to avoid shock risk. We played key roles in leading standards committees on battery safety through organizations like the Society of Automotive Engineers International and intend to remain an industry leader in this area.

With our next generation of proprietary technology, the potential for million-mile battery life for shared mobility usage models is real. Our battery R&D team is innovating to give customers more range at lower costs. Already, we are developing cells that are almost twice the energy density of the Ultium battery cell and that could enable 500- to 600-mile estimated ranges in the future.

In first quarter 2021, we announced a joint development agreement with SolidEnergy Systems to improve the energy density of lithium-ion batteries. Together, we plan to build a prototyping facility that aims to have a high-capacity, pre-production battery by 2023.

Partnerships to Advance Progress

Beyond our own operations, we are also developing EVs and supporting technology in collaboration with other automotive OEMs, which helps to improve efficiencies and scale. Manufacturing and joint ventures allow us to excel in operational equipment efficiency, first-time quality and waste recycling. We also enjoy the benefits of shared value chains in terms of supply cost advantages.

In 2020, we announced a partnership with Honda, focused on joint development of two new vehicles leveraging the Ultium platform. This announcement builds upon our ongoing relationship with Honda that includes work on fuel cells; the Cruise Origin, a purpose-built, all-electric, and shared self-driving vehicle; and battery module development. Further extending this collaboration, we have announced our intention to work with Honda to establish a North American automotive alliance.

We also are supplying our Hydrotec fuel cell power cubes to Navistar for use in its production model fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV)—the International®RH™ Series. The FCEV will get energy from two GM Hydrotec fuel cell power cubes. These compact and easy to package power sources can be used in a wide range of applications, including marine, earth-moving and mining equipment, locomotives and power generators.

Advantages of GM Hydrotec Fuel
Cell Power Cubes

RAPID REFUELING

Hydrogen-fueled vehicles can refuel rapidly and carry heavy cargo due to the system’s efficiency in storing electrons.

CLEAN

A zero-emissions alternative to diesel engines that work multiple shifts, require rapid refueling and travel with heavy payloads.

FLEXIBLE

Fits into a wide range of applications, including submarines, locomotives, port equipment, airport ground equipment and power generators.

It complements GM’s Ultium batteries or other Li-Ion batteries.

Easy to package

Compact and features clever integration, with packaging advantages few competitive systems can match, including the ability to fit under a flat floor. It can fit into Class 5, 6, 7 or 8 trucks.

DURABLE

Performs in even the harshest environments.