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AutoMatters & More: Electrifying General Motors

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, Consumer Technology Association
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, Consumer Technology Association

In his introduction to the General Motors keynote at CES 2021, we learned from Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, that General Motors’ vision of transportation is one in which there are zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. To do this requires a massive investment in electronic and self-driving vehicles and infrastructure, “spending $27 billion through 2025 to develop EVs and AVs” (electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles), and retool auto manufacturing plants, creating thousands of new, green tech jobs.

Mary Barra is chairman and CEO of General Motors. She is leading GM’s efforts to reimagine transportation in the years ahead. In the General Motors keynote, she and others explained GM’s strategy for achieving their ambitious, worldwide transportation goals.

Mary Barra, chairman and CEO, General Motors
Mary Barra, chairman and CEO, General Motors

The key to GM’s vision for the future of transportation is electrification, to “help reduce emissions and power the advanced systems and connectivity between vehicles and transportation infrastructure to help reduce congestion and crashes.” General Motors’ pioneering efforts in vehicle electrification included the introduction at CES 25 years ago of the Chevrolet Volt, “the world’s first affordable long range EV.”

Currently, “global EV market penetration stands around 3 percent.” GM believes that is about to change, that we are at “an inflection point, the moment when our world’s reliance on gas and diesel-powered vehicles will begin transitioning to an all-electric future.”

Ultium battery pack
Ultium battery pack

Mei Cai, technical fellow and Lab Group manager of GM, explained that to meet this challenge, GM is introducing a new electric vehicle platform. It is called Ultium. You’ll be hearing a lot about the Ultium vehicle platform in the coming years. It is “a combination of groundbreaking battery architecture, highly flexible electrical propulsion systems, and the common high energy battery cell that will power our entire range of next generation electrical vehicles.”

“Whereas Lithium ion batteries typically use a blend of nickel, manganese and cobalt to produce reliable power, Ultium’s battery chemistry reduces the reliance on cobalt by 70 percent through adding aluminum, thereby addressing the challenges of sourcing sufficient cobalt to match the growth in demand as the number of EVs on the road increases.” A “single common cell design can be used across all vehicles, optimized to provide sufficient power for multiple vehicle designs. The cells will produce 60 percent more energy capacity than our existing electrical battery cells and use a flat rectangle approach design that reduces the space between cells and can be stacked more efficiently into modules for higher energy density in a smaller space.” GM is “manufacturing those cells in-house as part of a joint venture with LG Chem.”

Platform adaptable to multiple vehicle designs
Platform adaptable to multiple vehicle designs

“General Motors will be the first automaker to use an almost completely wireless battery management system for its production of electric vehicles.” Each vehicle’s battery pack is “a structured enclosure which doubles as part of the vehicle’s chassis and protects the cell from damage in the event of a crash,” and incorporates six, eight, 10 or 24 modules “in a single pack, depending on the power requirements of the vehicle.”

“The end result of all of these innovations is a battery that will produce up to 450 miles of range on a single charge and nearly 40 percent less cost and 25 percent less weight than our current EV batteries.”

This battery technology will be combined with “an incredibly flexible propulsion system called Ultium Drive, which uses five interchangeable drive units to deliver front, rear, or all-wheel drive from a single system.”

Innovative digital electrical architecture
Innovative digital electrical architecture

“We are working on our next gen, high energy battery chemistry that will reduce the reliance on cobalt and nickel even further, while reducing cost by 60 percent compared to the current batteries, providing 500 to 600 mile range on a single charge.”

Of course, vehicle electrification involves much more than the battery technology, containing “many advanced technologies like driver assist features that draw on the vehicle’s electrical bandwidth.” GM’s Vehicle Intelligence Platform “is a new, innovative digital, electrical architecture that provides more rapid communications between the vehicle’s system and to the outside world and is capable of managing 4.5 terabyte data processing power per hour, a five-fold increase in capability over GM’s current electrical architecture. VIP will serve as the software foundation for our EV ambitions, and will be integrated into nearly every GM vehicle globally by 2023.”

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Copyright © 2021 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #675


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