General Motors wants to do better at telling the story of its electric vehicle development.
So GM leaders invited about 150 journalists to an “EV day” Wednesday, showing 11 future EVs in its Design Dome at the Warren Technical Center. GM did not allow any photographs of the vehicles or provide any to the media.
The upcoming GMC Hummer pickup hulked in one corner of the dome and the Cadillac Lyriq, a futuristic SUV, was shown across the aisle.
“We want to put everyone in an EV and we have what it takes to do it,” GM CEO Mary Barra said.
What it takes is technology that GM said it’s inventing to dominate other electric car companies such as Tesla.
For example, GM said it has developed new battery modules, called Ultium, that will reduce the cost to make the batteries and help consumers afford EVs. GM has devised a flexible global platform, too, that allows it to make a variety of powerful EVs to meet all customer needs. They will have better charging time and give more vehicle range than current EVs do.
The goal of all of this is to make sure the EVs are profitable for GM. Barra worked to assure investors the strategy will create new revenue.
“What we have done is build a multi-brand, multi-segment EV strategy with economies of scale that rival our full-size truck business with much less complexity and even more flexibility,” said Barra.
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GM’s electric lineup
GM will offer 20 new EVs for sale by 2023, said GM President Mark Reuss. Those will be available in the United States and China. GM said it targets selling 1 million EVs a year between those two markets in five years.
GM will spend $20 billion between now and 2025, about $3 billion a year, on EV development, Barra said.
Here are the upcoming GM EV plans:
- A new version of the Chevrolet Bolt will launch later this year.
- A 2022 Chevrolet Bolt electric utility vehicle will launch in summer of 2021. This will be the first vehicle outside of Cadillac to offer hands-free driving Super Cruise technology.
- GM will expand Super Cruise to 22 vehicles by 2023, including 10 next year. It’s currently only offered on the Cadillac CT6 sedan and the 2021 Escalade SUV.
- Cruise Origin self-driving EV was shown to the public in January and continues testing. It will be built at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant.
- Cadillac will reveal the Lyriq EV SUV in April and details about its production launch at that time.
- GMC Hummer EV will be revealed via live-stream on www.gmc.com on May 20 and begin production in September 2021 at Detroit-Hamtramck plant.
During the UAW contract negotiations last fall, union leaders worried that a proliferation of EV development would endanger hourly production jobs because EVs require less manpower to assemble. But Barra said GM’s EV strategy will support jobs.
“Does technology change and this becomes more efficient to build? Yes. But there are opportunities to grow employment with market share growth,” said Barra. “We had the Detroit-Hamtramck team in here last week and they couldn’t be more excited.”
Tell a better tale
The designs for the 10 EVs GM showed the media all reflect sleek, athletic and futuristic exteriors with technology-laden interiors.
Cadillac’s entire lineup could be electric by 2030. To launch that will be the Cadillac Lyriq SUV.
The silver concept of the Lyriq sat beside the concept of another future Cadillac EV, the Celestiq sedan, a stunning pearl white aerodynamic sedan with a long front hood and a hatchback tail. The car will be built by hand, locally, Reuss said.
“This is a dream car for the company and its customers,” said Reuss.
The cars will be the “new face of Cadillac,” designers said. The black-crystal grille on the Lyriq flows into the headlamps and surrounds the Cadillac logo in its center. Its roof slants slightly toward the tail with a wide wheelbase giving it an athletic stance. It sits on 23-inch wheels. It has a split-vertical tail line along the rear trunk area that will also be a new signature design for Cadillac.
Inside, the Lyriq has a 34-inch curved LED center display screen to give it an open cockpit atmosphere for both the driver and passenger to interact with it. Gone is a transmission tunnel, providing an area for extra storage space. Mass production of the Lyriq will start in the second half of 2021.
There was also a Buick EV on display. It is not yet named. It will reflect the new “more sculpted” face of Buick. It had a wide black grille with slanted headlights positioned above the grille area.
The new GMC Hummer pickup was shown in white. The vehicle is designed to be the future flagship of the GMC brand, GM said. It was a boxy crew cab body with Hummer’s signature wide, sporty stance, fat tires, a low-slung roof line and short rear bed. It comes with a removable tarp top.
Reuss declined to give a starting price for the Hummer saying GM is still calculating it. The pricing on the vehicle is challenging because there is no existing Hummer to compare it to, said Reuss. But it will be a vehicle that will sell slightly lower volume than GM’s full-sized truck program and it will command “a premium in its pricing.”
Next to it was the concept for the GMC Hummer SUV with its upright windshield and off-road capability.
“The message here is the reinvention of Cadillac, the reinvention of Chevrolet, the reinvention of Buick. … This is a real transformation of the company,” said Reuss. “Now we just have to tell our story. We have to tell our story better than we have been.”
New Ultium Batteries
GM holds about 3,000 patents related to vehicle electrification, Reuss said. But to capture Wall Street’s attention and compete with electric carmaker Tesla, Reuss said GM has to tell investors about its advances in chemistry for new batteries and motor configurations that enable GM to offer a wide variety of vehicles to consumers.
Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas said he forecast Tesla to grow EV sales in 10 years by four times they are now. But GM’s EV sales will grow 30 times what they are today, said Jonas in an investor note Wednesday.
“GM has a chance to show serious leadership in decarbonizing its auto fleet … with a positive impact on earnings and multiple,” said Jonas. “GM is our top pick.”
Morgan Stanley forecast global electric vehicle penetration to hit 11% by 2025, 24% by 2030 and 70% by 2040. For GM specifically, Jonas said EV sales will rise from less than 1% of its vehicles sold now to 4% by 2025, around 20% by 2030 and up to 70% by 2040.
To achieve those gains, GM’s EV strategy will center on a modular propulsion system and a flexible global EV platform powered by new and proprietary Ultium batteries, Reuss said.
GM engineers invented the Ultium batteries to have 60% more capacity for power than the current batteries used in the Chevrolet Bolt. The are also “large-format, pouch-style cells” that can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside a battery pack, allowing for them to fit into different designs of vehicles and to offer different power.
So, for example, the Hummer electric pickup will use 24 battery modules both stacked and laid side-by-side to give it the 1,000 horsepower it will offer.
The Ultium batteries will cost GM less to scale its EV business to its current internal combustion costs because GM can leverage its existing property, including land, buildings, tools and production equipment to incorporate it.
The batteries will be made at a facility near Lordstown, Ohio, that GM is building and has partnered with LG Chem to operate. GM will break ground on the plant this spring and when done, it’ll be about the size of 30 football fields, GM said.
Fill ‘er up
The Ultium energy options range from 50 to 200 kWh, which means a GM EV could achieve a driving range of up to 400 miles or more on a full charge with 0 to 60 mph acceleration as low as 3 seconds, GM said.
“We focused on giving customers more range at lower cost,” said Reuss. “It starts with the state of the chemistry.”
The motors will be designed in-house and can support front-wheel, rear-wheel, all-wheel and performance all-wheel drive transmissions, GM said. They use higher nickel and lower cobalt properties, which brings down the cost of raw materials to make them.
The new batteries are designed for Level 2 and DC fast-charging capability. Most regular homes have level 1 and level 2 outlets. Level 2 is what would power a typical washer and dryer.
Most GM EVs will have 400-volt battery packs and up to 200kW fast-charging capability. GM’s truck platform will have 800-volt battery packs and 350 kW fast-charging capability. That means using the public DC fast-charging stations, in just 10 minutes, a customer can charge these vehicles enough to travel 100 miles, said Rick Spina, GM’s vice president of EV commercialization.
The average cost for a customer to charge a future EV at a public DC fast-charger would equate to about $3 a gallon spent now for gasoline, said Alex Keros, lead architect for GM’s EV infrastructure. What that means is if a person recharges a car for say 30 minutes while in a grocery store, the cost to do that is under $10 and it would provide 250 miles of range. Whereas in an internal combustion engine car, for about $10, a driver might get 3 or 4 gallons of gas, which would provide 60 to 80 miles if the car gets 20 miles per gallon.
If a customer charges at home that’s cheaper than using a public charging station so the cost is closer to $1 to $2 paid per gallon of gasoline, he said.
Spina said with GM’s goal to sell 1 million EVs in North America and China by 2025, it will mean the present number of public charging stations will need to double from the roughly 25,000 level 2 charging spots in the U.S. and Canada and 2,800 DC fast-charge locations.
GM is working with companies that provide such charging locations by using OnStar customer data to show, anonymously, customers’ general driving and parking trends to determine where charging stations should be added. GM is not paying to install the chargers nor profiting on the customer cost to use them, Spina said.
“We don’t want to be in the charger business; we don’t want to own them,” said Spina.
Bringing down costs
GM said the new batteries, along with a flexible approach to EV development, will drive economies of scale and create new revenue opportunities.
For example, there are presently about 555 internal combustion engines and powertrain combinations in production. The EV architecture will whittle it down to 19, said Reuss. The new EV batteries and other technology will allow GM to offer 235 horsepower to 1,000 horsepower propulsion to various vehicles, he said.
GM has a dedicated high-voltage safety team in place to work on ways to protect the batteries and electrical systems from shocking or injuring passengers in the event of a crash or flood, Reuss said.
GM said its joint venture with LG Chem to build batteries will help GM drive down battery cell costs below $100/kWh.
This is all good news for Wall Street analysts who viewed GM’s “EV Day” to be an important update on GM’s strategy.
In an investor note Monday, Credit Suisse’s Dan Levy said GM has an advantage over its rivals in the electric car arena, still, “The push to an EV world will be tough for all legacy (automakers) … including GM,” Levy wrote, noting the battery pack costs must decline by 50% to reach parity with powertrain costs, downsizing engine and transmission plants and budgets must still be balanced against continued production of internal combustion engines.
GM might roll out a solid EV strategy, Levy said but, “We believe the ultimate proof-point of success in GM’s EV strategy is if the volumes materialize and GM is able to challenge Tesla for share in the U.S. EV market, as Tesla has been until now the only game in town in the U.S. EV market.”
In March 2019, GM said it will spend $300 million to build a new electric car at its Orion Assembly Plant north of Detroit. But GM’s Barra declined to release any details about the new EV or timing on the investment. A GM spokesman said the investment will unfold over the next two to three years.
GM said it plans to add about 400 workers at the Orion factory, which currently builds the electric Chevrolet Bolt, autonomous vehicles for GM’s Cruise unit, and the Chevy Sonic compact car.