GM unveils ‘Ultium Drive’ family of electric motors

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General Motors revealed new details about its Ultium battery platform for its upcoming lineup of electric vehicles. The automaker said the battery will power “a family of five interchangeable drive units and three motors” collectively known as “Ultium Drive,” which will aid GM in its transition to an “all-electric future.”

“GM has built transmissions for many notable automakers,” said Ken Morris, GM vice president, Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Programs, in a statement. “Making motors, transmissions, driveline components and systems are among GM’s best-known competencies, and our manufacturing expertise is proving not only transferable but advantageous as we make the transition to EVs.”

Ultium Drive

The Ultium platform is intended to be flexible and multifaceted, with the goal of eventually undergirding a variety of vehicle types and shapes. In this way it’s similar to Volkswagen’s modular electric drive matrix, also known as its MEB platform.

For example, Ultium is expected to provide the foundation for GM’s upcoming Hummer pickup truck and SUV; the luxury Cadillac Lyriq SUV; an electric delivery van; and two electric vehicles that the automaker is making in partnership with Honda.

GM says Ultium Drive will be more “responsive than its internal combustion equivalents with precision torque control of its motors for smooth performance.” The platform’s five motors will have “industry-leading” torque and power density “across a wide spectrum of different vehicle types.”

Ultium Drive will also be cost efficient through the consolidation of wiring and other reductions, GM says. This consolidation of parts and features also makes it easier to scale Ultium Drive across GM’s future EV lineup, GM says, citing its “digital nerve system” introduced last year that enables smartphone-style over-the-air software updates.

Previously, GM said it reduced by about 80 percent the amount of wiring from the EV architecture currently used in its Chevy Bolt vehicles. The hope is that this will drive battery cell costs below the $100/kWh level and allow GM to get more bang for its buck as it scales up its EV production capabilities.

GM is in the midst of a $20 billion pivot to an “all-electric future” that includes spending $2.2 billion to retrofit its first “fully-dedicated” electric vehicle assembly plant. Last week, the automaker acquired a stake in buzzy electric vehicle startup Nikola, which sparked another round of speculation that GM could spin off its EV business, which is estimated to be worth up to $100 billion.

These announcements are seen as an ongoing attempt to mollify Wall Street investors who have been jittery about GM’s ability to catch up to Tesla. Elon Musk’s company has soared in valuation, even as the auto industry at large has suffered from the coronavirus pandemic. Next week, Tesla is hosting its “Battery Day” event where it expects to make several announcements about its efforts to bring down the cost and extend the range of its batteries.

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