The newly developed GM Ultium batteries aren’t like cylindrical batteries that we have in our flashlights nor like the 12-v batteries we have under the hoods of our vehicles. These batteries are in rectangular pouches. While not exactly a great comparison, the pouch is not unlike that used for baby wipes, although there are connectors for the battery pouch and no plastic lid on top.
The new GM electric vehicle platform and battery system. The design lends itself to a variety of vehicle types. (GM Photo: Steve Fecht)
One of the advantages of the pouch approach, according to Andy Oury, a lead battery engineer at GM, is that the pouches can be packed into containers (a.k.a., the battery pack) horizontally or vertically. Which means that the battery pack design can be configured in a way appropriate to the demands of the vehicle.
In addition to which, the battery pouches can be added to or subtracted from a given system, thereby providing energy options from 50 to 200 kWh. Vehicles can have the right type of range.
What’s more, because the electronics are integrated into the pouches, which makes the overall wiring much simpler, it will be possible for GM engineers to change the chemistry of the battery (it is presently a nickel manganese cobalt aluminum chemistry; they’re working on one that will have far less cobalt): the electronics can be “told” what’s in the pouch and the settings accordingly adjusted.
GM, with its partner LG Chem, with which the vehicle manufacturer is building a $2.3-billion battery manufacturing facility in Lordstown, Ohio, are working to drive the cost of battery cells down below $100 per kWh.
GM’s Electric Vehicles
Of course, GM needs something to put those batteries into, so it is retooling the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant to manufacture electric vehicles—ranging from crossovers to the GMC HUMMER EV. Its designers and engineers are creating an array of electric vehicles, most of which will begin rolling out in 2021.
GM has developed its third-generation EV platform, which is capable of accommodating a range of vehicle types.
(The company anticipates that its existing offering, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, will have U.S. sales in 2020 on the order of 30,000 units, or an 80% increase over 2019.)
Autoline After Hours
All of this is discussed on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” where John McElroy and I are joined by Christie Schweinsberg, who covers electrification for Wards Intelligence, and Joe White, global automotive industry editor for Reuters.
We also discuss a variety of other topics, ranging from the Geneva Motor Show that didn’t happen because of COVID-19 to the potential impacts of the virus on the supply chain and 2020 auto sales.
And know that it is not all doom-and-gloom for the second half of the show. There are more than a few laughs.
You can see it all right here.
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