I have to admit that I initially skipped over GM’s latest press release. The headline bragged about sales for Full-Size SUVs, Full-Size Pickups, and Large Luxury SUVs, and with one exception (the Hummer EV), they probably weren’t talking about EVs. But, there were some nuggets of information that I should have dug for sooner, because they’re going to have a big impact on the EV world.
First off, GM announced record sales of the Chevy Bolt EV and Bolt EUV. With the announced 2023 price drops, followed by factory incentives for 2022 vehicles to match the prices (and keep 2022 sales going), the Bolt Brothers have been selling like hotcakes. The total sales for Q3 alone were 14,709, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s the biggest quarter the Bolt Family has had since things started in 2017.
With the strong response to the new low (and permanent) pricing for the Bolt EV and EUV, GM wants some more of that action. So, it’s going to up the production of Bolt vehicles from the current level of around 44,000 vehicles to “more than 70,000” in 2023. So, expect to see a lot more Bolts on the road next year.
This may seem like a surprise to people who mainly watch Tesla, but people keeping an eye on the competition in this wide open field may recall an article from July where I covered a very important interview with Mary Barra, the company’s CEO. GM has a very ambitious plan to not only catch up to, but pass Tesla production numbers for EVs. How? By focusing on the sub-$35k market like it did with the Bolt price drops.
Now, we’re getting some confirmation that the strategy is actually working. Selling cars that most people can actually afford makes a big difference.
Supporting This Production Increase Along With Ultium Vehicle Ramp-Ups
If you only look at what shows up on dealer lots, you might think the Bolt EV and EUV are Chevy’s only two vehicles it’s focusing on (sadly, the Volt was discontinued a few years ago). But, on top of ramping up production for these two models, the company is also working on a number of other models based on the Ultium architecture. Unlike the Bolts, Ultium cars will support much faster DCFC speeds and will have a body structure that is neither cheap unibody nor body-on-frame.
But, for these vehicles, they’re going to need batteries.
GM and the company’s suppliers and joint venture partners have been executing a closely coordinated strategy to increase EV production in North America to more than 1 million vehicles a year by 2025 since unveiling the Ultium Platform in March 2020.
First off, four battery cell ventures are currently in the works. In addition to the existing Ultium Cells facility in Warren, Ohio, a plant will be built in Tennessee next year and one in Michigan in 2024. Soon, we’ll have more information about the fourth location.
In North America, GM says it has contracts that ensure all required battery raw material to meet its yearly EV capacity target by 2025, including lithium, nickel, cobalt, and whole-cathode active material. So, GM will be able to keep those battery plants running.
GM is currently working with the Ultium Platform at Spring Hill Assembly in Tennessee and Factory ZERO in Michigan, which are both producing automobiles. Work is also progressing at CAMI Assembly in Ontario, Canada, which will build BrightDrop trucks, and Orion Assembly in Michigan, which will produce EV trucks.
GM is upgrading its Factory ZERO to accommodate the rising demand for electric vehicles (EV). This will allow GM to resume production of the GMC Hummer EV in late November. To date, Chevrolet has received 170,000 reservations for its Silverado EV and GMC has received 90,000 reservations for its respective pick-up truck and SUV.
Giving All These Bolts, Equinoxes, & Silverados A Place To Charge
I know the sound of more Bolts pouring out onto the streets could sound like a horrifying thing to people who spend a lot of time at Electrify America, EVgo, and Chargepoint stations. With their 55 kW max charging rate and fairly aggressive tapering that starts at not much past 50%, being in line behind them can be frustrating, especially in places like California where there are a lot of EVs to share stations with (in New Mexico, it’s rare to see another EV at a station).
But, GM isn’t going to just dump all of these Bolts onto the roads without doing something to help alleviate the charging situation. It is working on an important partnership to put up more stations. Back in July, GM announced that it is working with Pilot/Flying J truck stops to build a charging network with 2,000 charging stalls at up to 500 locations.
“GM and Pilot Company designed this program to combine private investments alongside intended government grant and utility programs to help reduce range anxiety and significantly close the gap in long-distance EV charger demand,” said Shameek Konar, Pilot Company Chief Executive Officer. “Our travel centers are well-equipped to accommodate EV charging with 24/7 amenities and convenient proximity to major roadways across the country. We look forward to collaborating with GM and the U.S. Department of Transportation to make convenient coast-to-coast EV travel a reality through our national network of travel centers.”
The third partner in all of this is EVgo, an established charging provider, but the stations will be branded “Ultium” and Pilot or Flying J (depending on what brand of truck stop it’s at).
The stations will also be competitive. Their maximum output will be 350 kW, which may be installed beneath canopies to make charging station usage more convenient during rain and sunshine. The stations will most likely be set up in a “pull through” style so that EVs pulling trailers can use them without having to unhitch as much as possible. They won’t accommodate big truck trucks, but they’ll be far more pickup truck friendly than electric 18-wheelers are today.
With all of this going on, GM seems to be working hard to actually get things going for a serious EV transition. Hopefully it keeps this pace up in the next few years.
Featured image provided by GM.
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