GM Hikes Spending on EVs, Battery Plants, Self-Driving And Fuel Cells

Gm Hikes Spending On Evs, Battery Plants, Self Driving And Fuel Cells
Chevrolet
Chevrolet Bolt EUV
GM CEO Mary Barra says the company will build 1 million EVs by 2025, including the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, or crossover. Chevrolet

General Motors today said it’s increasing spending on autonomous and electric vehicles by an additional 75% by 2025. That’s an increase of another $35 billion compared to GM’s announced plans pre-pandemic.

The increased spending will cover, among other things, the addition of two more U.S. battery plants, on top of the two the automaker previously announced. Those alone would double the number of lithium-ion manufacturing facilities currently operating in the United States.

“We are investing aggressively in a comprehensive and highly-integrated plan to make sure that GM leads in all aspects of the transformation to a more sustainable future,” GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement ahead of the Wednesday announcement. 

GM has rapidly accelerated its investments in EVs and AVs over the last year, with the figure starting at $20 billion in March 2020. It upped that to $27 billion last November. The investments cover a range of new technologies, including not only battery-cars but self-driving vehicles being developed by its Cruise LLC subsidiary, and its Hydrotec hydrogen fuel-cell system.

GM: We’ll Sell 1 Million EVs by 2025

The company now expects to sell more than 1 million all-electric vehicles by 2025, Barra said. It so far has launched only two: the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Bolt EUV (main photo). But it has revealed a number of others, including the Chevrolet Hummer EV pickup and Hummer SUV, the Cadillac Lyriq and an all-electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup. It expects to have at least 30 battery-electric vehicles in global showrooms by 2030.

“We are increasing our investment to scale faster because we see momentum building in the United States for electrification, along with customer demand for our product portfolio,” Barra said.

To meet that anticipated demand, GM also is adding more production of the new Ultium batteries that it has developed as part of a joint venture with South Korea’s LG Chem. The first of those plants will open later this year in Lordstown, Ohio, with a second now being readied in Spring Hill, Tennessee. GM said it will add two more Ultium plants but did not yet disclose where they will be located.

That delivers a significant boost to the overall U.S. production of lithium-ion batteries. Currently, there are 93 major plants dedicated to production of that technology in China, compared to just four in the U.S., according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. Boosting capacity is one of the goals of President Joe Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan.

The upgraded investment program follows on a vision GM laid out four years ago in which it foresaw what Barra called “a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.”

Approval for Autonomous-Car Testing in California

The increased spending targets that in several ways. The company today outlined plans to accelerate testing by Cruise of its autonomous vehicle technology. It this month received approval to begin using fully driverless vehicles to carry passengers in California. And it is launching an AV ridesharing service in Dubai. Technology developed by Cruise will also be used in a pilot program launched by Honda in Japan.

Honda has entered into several ventures with GM covering, among other things, autonomous vehicles and fuel-cell technology.

Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell 2007
GM fuel cell development stretches far back. Here, a Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell vehicle under test in 2007. Bill Howard

Fuel Cell Plans Include Locomotives, Stationary Power Supplies

They are preparing to launch a third-generation version of the Hydrotec hydrogen fuel-cell system and are looking for numerous new applications. Honda has been focused on automotive applications, among other things marketing a hydrogen-powered Clarity sedan. GM has focused on other opportunities, including stationary power supplies.

On Wednesday, the Detroit automaker announced a non-binding deal with Wabtec, a manufacturer of railroad locomotives. The Pittsburgh-based company recently began testing a battery-power model and plans to move forward on the development of both battery and fuel-cell powered locomotives using GM’s Ultium batteries and Hydrotec fuel-cell systems.

GM isn’t the only automaker accelerating its investment in EV and AV technologies. Ford recently announced its own upgraded program, as have a number of other, key competitors including Volkswagen and Toyota.

GM CFO Paul Jacobson today said in a call with reporters that GM remains committed to being all-electric by 2035, there will be “additonal programs” (car models) in GM’s EV / AV plans and GM was able to get some Q3 (July to September) chip deliveries shifted to the current quarter to reduce production cuts. Jacobson said more than half of all GM capital spending is now on electric and autonomous vehicles.