Of the two remaining purely American car companies, General Motors is the one that relied on electric cars modeled on Tesla earlier and more decisively than Ford. While Ford only recently announced that it would also check the production of its own battery cells, GM made the decision this spring. Last week, the group with major US brands such as Buick and GMC also announced that it would once again significantly increase its investments in electric cars in order to become number 1 in North America (i.e. before Tesla). And by the middle of the decade, GM wants to use a new battery chemistry that no one has yet got a grip on.
GM aims to outperform Tesla in North America
GM now plans to invest $ 27 billion in electric and autonomous cars by 2025, 35 percent more than previously planned, the company announced at a virtual investor conference last week. By the middle of the decade, 30 all-electric cars will be offered worldwide, said CEO Mary Barra, and by then they should account for 40 percent of its own sales. The company is “rapidly building a competitive advantage in batteries, software, vehicle integration and customer experience”.
Whether this really means a lead over Tesla, for example, is not certain, but GM also announced that the Ultium batteries developed together with LG Chem would enable ranges of up to 450 miles (724 km); so far the talk had been of 400 miles. The company’s own technology is supported by hundreds of patents and applications for it and will bring electric cars closer to price equality with combustion engines, it said.
In view of the many new figures and plans, another statement from GM at the conference, as reported on medium.com, received little attention: The next generation of its own Ultium batteries will have a lithium metal anode from the middle of the decade. That was “the real big news” of the event.
Incentive for almost impossible batteries
Similar to Tesla or even stronger, GM seems to have set itself the almost impossible here. Lithium metal has been the holy grail of the battery world for almost half a century because of its enormous energy density, the medium article continues. So far, however, no one has managed to get a grip on the negative aspects of this principle, such as the risk of fire and short circuits. The startup Quantumscape with its German partner Volkswagen is also moving in the direction of lithium metal.
With the new GM anode, the cost of electric car batteries at the level of the finished battery pack should fall well below $ 100 per kilowatt hour – the value is considered the decisive threshold for price competitiveness with conventional cars. Battery experts interviewed by the Medium author described a start with lithium metal by 2025 as almost impossible – but not entirely: Because enormous growth is now expected in batteries, there are also enough incentives to tackle such a complex topic, said Paul Albertus, professor at the University of Maryland.