General Motors will raise its spending on electric and autonomous vehicles to $20bn by 2025 after claiming a battery breakthrough that it says will give its cars longer range and faster recharging as well as making its new wave of vehicles profitable.
The company, whose brands range from Chevrolet to Cadillac, will launch 20 new electric models by 2023, with the aim of selling 1m battery cars a year in the US and China by the middle of the next decade.
Its new generation of electric vehicles will sit on a purpose-built platform called Ultium, giving them specifications ahead of industry leader Tesla in range, charging and acceleration — as well as making them profitable within the first range of vehicles to use the system.
The first new car using the technology will be an electric GMC Hummer, released late next year.
GM claims the technology will bring battery costs down below $100 per kilowatt hour “early in the platform’s lifecycle”, the company said on Wednesday.
Despite most carmakers in the industry launching electric vehicles, global sales remain tiny, in part because high battery prices make the cars more expensive than traditional combustion-driven models.
Currently, carmakers are forced to charge extra, cut their driving range to make a profit, or sell them to consumers at a loss.
The industry is split over how to adapt to rising electric demand, with companies such as Volkswagen developing standalone electric models, while businesses such as PSA and BMW adapt existing models.
GM’s new strategy echoes VW, which is also hoping to use its global scale to push a large number of electric vehicles on a single platform, increasing its chances of making a profit from the new cars.
“Creating an entirely new product programme from scratch is never easy,” GM chief executive Mary Barra said on Wednesday.
“General Motors is building toward an all-electric future because we believe climate change is real, and because we have the expertise to deliver exceptional electric vehicles and driving and ownership experiences to our customers.”
The company was one of the first to launch a fully-electric car with the Chevrolet Bolt, although global sales of the model have failed to topple California-based rival Tesla.
The new system gives GM vehicles a range of up to 400 miles or more, as well as accelerating from 0 to 60mph in under three seconds.
The company may also license the technology to others to recoup investments, as well as exploring selling electric vehicles to ride-sharing companies.
GM’s modular platform will allow the company to build vehicles at high volumes for multiple brands, Mark Reuss, president, said.
The company’s electric vehicle portfolio can be supported with 19 propulsion combinations of batteries, drive units and power electronics, compared with the 555 internal combustion engine and power-train combinations it has in production.
“It will change this company, and people’s perceptions of it, forever,” Mr Reuss said.