GM’s Soft Pouch Batteries Promise Low Cost Power Boost

General Motors is basing its future BEV strategy on battery packs of soft pouch construction it claims will cut production costs and boost range to 400 miles.

Using Ultium batteries developed by Korean manufacturer LG Chem, the automaker claims its new modular propulsion system and a highly flexible, third-generation global EV platform will allow the its EVs to appeal to every carbuyer in the market today. Unlike existing rigid battery cells, the Ultium batteries are large-format, pouch-style cells that can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack. This allows engineers and designers to tailor battery energy storage and layout to individual chassis design.

The battery’s energy options range from 50 to 200 kWh, which GM claims will offer a range up to 400 miles or more on a full charge with 0 to 60 mph acceleration as low as 3 seconds. Motors designed in-house will support front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and performance all-wheel drive applications.

Its EVs will be designed for Level 2 and DC fast charging. Most will have 400-volt battery packs and up to 200 kW fast-charging capability while its truck platform will have 800-volt battery packs and 350 kW fast-charging capability. It says the new system using low cobalt chemistry will drive economies of scale and create new revenue streams including achieving battery cell costs below $100/kWh.

The Cruise Origin, a self-driving, electric shared vehicle, debuted in January in San Francisco, was the first product revealed using GM’s third generation EV platform and Ultium batteries. Next will be the Cadillac Lyriq luxury SUV in April. The reveal of the Ultium-powered GMC Hummer will follow in May. Production is expected to begin in the autumn of 2021 at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant.

Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO, said: “Our team accepted the challenge to transform product development at GM and position our company for an all-electric future. 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.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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