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New Battery System Could Be Key to GM’s Plans for EV Profitability by 2021

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2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier Roof Rails

General Motors CEO Mary Barra this week told investors that the company expects to turn a profit from the sale of electric cars by as soon as 2021. To say that this is a bold statement would be selling it short: no major automaker has yet earned a profit from the sales of electric vehicles.

While Barra herself provided no specific insight into how GM will go about pulling off this particular feat, a dozen former executives and industry experts told Reuters that the answer likely comes from driving high sales volumes in China and utilizing lower-cost vehicle platforms and proprietary battery technology.

With respect to the latter, two sources close to GM’s plans told Reuters that profitability will be made possible in part by cutting the use of cobalt in its EMC 1.0 battery system. In place of cobalt, which has become increasingly expensive as it is implemented in lithium-ion battery cells, GM’s system will increase the amount of nickel, which will also have the net effect of increasing storage capabilities and energy production.

This approach, as well as improvements to battery packaging and systems for energy flow and cooling, is expected to cut the cost of battery cells by 30% by 2021. At present, experts estimate that the cost of the Chevrolet Bolt’s battery pack is between $10,000 and $12,000, or upwards of a third of its MSRP.

Jon Bereisa, a former GM engineering director involved in the development of lithium-ion battery systems, suggests that the company’s developments could cut that cost nearly in half without seeing any loss in overall range, or give future Bolts a 45% increase in range for the same price as the current packs.

News Source: Reuters