General Motors is constructing a new battery research facility in Michigan roughly 300,000 ft², in a bid to build long-range, rapid-charge, and more ecologically tenable vehicles.
But in a move to exceed the competition, GM aims to build batteries capable of “up to 1,200 watt-hours per liter,” to support electric vehicles with a staggering range of 500 miles, or even 600 miles, according to a recent press release from the company.
This is exciting, but, with skepticism from some experts, it might be wise to take this with a grain of aspirational salt.
GM’s ambitious 600-mile EV range exceeds earlier goals
The automaker wants the new pilot for assembly lines to become “one of the only ones in North America that can use large format prototype cells, up to a meter wide or even wider than that, with uniform stacked electrodes,” said Vice President Ken Morris of GM’s electric and autonomous vehicles, according to a report from The Verge. GM wants to manufacture batteries that support an energy density of “up to 1,200 watt-hours per liter,” said Morris, in the report. “And that means that you can easily have a 500- or 600-mile vehicle on a single charge that’s possible, creating a new reality for our customers.”
For context, this would place the forthcoming GM batteries beyond the range initially advertised for its Ultium battery architecture, which the automaker said would enable a range of “400 miles or more,” according to the report. When the Ultium batteries were first announced, the company said the design would center on large-format, pouch-style cells, which are distinct from the cylindrical ones typically seen in Tesla and other EVs. This means the batteries can stack horizontally or vertically within the battery pack, depending on the situation.
“With these high-energy-density, low-cost vehicles, we really think we can have a better package that’s less mass, better for the vehicle, better for the customer, and it can be the reality as quickly as we can through the Wallace Innovation Center,” exlpained Morris in the report. GM’s first-gen Ultium batteries will show up in the Hummer EV, which should enter production next year. The Wallace Center is currently preparing to serve as the creation site for variants expected to break drastically from the modern-day lithium-ion standard.
GM plans to meet its carbon-neutral goal by 2040
“The Wallace Center is going to be a colocation of development engineers, research engineers, and manufacturing engineers, where we’re going to accelerate this next generation,” said Morris. “Technology like lithium metal or pure silicon anodes, even solid-state batteries.” As implied, GM’s forthcoming “innovation center” isn’t a conventional manufacturing facility for batteries, per se. Instead, it will enable the company to try various production styles.
GM became the largest car manufacturer in the North American continent using combustion engines, but that has to end because the evidence linking climate change to industrial practices and fossil fuels has become undeniable. This means GM, along with nearly every other automotive giant is scaling production of electric vehicles, so they can remain competitive in the carbon-neutral automotive market, which aims to go completely carbon-neutral by 2040. GM aims to stop selling light-duty gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2035, which means effective, reliable, and long-range batteries are crucial to the automaker’s future.