DETROIT – General Motors says a pending breakthrough in battery chemistry will cut the price of its electric vehicles so they equal those powered by gasoline within five years. The technology also will increase the range per charge to as much as 450 miles.
The company's product development chief promised a small electric SUV that will cost less than $30,000 and pledged to roll out 30 battery-powered models worldwide by 2025. Nearly all current electric vehicles cost more than $30,000.
The announcement Thursday shows how fast electric vehicle technology is evolving and how it may become the primary fuel for transportation sooner than almost anyone believed.
The GM announcement is among recent tipping points from internal combustion vehicles to electric, said Sam Abuelsamid, Guidehouse Insights principal analyst. Ford and Fiat Chrysler recently announced plans to build electric vehicles and components at Canadian factories, and Volkswagen, the world's top-selling automaker, is increasing its EV spending and models.
The challenge for automakers and startups has always been balancing range against battery costs, and GM appears to have gone beyond that, Abuelsamid said.
The developments arrive as government pollution regulations tighten worldwide, with California and the United Kingdom recently announcing plans to ban gas-powered new vehicle sales in 10 to 15 years. President-elect Joe Biden is likely to restore government fuel economy regulations that have been rolled back by President Donald Trump, with Biden vowing to spend billions on electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. GM supported the rollback.
“If you look at all the forecasts, the estimates, generally, the demand is kind of potentially being forecast to pick up,” said Doug Parks, GM executive vice president of product development. “We think the industry is transforming, and so we want to be at the leading edge of this.”
The new battery cell chemistry, now undergoing early tests at a lab inside GM's suburban Detroit technical center, can hold twice as much energy as the company's current electric vehicle batteries, Parks said. They'll also cost 60% less than current battery packs now in the Chevrolet Bolt electric car, he said.
The new battery cells also will be used by Honda, which is partnering with GM and battery cell supplier LG Chem of Korea.