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GM’s versatile Ultium platform provides the building blocks for everything, from mass market to high performance vehicles – all from a single, common cell in most markets and a set of interchangeable propulsion components. (Photo by Steve Fecht for General Motors)


GM Strikes Battery Separator Deal

When it comes to EVs, battery cells are a huge deal. They’re literally what allows the vehicle to store energy and go anywhere. When talking about battery cells, minerals like lithium and cobalt tend to get most of the attention. But, there’s a little polymer part of each battery cell with a vitally-important role to play: keeping the pluses and the minuses apart while still allowing some ions to move back and forth.

When things go right with a battery separator, nobody thinks about them. But, when things go wrong, they get a lot of attention. For example, the Bolt EV fire recalls that got so much attention last year and the beginning of this year came down to problems with separators. We can usually take them for granted, but when they fail, the results can be devastating.

Fortunately, GM isn’t resting on its laurels after the Bolt recalls. A recent press release announced that it has struck a deal to keep improving separators and build them in the United States.

General Motors has decided to team up with battery manufacturer Microvast in order to develop specialized EV battery separator technology. This project is expected to create hundreds of new jobs in the United States and will be supported by a $200 million grant from the US Department of Energy’s Battery Materials Processing and Battery Manufacturing initiative.

GM’s separator and coating technology will be a part of the collaboration with Microvast. Together, they will create new separator technology that can improve EV safety, charging, and battery life. This innovation is planned to stabilize thermal energy in EV batteries and work together seamlessly with nearly all types including lithium-ion cells such as graphite, silicon, and lithium-metal anodes along with nickel-rich cathodes, cobalt-free atoms, high voltage ion phosphates.

“This collaboration with Microvast supports our ongoing efforts to develop a North American-focused EV supply chain and help put everyone in an EV,” said Kent Helfrich, GM chief technology officer and vice president of Research and Development. “It will also provide us with pioneering separator technology that can be used in future Ultium batteries, and most importantly, supports our continuing commitment to safety.”

The Department of Energy has recognized GM’s battery expertise by selecting the company for its Battery500 Consortium. The consortium is a team of experts from national laboratories, academia and industry working to develop more reliable, affordable, longer range and higher performance EV batteries.

GM is the only auto manufacturer selected for the consortium and will work with other members to accelerate development of high-energy, rechargeable lithium metal batteries. This will enable a shift away from traditional petrol and diesel vehicles to greener battery electric vehicles.

“We expect the safety advantages of our innovative, highly thermally stable polyaramid separators to transform high-energy lithium-ion battery development and drive significant value for the industry,” said Dr. Wenjuan Mattis, chief technology officer at Microvast.

One other important thing this announcement points to is a continued effort by automakers to make more batteries in the United States. This will help GM take advantage of revamped US tax credits while helping to further US strategic goals.

Featured image provided by GM.

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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.


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