General Motors unveils $20bn electric vehicle transition plan

Pictured: The updated version of Chevrolet's Bolt EV. Image: GM

Unveiled at a company meeting late last week, the strategy targets an “all-electric future” by for the US-based multinational, but stops short of setting a hard deadline on full portfolio electrification. 

It confirms that new pure EVs will be launched by GM’s four biggest brands – Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick – by the end of 2022. The first launches will be the Cadillac Lyriq, fully electric SUV, and an updated Bolt EV, under the Chevrolet brand.

The strategy also confirms that GM will funnel more investment in autonomous, shared EVs after it publicly debuted the first such vehicle in its portfolio – the Cruise Origin – in San Francisco earlier this year. Self-driving electric Cadillac SUVs and GMC Hummers will be revealed to the public within the first half of 2020.

At the company presentation, GM’s chief executive Mary Barra said the strategy was being launched now due to recent breakthroughs in the firm’s EV battery R&D.

The presentation was used to debut Ultium battery packs, which range from 50 to 200kWh and deliver an estimated range of 400 miles on a full charge. GM claims the batteries are designed for fast charging of up to 200kW for cars and 350kW for trucks, and that their design, whereby pouch-style cells can be stacked horizontally or vertically, optimises energy storage while prolonging battery lifespan.

GM developed the innovative batteries in collaboration with LG’s Chem arm. Mindful of the myriad of social and environmental impacts associated with the metals and minerals typically used to make EV batteries, they have been developed with a lower cobalt content than their predecessors and, GM said in a statement, will undergo ongoing technological and manufacturing developments with sustainability in mind.

Barra said at the presentation that while GM had previously forecast one million pure EV sales by 2025, “much higher demand” is now likely as green policies change, charging networks extend, EV technology costs fall and the costs associated with running a petrol or diesel vehicle increase. Between 2025 and 2030, GM is predicting that it will sell around three million pure EVs.

She also confirmed that the new Ultium battery packs will be manufactured in Ohio, where a new Gigafactory will be built to facilitate their production.

“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,” Barra said.

GM’s president Mark Reuss added that thousands of in-house scientists, engineers and designers will work to ensure the firm’s EV transition is profitable, claiming that the move to all-electric will be a “historic reinvention of the company” “that can satisfy millions of customers”.

Five key considerations for businesses investing in electric vehicles

Last month, edie hosted a masterclass webinar on the EV transition, providing those looking to accelerate the electrification of their organisation’s fleet with best-practice advice. 

The session, hosted in association with EDF, is now available to watch on-demand. You can also read a written roundup of the webinar’s five key takeaways here. 

Sarah George

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