And tries to reinvent the wheel. Sort of.
GM shows off flexible EV architecture, hints at future performance models
General Motors recently unveiled its third-generation electric vehicle platform and Ultium battery system, which will be the backbone of future EV development across GM brands and underpin the upcoming successor to the Chevrolet Bolt, launching late in 2020, and a Super Cruise version of the Bolt coming in mid-2021.
Soon to be underpinning Cadillac, Buick, and GMC products as well, the new platform can be built in front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive, and performance all-wheel-drive variants. The next application of this platform we’ll see is the Cadillac Lyriq luxury SUV which will be revealed on April 2, followed by the GMC Hummer pickup on May 20.
GM claims that the modular design of its Ultium batteries, developed jointly by GM and LG Chem, allows for more flexible packaging, as the battery pouches can be stacked vertically or horizontally. It will allow battery capacity from 50 kWh in small cars to 200 kWh in large cars and pickups. That should deliver ranges up to 400 miles and 200kW fast charging on the regular passenger car applications that will use 400-volt batteries. The pickup truck applications can use an 800-volt version of the system and charge at up to 350 kW.
A video showing various types of vehicle segments in profile atop the new platform includes pickup truck, hatchback, fastback, a bus-like people-mover, and coupe-like car with a short deck. We know that we’ll be seeing the GMC Hummer pickup shortly and that it will use this platform, as will the Cruise autonomous vehicle, hinted at since 2018.
The unidentified vehicle, with its long hood and short deck, may point to an all-electric Camaro, which so far we’ve only seen in its drag-racing form. (We’re cautiously skeptical of this outcome. Based on the animation, the wheelbase is far too long for any kind of traditional coupe.)
We’ve heard hints that we’ll see a traditional seventh-generation Camaro on the updated Alpha platform, and Chevrolet has plenty of historic names to choose from if it plans on building an additional sporty coupe or sedan, so we’re not sold on the Camaro getting the full electric treatment just yet. GM noted that the economies of scale that will come from this platform being used under a wide variety of vehicles could allow for more flexibility in offering a wide variety of body styles. For example, GM currently produces more than 550 different powertrain combinations, while this new platform could offer that sort of breadth with just 19 varieties. With the recent demise of the Malibu and Impala as consumers have switched away from cars in favor of crossovers and SUVs, GM’s new architecture could allow it to once-again offer traditional sedan body styles with either or both of those nostalgic names.
With Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac EVs all hinted at, that only leaves Buick. We could have missed obvious clues thus far and overlooked a hint at a future Buick flagship. An Avista-based Electra would be a welcome surprise.