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Flexibility on battery cells in the EV . ramp

GM has built a strong argument around the idea that a particular battery format, co-developed with LG, is key for the company to realize certain economies of scale as it ramps up electric vehicle production. .

But recent reports have suggested that GM is shopping around and may be looking into it switch to cylindrical cells for some upcoming vehicles. And while comments this week from the company’s top executive don’t confirm that, they suggest the company may no longer be as focused on that single solution as it was two years ago, when the company unveils Ultium propulsion strategy to scale electric vehicles.

During a conference call with financial analysts held on Tuesday, GM CEO Mary Barra confirmed that yes, the company is looking at other formats — as it has long been.

General Motors BEV3 Platform and Ultium Battery

General Motors BEV3 Platform and Ultium Battery

“One of the strengths of the Ultium platform is that it is chemically independent and it can take vesicles, prismatic or cylindrical cells,” says Barra. “And so we can look at what would be the right battery for a particular vehicle from a performance perspective, so we have complete flexibility.”

Barra calls the report on the commitment to cylindrical cells “speculative.” But she did comment a bit more on the idea at several points.

“Our team has been working on and looking at all three cell form factors for some time,” added Barra, in response to another follow-up question about cells. She shows how GM is currently installing prismatic cells in a number of Ultium-based vehicles made in China — the Cadillac Lyriq and at least one Buick model.”

One to rule them all

In the United States, GM has emphasized that their single large format pouch can be configured horizontally or vertically into modules, allowing single-layer or double-layer packages to be suitable for carrying from 6 up to 24 modules. That can underpin everything from midsize cars and sports cars to crossovers like Chevrolet Equinox EV worth $30,000to giant trucks like GMC Hummer EV and coming soon Chevy Silverado EV.

Chevrolet Silverado EV 2024 work truck prototype

Chevrolet Silverado EV 2024 work truck prototype

GM also confirmed in an update that it is still planning to ramp up production of the Silverado EV WT (Work Truck) for commercial customers this spring.

Particularly GM and Honda are working together on a The Ultium platform is suitable for compact vehicleswith the first cars due in 2027.

GM has emphasized that the industry-first wireless battery management system of the Ultium platform will make it easy to replace modules packed with different chemistries or cell types without the need to Completely redesigned package.

Electric Chevrolet Camaro may appear in GM Ultium introduction video

Electric Chevrolet Camaro may appear in GM Ultium introduction video

However, there are some actual packaging restrictions. However, its umbrella format—a larger pocket cell than any other automaker is using—has created some exceptionally tall package form factors. Switching to cylindrical cells could help lower their profile for passenger cars and make it easier to design vehicles for maximum aerodynamics and driving range.

What about economies of scale?

Financial analysts at GM’s quarterly meeting didn’t move the question to the next step — perhaps by pressing Barra about how such a decision might affect the cost of the cells. or horizon to achieve economies of scale, which the company does not yet have. t avoid talking about the past. GM said a few years ago that its Ultium strategy large format NCMA pocket cells—a co-development between GM and LG—is “invaluable” because it allows the automaker to continue reducing costs through economies of scale on a path to parity with internal combustion vehicles by the end of the decade.

The company has also revealed that it is conducting endurance testing on “next generation Ultium” cells that could be rolled out in the latter part of the decade—potentially to be easily applied. use thanks to the flexibility of the platform. Those people can further support affordability while providing the company with choice to prioritize cost or range 600 miles.

GM Ultium Battery

GM Ultium Battery

On Tuesday’s call, Barra called LG Energy Solution an “extremely important partner” to GM and reported that the two companies are working well together on launching plants in Lordstown, Ohio, an plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee this summer, and one in Spring Hill, Tennessee. in Lansing, Michigan, next in 2024.

“And we will need a fourth plant and many more… right now, nothing has really changed in our plans to have the ability to make batteries here in the United States and wider. is in North America,” says Barra.

GM may be waiting to see with that fourth plant for a number of potential reasons. Each of the three upcoming battery plants is aiming for 37 to 40 gigawatt hours annually. Once ramped up, they will provide enough capacity for more than a million electric vehicles per year.

Concept drawing of the Ultium Cells plant in Tennessee

Concept drawing of the Ultium Cells plant in Tennessee

For whatever reason, Barra did not reiterate that the fourth battery plant will produce the same cell format that is said to be key to economies of scale.

Whether this means the fourth plant can build cells in a different format – perhaps cylindrical – or whether GM is just delaying the decision depends on difficulties in implementing electric vehicle tax credit and domestic sourcing rules, it seems the automaker is keeping its options open.


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