GM to beat Tesla on batteries

GM has expanded its electric vehicle battery systems laboratory in Michigan. Photo: © General Motors
GM has expanded its electric vehicle battery systems laboratory in Michigan. Photo: © General Motors
GM has expanded its electric vehicle battery systems laboratory in Michigan. Photo: © General Motors

GM expands its electric vehicle battery systems laboratory in Michigan. Photo: © General Motors

Earlier this week General Motors made a bold statement of intent: to sell a production-line electric vehicle at half the price of Tesla’s Model S, with a similar range. And GM says it will be able to offer the vehicle at USD$30,000 thanks to the development of its own lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology, according to a Reuters report.

Unlike Tesla, which buys standard nickel-cobalt-aluminium Li-ion cells from Panasonic, GM has been attempting to build a better battery using nickel manganese and cobalt (NMC) in the Li-ion formulation. The company believes these NMC batteries, or some yet-to-be discovered chemistry, will make an electric vehicle with a range of 200 miles possible at half the cost of a Model S.

The policy announcement was made, appropriately enough, by a GM executive during an event to publicise the company’s expansion of its global battery systems laboratory, near Detroit. The facility, three times its original size at 85,000 square feet, is now the largest battery laboratory run and owned by a car company.

Current GM electric vehicles are already considerably cheaper than Tesla’s but are not as successful in terms of sales, not least due to the fact that the Chevy Volt and Spark models have a range of just 100 miles. New battery solutions, then, could be vital to out-selling Tesla. Meanwhile, Tesla boss Elon Musk has also made a commitment: that his company will produce a $35,000 electric vehicle of its own by 2016.

Whoever gets to an affordable, mass-market electric vehicle first may be able to do so, in part at least, thanks to the long-promised (but as yet unrealised) fall in Li-ion costs, which has been predicted again by industry leaders, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

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