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October 5, 2021updated 21 Jan 2022 1:36pm

GM ups investment in battery R&D for lower EV costs

GM hopes new facility will help to lower battery costs and increase future EV range.

By David Leggett

General Motors has announced it will build a new facility that it says will significantly expand the company’s battery technology operations and accelerate development and commercialization of longer range, more affordable electric vehicle batteries.

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The Wallace Center will be located on the campus of GM’s Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.

GM says it will use the facility to integrate the work of GM-affiliated battery innovators, helping the company to reach its stated goal of at least 60 percent lower battery costs with the next generation of Ultium. Reports also say that GM engineers are targeting electric driving ranges of 600 miles on a single charge.

The Wallace Center is currently under construction and will be completed in mid-2022. Designed for expansion, the facility is projected to grow up to at least three times its initial footprint, with room for additional investments, as demand for EVs increases. The facility is expected to build its first prototype cells in the fourth quarter of 2022.

“The Wallace Center will significantly ramp up development and production of our next-generation Ultium batteries and our ability to bring next-generation EV batteries to market,” said Doug Parks, GM executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. “The addition of the Wallace Center is a massive expansion of our battery development operations and will be a key part of our plan to build cells that will be the basis of more affordable EVs with longer range in the future.”

The Wallace Center will allow GM to accelerate new technologies like lithium-metal, silicon and solid-state batteries, along with production methods that can quickly be deployed at battery cell manufacturing plants, including GM’s joint ventures with LG Energy Solution in Lordstown, Ohio, and Spring Hill, Tennessee, and other undisclosed locations in the US.

The facility will connect GM’s network of battery development sites located on its Global Technical Center campus. These sites include GM’s Research and Development Chemical and Materials’ Subsystems Lab that currently leads the company’s battery development, including its pioneering work on lithium-metal anodes, and the Estes Battery Systems Lab, the largest battery validation lab in North America at more than 100,000 square feet. The Estes Lab enables GM to perform major battery durability tests in-house at the cell, module and pack levels.

The Wallace Center will be capable of building large-format, prototype lithium-metal battery cells for vehicle usage beyond the small-scale lithium-metal cells typically used in handheld devices or research applications. These cells could be as large as 1,000 mm, nearly twice the size of the initial Ultium pouch cells and will be based on GM’s proprietary formula.

2,000 EV-tech patents

GM says it currently holds more than 2,000 granted and pending patents related to EV battery technology, including 60 patents and trade secrets and another 46 pending in critical areas of future battery development, such as lithium-metal electrolytes, anodes, cathodes and binders.

The battery engineering team based at the Wallace Center will experiment with many types of future battery chemistry in addition to lithium-metal, including pure silicon and solid-state, along with different cell form factors. The Wallace Center is expected to build batteries ranging in energy density from 600 to 1200 watt-hours per liter, along with crucial battery cell ingredients like cell active materials.

The Wallace Center will include cell test chambers, cell formation chambers, a material synthesis lab where GM can design its own cathode active materials, a slurry mixing and processing lab, a coating room, electrolyte production lab, and a forensics lab with material analysis equipment and advanced software.

A data farm will enable GM’s battery development team to harness the latest artificial intelligence breakthroughs, with all the battery-related processes inside and outside of the lab tied together in one, huge cloud.

About Bill Wallace

The facility is named after Bill Wallace, a GM director who played a pivotal role in the development of the automaker’s advanced battery technology and trained many of its current battery leaders. As director of Battery Systems and Electrification, Wallace led the team that designed and released GM’s advanced automotive battery systems in the Chevrolet Volt 1, Volt 2, Malibu Hybrid and Bolt EV.

“In addition to being a good friend, Bill was an innovator who enabled other innovators,” Parks said. “He gave his team confidence to take risks and reach far beyond their wildest dreams in pursuit of our all-electric, zero-emissions future.”

Wallace also pioneered GM’s relationship with LG Chem R&D (now LG Energy Solution), culminating in the Ultium Cells LLC battery cell manufacturing joint venture plants now under construction.

Despite fighting terminal cancer, Wallace worked until his death in 2018. His legacy lives on through both the Wallace Battery Cell Innovation Center and the team he influenced.

Free Report
img

What's next for the Automotive industry?

The theory of the peak car – particularly in the triad markets of the US, West Europe and Japan – and the need for sustainable transportation have driven the pivot to mobility in the automotive industry. Both of these drivers are motivating OEMs to change, while society at large is interested in sustainable transport.    GlobalData’s forward-looking report provides you with insights into the direction that the automotive industry is heading in the next few years. It covers: 
  • The forces transitioning automotive to mobility services 
  • CASE megatrends, and their relationship with COVID-19 
  • The way forward for autonomous vehicles 
  • Sustainability issues in automotive 
Examine the factors contributing to the future growth of different segments of the automotive industry.   Download the full report to align your strategies for success and get ahead of the competition.  
by GlobalData
Enter your details here to receive your free Report.

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