It has been a busy few days for GM, with the revealing of the brand new Hummer electrical SUV on April 3, adopted three days later by the announcement of an electrical Chevy Silverado truck.

Each of those autos promise large energy – 1,000 horsepower and a sub-three-second 0-60 time for the Hummer – and an extended vary – greater than 400 miles for the Silverado. They are going to each obtain this through the use of a type of GM’s new Ultium battery platform.

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Introduced a yr in the past, in March 2020, the Ultium platform is to turn out to be the spine of over a dozen new electrical automobiles and vans to be introduced by GM over the approaching years. With a $27 billion dedication introduced by GM in 2020, the corporate hopes to launch 30 electrical autos (EVs) globally by the tip of 2025.

Key to this mission would be the flexibility of the modular Ultium platform. GM says it may be remodeled into 19 totally different battery and drivetrain configurations, together with battery capability choices between 50kWh and 200kWh – the latter being double that of as we speak’s largest Tesla.

The Ultium platform also can function utilizing both the 400 or 800 volt architectures, with 200kW and 350kW charging charges respectively, the latter being nicely above Tesla’s present 250kW ceiling. GM’s electrical autos could be front-, rear- or all-wheel-drive, because of having one, two and even three electrical motors.

On the subject of charging, nonetheless, Tesla’s Supercharger remains to be far-and-away the superior choice in comparison with the quite a few public charging networks provided throughout the US and Europe. GM is working with EVgo to construct its US charging community, whereas Rivian just lately introduced plans for a Tesla-style, 10,000-charger community of its personal.

What vary will GM autos have?

GM estimates its electrical autos may have as much as 450 miles of vary, though that is but to be examined by the EPA. For context, the most recent Tesla Mannequin S Lengthy Vary has an estimated vary of 412 miles, rising to a claimed 520+ for the Plaid+ model, though that is not as a consequence of arrive till mid-2022. Rivian, an EV startup engaged on an electrical SUV and pick-up truck, is concentrating on 300 miles of vary this yr, then over 400 miles for fashions launched in 2022.

Being extremely modular is not distinctive to GM. The Volkswagen Group has its personal Modular Electrical Drive Matrix (MEB) and Mercedes has the MMA modular structure. However what GM hopes will set it aside is a unique method to the person cells of the battery, not simply the pack itself.

GMC EV HummerThe Ultium platform will give the electrical Hummer 1,000 horsepowerGMC

A special form of battery cell

Whereas Tesla and others fill their packs with cylindrical cells comparable in look to the AA batteries in your TV distant, GM and manufacturing associate LG Chem is utilizing pouch- and prismatic-style battery cells which might be flat and rectangular. The totally different form permits the cells to be organized horizontally or stacked vertically, with the previous suited to battery packs in common automobiles, and the latter being higher for bigger vans and SUVs.

Additionally key to GM’s battery plan is power density. Talking to IEEE Spectrum in late-2020, the automaker stated how the first-generation of Ultium batteries may have 60 % larger power density than the batteries utilized by GM’s first electrical automobile, the Chevrolet Bolt.

In a transfer additionally taken by Tesla, the batteries will use much less cobalt than earlier than, in GM’s case a 70 % discount for its Ultium batteries. This lowers producers prices, as cobalt in the most costly part of EV batteries, and in addition helps distance GM from a cloth that has been linked to baby labor.

Decreased manufacturing prices

In addition to excessive efficiency, quick charging and a lowered reliance on cobalt, GM says it hopes to decrease battery cell prices to beneath $100 per kWh, from its present degree of round $130/kWh. This might scale back the manufacturing value of the corporate’s bigger 200kWh battery packs from $26,000 to $20,000 – a saving that would finally be handed onto shoppers and end in extra reasonably priced EVs for all.

It is not doable but to say whether or not GM’s method is healthier or worse than that of Tesla and different electrical automobile producers. It additionally cannot be stated with any certainty whether or not drivers will discover any actual distinction in any respect, not less than till the primary autos powered by Ultium batteries hit the highway. However what’s essential is that GM is not less than taking a unique method, and this could encourage others to additionally go their very own manner.

If they do not, and each automobile producer makes use of the identical battery cells from the identical producer, sitting in the identical ‘skateboard’ chassis and powering the identical one or two motors, distinctions between car fashions, and even these from unrelated producers, shall be tougher to identify.

GM says how its Ultium platform affords 19 totally different mixtures of battery and drivetrain, which feels like lots till you be taught that GM at the moment has 550 mixtures of inner combustion powertrain.

Electrification will inevitably simplify the automotive market, however not less than the totally different approaches of GM, Tesla and others – Porsche with its two-speed gearbox, for instance, and Rivian’s revolutionary tow-charging system – will maintain issues fascinating, and above all guarantee shoppers nonetheless have a selection within the electrified many years to return.