GM’s New Electric Car Battery Named Ultium Poised To Lead EV Sector
In a major challenge to electric car leader Tesla, General Motors announced it has created a new electric vehicle battery that offers up to 400 miles of range and will be cheaper to produce than today’s batteries.
The new battery cells will hold enough energy to potentially power a car for 400 miles or more on a single charge, the company announced Wednesday. That’s slightly more driving range than any car Tesla offers. Tesla claims a range of 390 miles for the latest version of its Model S Long Range sedan.
GM’s new battery cells will be used in several of its new fully electric models, including a recently unveiled self-driving electric car, the Cruise Origin, and a future Cadillac luxury SUV. GM also hopes to license its battery technology to other companies.
The announcement was part of a broader presentation on the company’s aggressive plans for electric vehicles.
“GM is building toward an all-electric future because we believe climate change is real,” GM CEO Mary Barra said during a presentation for media and investors.
She said the company would be investing more than $3 billion annually in electric vehicle research and development between 2020 and 2025.
“We want to put everyone in an EV, and we have what it takes to do it,” Barra said.
Cheaper and more flexible batteries
The new battery cells, which GM named Ultium, are soft, flat pouches. (Electric vehicle batteries can have different forms. Tesla battery cells, for instance, are hard cylinders.) Usually, these sorts of pouch cells have to be lined up in horizontal rows with the pouches standing on edge like books in a bookshelf. The Ultium cells can be used that way or they can be stacked up vertically with the pouches laying on their sides. This gives car designers more flexibility because it allows the battery pack, which is made up of lots of these cells, to have a greater variety of shapes.
The Ultium battery cell uses a minimal amount of cobalt, an expensive ingredient for electric vehicle batteries, and that factor, combined with continuing manufacturing improvements, will drive prices down, the company said.
GM promised the new battery cells will quickly come down in price to below $100 per kilowatt hour. Batteries make up a very large part of an electric vehicle’s cost and $100 per kilowatt hour is often cited by industry analysts as the threshold that will enable electric cars to become truly cost competitive with traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.