General Motors wants to accelerate its battery development even more so its investing millions of dollars into the Wallace Battery Cell Innovation Center in Michigan.
The new site is located on the auto company’s Tech Center campus in Warren, Michigan. It’s also named after Bill Wallace, who led much of the company’s early battery efforts, its goal is to reduce the costs and improve the efficiency of GM’s batteries.
While not revealing how much money it plans to spend on the site, which is already under construction, the goal is have the facility close to where many other development functions occur while also working on the technology itself in order to produce batteries with longer range and lowering their costs by as much as 60%, officials said in a call Monday.
The site is expected to be completed in either the second or third quarter of next year, officials noted.
“The Wallace Center will significantly ramp up development and production of our next-generation Ultium batteries and our ability to bring next-generation EV batteries to market,” said Doug Parks, GM executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain.
“The addition of the Wallace Center is a massive expansion of our battery development operations and will be a key part of our plan to build cells that will be the basis of more affordable EVs with longer range in the future.”
Working with Ultium
The Wallace Center will allow GM to accelerate new technologies like lithium-metal, silicon and solid-state batteries, along with production methods that can quickly be deployed at battery cell manufacturing plants, including GM’s joint ventures with LG Energy Solution in Lordstown, Ohio, and Spring Hill, Tennessee, and other undisclosed locations in the U.S.
The company noted the facility will be flexible, allowing teams with different areas of expertise to come in and out as needed. It’s also going to be one of the few sites in North America to handle large format prototype cells — a large as a meter wide with uniform stacked electrodes.
“The uniform stacked electrodes appear to be the key manufacturing technology we need to have some of these breakthrough energy densities that we’re looking for in our next generation products,” said Tim Grewe, GM’s director of Global Battery Cell Engineering and Strategy, during the call.
“With this investment, we plan to have the ability to go up to 1200 Watt-hours per liter, and that means that you can easily have a 500- or a 600-mile vehicle on a single charge, creating a new reality for our customers.”
Additionally, the large format cells, which officials say the company will be the first to use, is critical to helping reduce battery costs as much as 60%, Grewe noted.
Building for the future
GM officials were tight lipped about how many new employees they would be adding to staff the facility, but said once at full capacity, there would be more than 1,000 employees on-site. They did allow the company is looking to add more software engineers — in general — and the Wallace center would certainly need more of those.
The 300,000-square-foot building was named after Bill Wallace, a longtime engineer. During his tenure, he helped marshal the resources necessary to advance GM’s early efforts to develop electric vehicles and the batteries.
As director of Battery Systems and Electrification, he led the team that designed and released GM’s advanced automotive battery systems in the Chevrolet Volt 1, Volt 2, Malibu Hybrid and Bolt EV. Wallace also pioneered GM’s relationship with LG Chem R&D (now LG Energy Solution), culminating in the Ultium Cells LLC battery cell manufacturing joint venture plants now under construction.
He continued working with the team after being diagnosed with terminal cancel, advancing the technology until his death in 2018.
“The Wallace Center is a fitting tribute to one of our key engineering leaders the century, and we’re thrilled to have the support of his wife Mary, and children,” said Ken Morris, vice president of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, who noted he’d known him since starting at the in 1989.