The race to be the first to produce a “million-mile” electric vehicle battery seemingly has come down to two players: General Motors Co. and Tesla Inc. A top GM executive noted the company is “almost there” during an online conference Tuesday.
Doug Parks, GM’s executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, revealed the status of the company’s efforts for the benchmark battery while talking to investors and analysts at Citi’s “2020 Car of the Future” conference. He didn’t offer an estimate as to when the battery would be completed, but he did say the company has multiple teams working on the project.
EV maker Tesla has been making noise about its own million-mile battery, developed in partnership with Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd., or CATL, that uses less cobalt, which helps lower the costs.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been teasing a “Battery Day” where investors, analysts and others would travel to the company’s headquarters or Gigafactory to talk about all things battery, including the seven-digit mileage wonder. Some even thought he might use the event to unveil one, but the event has been postponed indefinitely due to the current pandemic.
Conversely, GM recently made news about its new efforts to produce batteries with improved range and longer life. It’s calling those batteries Ultium. It unveiled those in a far-ranging event talking about batteries as well as its overall electrification plans.
In addition to suggesting a million-miler was close, it was also revealed in a separate investor conference that GM’s joint venture with LG Chem near Lordstown, Ohio, will be called Ultium Cells LLC. GM and LG Chem are ways to reduce costs, according to Adam Kwiatkowski, executive chief engineer of GM’s electric propulsion systems, who spoke at Evercore’s EV Mobility Virtual Conference, including investing in the mines that produce the raw materials for batteries and hedging on metal prices.
GM’s new battery efforts have the company re-examining everything about batteries. In fact, the new Ultium batteries will be pouch shaped, rather than the more traditional, cylindrical form adopted by manufacturers such as Tesla, the company noted during the event introducing them in March.
This configuration results in more flexibility in the way they can be laid out, being stacked either horizontal or vertically. The result can impact the shape of a battery pack, as well as the amount of power it can provide.
GM claims it will be able to produce packs of anywhere from 50 to 200 kilowatt-hours — the latter being nearly twice as large as any battery pack currently on the market. In turn, the automaker announced that this “could enable a GM-estimated range up to 400 miles or more on a full charge with 0 to 60 mph acceleration as low as 3 seconds.”
The new batteries are also designed to reduce cost. The company’s current powerpacks were around $145 per kWh for the Chevrolet Bolt EV when it launched a few years ago, GM President Mark Reuss said during the presentation. GM now says it expects to produce the Ultium batteries for “below $100 per kWh.” The automaker intends to sell 1 million electric vehicles a year in 2025 in the United States and China.