GM's Battery Blitz: Ultium Batteries As the Skateboard of Battery Packs?

Coast2Coast

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GM introduced its new Ultium batteries when the pandemic was just getting going in March, so GM's new product announcement got lost in the noise. Now, GM is trying again. It's claiming it's close to milliion mile batteries, its new battery architecture reduces the use of cobalt by 70% at present, and future batteries will use even less cobalt, future batteries with the latest chemistries will be swappable into existing battery packs, so that new battery packs are compatible and interoperable with previous generation battery packs, that battery cells and modules can be managed one-by-one, and, not surprisingly, a BEV vehicle's battery management system (BMS) can be managed wirelessly.

GM's battery partner is LG Chem, a S. Korean firm also working with Tesla in China and one of two likely S. Korean battery partners with Rivian in Normal (the other being Samsung SDI).

Here's a YouTube video explaining GM's new battery initiative.

And here's GM's battery chief engineer saying pretty much the same things.
https://electrek.co/2020/05/19/gm-b...-capabilities-of-its-flexible-ev-pouch-cells/

Batteries are the guts of any BEV venture, and we're nearing a point where two interrelated issues of standardization and compatibility will have a huge industry impact. There are advantages and disadvantages to being a first mover as opposed to a fast follower when new technologies are developed. First movers at the leading edge are sometimes referred to as being at the "bleeding edge" because a lot of blood, sweat and tears await the first firms trying to commercialize new technologies. It's generally thought being a fast follower is preferred because they can capitalize on what first movers achieved without nearly as much blood, sweat and tears.

Batteries are a highly specialized product, and most auto companies don't try to make their own. Tesla and GM are exceptions though we don't know for sure how much of the battery chemistry, packs, architecture and BMS Tesla uses were developed in-house. It probably depends on which Tesla models, made where, and when because Tesla is willing to keep pushing ahead in its battery development program and to try out new battery chemistries and architectures.

The company or companies that can bring standardization and therefore economies of scale to BEVs will grab the brass ring. That's unlikely to be Rivian. It might be Tesla and, now, it could be GM or at least Tesla and GM appear to be front runners in the first mover contest. But note that neither Tesla nor GM are attempting to do batteries entirely on its own. Partnerships are key.

In Rivian's case, we hope it will partner with one of the front runners in the battery business. Rivian has enough resources not to put all of its eggs in one basket, however; that is, Rivian will hopefully follow a dual sourcing strategy of obtaining batteries from more than one supplier. This will minimize the threats of holdup, supply interruption and having chosen a supplier which isn't among the last men standing when the battery industry shakeout occurs. (This and other issues are discussed in other threads in this forum.)

For now, GM's announcements are good as long as GM can deliver what it's promising. BEVs will not become mainstream until their ownership costs equal or nearly equal ICE vehicle costs. And once BEV costs of ownership fall below those of ICEs, the auto industry will be reinvented as one powered by electricity.
 
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jjwolf120

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Tesla isn't making batteries on their own, they have partners. Panasonic in the U.S. and LG Chem and Catl in China. G.M. is working with LG Chem. All of the companies are doing research on the composition of the batteries (both car companies and battery companies). I am very interested in who Rivian is going to partner with to make their batteries (I would think this has been decided already, but I haven't seen any announcements). The cost of batteries at the pack level will be an important factor in the sucess or failure of in electric vehicle company. I think the price reduction that R.J. mentioned (I think it was at the Mill Valley event) was probably due to a reduction in the expected cost of the battery packs. We won't really know anything definitively until vehicles (This goes for Rivian, GM, Tesla Cybertruck and many more.) are actually being produced and sold.
 
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Coast2Coast

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Yes, Tesla and GM aren't making batteries on their own, but they're far from merely buying batteries from partners. That's the part we don't know much about, and there's a lot of room for auto makers to decide to integrate components, sub-systems and systems on their own. Here's what comes to mind when you think of how much Tesla and GM might be doing on their own.

Battery chemistry. This not an area where auto makers are likely to be heavily involved, but it's unlikely they're without influence since makers will design their battery management systems around the expected performance of different battery chemistries.

Battery cells. This is another area where assemblers/makers are unlikely to build battery packs themselves but, as in the case of cell chemistry, assemblers/makers will want major voices in battery cell size, shape and accessibility. Indeed, what kind of cells in what sizes will be decided by auto makers, don't you think?

Battery modules. I'm not an auto engineer, but here's where it gets interesting. GM touts its Ultium battery pouch approach and that its Ultium batteries can be used horizontally and vertically. How much of that is GM's idea and how much LG Chem's, we don't know. Modules fit into a battery pack architecture, and here's where assemblers/makers likely take over from battery suppliers. Again, I'm trying to think logically, but my logic is not informed by any auto industry experience.

Battery pack/packaging/assembly. At this level of assembly, when you have an entire battery pack, the vehicle maker is clearly in charge. That doesn't necessarily mean that suppliers aren't involved, but the suppliers who are involved are unlikely to be battery suppliers.

Battery management system. Clearly, this is the auto maker's prerogative and likely to be one of its in-house, engineering pride and joys.

Yes, Rivian, like Tesla and GM, works with battery suppliers for the cells that power their BEVs. But there are a lot of levels and ways in which makers can be more or less involved in battery research, development and production. Tesla and GM appear to be pretty involved. We don't know how involved Rivian is. Choosing a battery supplier, already a key decision for a BEV start-up, is only becoming more critical. At the risk of repeating what I've said elsewhere on multiple occasions, I hope Rivian has the wherewithal to work with more than one battery supplier since the decision of which supplier/s Rivian will work with is so pivotal.
 

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Will be interesting because it adds another competitive angle for the makers. For ICE vehicles it was more simple - fuel type (diesel/gas) and then perhaps fuel tank size. Efficiency, MPG, would be the closest parallel.

Battery charging time, how long they last/degrade, and how much energy they can store by weight/size. These will all certainly be competitive marketing messages and technologies as the EV revolution moves forward.
 
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Coast2Coast

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Here's the latest information on which battery companies are installing the most batteries in BEVs.

It's an all-Asia race, with Panasonic (Japan) and LG Chem (S. Korea) in front and CATL (China) pulling away in the top three positions. All three supply Tesla which is incredibly smart on Tesla's part. Tesla isn't overly reliant on one supplier, and it can promote competition between the top three suppliers to get the best pricing and to spur new R&D.

https://cleantechnica.com/2020/05/2...e-to-be-1-ev-battery-supplier-catl-solidly-3/
 
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