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General Motors New All-Electric Ultium Platform

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GM Electric Ultium Vehicle

General Motors is putting faith in its new Ultium platform, which will power almost all its electric car models by 2035 to power their future in electric vehicle manufacturing.

The business claims it is on the verge of reaching a 90% cheaper cost than current internal-combustion engine (ICE) costs—a threshold at which it will be finally profitable enough to transition away from ICE. The carmaker has committed to achieving this goal by introducing 30 new electric vehicles (EVs) worldwide by 2025. Also, GM estimates that heavy-duty trucks will be the only vehicles on the road in 2035 with tailpipes. The first vehicle to use the new Ultium platform will be the 2022 Chevy Silverado EV.

GM is collaborating with LG Energy Solution to manufacture this platform at two vast new sites in Ohio and Tennessee called Ultium Cell LLC. When both facilities are fully operational by the end of 2023, they will be able to produce 70 gigawatt-hours of battery capacity per year. According to our calculations, that’s the equivalent of around 190 million cells, or enough to power approximately 750,000 automobiles.

Ultium Cells LLC
Conceptual rendering of Ultium Cells LLC battery cell manufacturing facility in Lordstown, Ohio. Photo by GM Newsroom

What is the GM Ultium Platform?

The Ultium Platform will be flexible enough to fit on trucks and other large vehicles because of the modular battery packs paired with a drive unit. Ultimately, GM wants to create an affordable way for everyone to access an EV and help the environment.

By switching from Gas to Electric Motor, General Motors wants to eradicate gas emissions. Gas emissions are fumes made of carbon dioxide, nitrogen gas, and water vapor. They contribute to smog and climate change, otherwise known as global warming.

How Does the Ultium Work?      

The foundation of this idea is a huge, pouch-type lithium-ion cell with dimensions of about 23” x 4” x 0.4” and weighs only 3 pounds. An Ultium battery pack will contain between 50 Kilowatt-hour (kWh) and 200 kWh giving it a range of up to 450 miles. Additionally, each cell has a gross energy capacity of 0.37 kWh; this is sufficient to drive the first Ultium-powered vehicle, the massive GMC Hummer EV pick up from 2022, a little over half a mile.

General Motors also claims to be the only carmaker capable of either laying cells flat or standing them upright for the time being. This provides engineers with more freedom in designing a pack to follow the floorplan of a vehicle. GM organizes the cells into groups of 24 cells, creating a module. For example, one layer of a double-stacked battery pack has 12 modules linked up in series to provide one 400-volt, 100.0-kWh layer in the Hummer. The two layers are linked in parallel, resulting in a total net capacity of 200.0 kWh.

For example, in the Hummer, the top and bottom layers may be converted from a parallel to a series connection for a short period, thus doubling the voltage to 800. So, it can make use of the highest-capacity 800-volt Electrify America fast-charging stations, which are now available. The Hummer’s capacity to charge at 350 kilowatts implies drawing power more quickly than any other electric vehicle currently on the market.

Some other wins for GM’s Ultium Platform

  • GM is one of the first to deliver an all-electric Truck – the Chevy Silverado EV.
  • One-size-fits-all Ultium is more effective and quicker to fit into a vehicle
  • Cost-effective. GM’s Ultium has been able to lower the cost to $100/kWh, which is a big jump from 2010 when it was close to $1000/kw.

Fast Charging for Ultium

Ultium Platform Charging
General Motors and BrightDrop, a new business created and wholly-owned by GM that is reimagining commercial delivery and logistics for an all-electric future, today announced the Ultium Charge 360 fleet charging service, a comprehensive approach designed to help make the switch to electric seamless for fleet customers by connecting them with services, features, and resources. Photo by GM Media Room

Using a DC fast charger or frequently charging a battery to 100 percent capacity is the most prevalent cause of degradation, which reduces the span of a battery over time. Because of the rapid charging, fast-moving lithium ions might solidify in the cells, preventing them from traveling back and forth as the battery charges and discharges, resulting in short battery life.

Tim Grewe, General Motors’ Worldwide Electrification and Battery Systems Director, is making big promises about the Ultium battery pack. Grewe claims that no amount of DC fast charging would decrease its capacity or cause degradation.

Unlike Tesla and other companies, GM will not recommend that the battery should be charged less than 100 percent during everyday use. According to Grewe, the breakthrough is possible because of in-depth research, which includes the introduction of aluminum to the cell. He believes that the Ultium battery pack “will endure longer than the Bolt EV’s” and can last between 150,000 and 200,000 miles under real-world conditions.

Battery Monitoring for the Ultium Platform

To monitor the hundreds of individual cells inside a battery pack, manufacturers often use a tangle of cables. However, GM has devised a wireless monitoring system for the Ultium. Essential information like temperature and voltage are transmitted numerous times per second by each group of two or three cells linked in parallel with one another. Compared to the Bolt, this lowers the amount of wire in the pack by 80 percent, removing a potential source of warranty claims, improving packing, and simplifying the wiring harness. Furthermore, General Motors asserts that this configuration utilizes less electricity than a connected system.

GM has also developed its software in-house to control these systems and get what Grewe calls “some novel techniques.” One of those, he explained, is overmodulation of the systems; a clever compromise between switching and conduction losses is made when the power level is theoretically changed every 10 microseconds.

This implies that the motors have the potential to increase their limited efficiency sweet spot, which is about 97%, rather than merely fine-tuning their behavior for low-load circumstances that might be a drain on other units’ efficiency. It’s also possible to make them even more refined for stability and performance systems.

General Motors Ultium VS. Other EV Batteries

Electric Vehicles are all the rage in this Industrial Revolution. New York Times says that battery power will be the measurement that consumers use to judge and buy cars, similar to how we measured megapixels in the camera back in the 2000s.  

However, when electric vehicles first emerged, they were too expensive for many consumers. Only recently are car manufacturers attempting to make EVs more affordable, and General Motors has joined the race.            

The Ultium Battery Platform is GM’s attempt to move away from typical gas-powered cars and make Electric Vehicles available to everyone. But how does GM’s Ultium stand out amongst its competitors?

Ultium Vs. Tesla

The most notable competitor is Tesla, the leader in electric car sales, and they’re a tough one to beat. As of right now (April 1, 2022), Tesla has surpassed their record and delivered 310,000 vehicles in the face of challenges in Shanghai due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Still, despite their winning streak and impressive car models and batteries, many car manufacturers are trying to take their throne, including General Motors. However, with the Ultium platform, it doesn’t look like GM is too far behind, especially since they’re using the same battery supplier, LG Chem.

Even though they’re using the same battery supplier, the batteries are very different in size and power. While the new Ultium pouch type is only 3 pounds, it holds 20x the energy stored in Tesla’s compact cylindrical batteries. In comparison, Tesla has thousands of battery cells in their packs, but batteries from other EV manufacturers such as GM only have hundreds.

Additionally, both companies are reaching out and planning to license their technology to sell it to other car manufacturers. So, this very well could be a revolution in electrifying vehicles.

The overarching difference between these batteries is that GM’s Ultium is a one-size-fits-all lithium-ion pouch. Tesla uses cylindrical batteries that are fitted individually to each car. Which style will win the race in power and overall affordable production cost?

GM Ultium Vs. Porsche Taycan

Next up is the Porsche Taycan. In this case, General Motors could follow in their footsteps to save money. GM’s Ultium could get a quicker charge if the manufacturer switched the battery from 400 to 800 volts. Currently, the Taycan is the only electric vehicle (EV) on the market capable of charging at 800 volts but has a lower peak power of 270 kW.

Porsche’s battery system is like Ultium in some ways. For instance, they are both sporting pouch-type batteries, giving more flexibility and freedom when building the vehicles. Additionally, like the Ultium platform, the batteries for the Taycan are a component of the body structure. The waterproof housing for the batteries includes a cover on top and a bulkhead plate at the bottom.

Overall, it seems like GM has some tough competition when overtaking the Electric Vehicle Empire. Here at Driveway Enthusiast, we believe that the GM has a chance with its unique platform.

To Sum, it All Up

General Motors’ goal of making electric vehicles more accessible is definitely within reach. Here are some of GM’s promises about its future in the EV space.

  • Ultium will provide a nearly equal weight distribution throughout the car and a reduced center of gravity, resulting in a sporty, quick vehicle and energetic driving.
  • Ultium can travel long distances and quickly. Consider a 2022 GMC HUMMER EV Pickup that can accelerate from a GM-estimated 0 to 60 mph in three seconds or less.
  • Ultium’s engine will be very silent. As a result, the electric vehicle driving experience is quiet on the outside and peaceful inside. You could listen to your favorite podcast without skipping a beat.
  • The Ultium Platform, which is modular in design, will power electric vehicles of every sort and price range, ranging from luxury and performance vehicles to everyday commuters, pickup trucks, and SUVs.
  • The integration of charging networks, accessible GM mobile applications, and other goods and services are part of GM’s strategy to simplify and enhance the charging experience for customers.

So What Do You Think?

Will you buy the new Cadillac Lyriq or any other GM vehicle sporting the new Ultium platform?

What do you think of General Motors’ attempt at an all-electric future?

If you are wondering if an electric car is right for you then check out this article that reviews the total cost of ownership compared to other options.

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