New GM Facility to Lower EV Costs

Architectural rendering of the completed first phase of GM’s Wallace Battery Cell Innovation Center, which will expand the company’s battery technology operations and accelerate development and commercialization of longer-range, more affordable electric vehicle batteries. (GM)

Advancing its vision for all-electric mobility, General Motors (GM) has announced plans to build a new electric vehicle (EV) battery facility to expand its sprawling battery technology operations further. The effort adds to the almost $5 billion GM has already invested in battery development in the United States to increase EV range and performance and expand design capabilities of future battery chemistries.

The Wallace Center, named after Bill Wallace, the GM executive known for leading the team that designed GM's advanced battery systems for the Chevrolet Volt and Bolt EV, will be located at GM's Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. The facility measures almost 300,000 square feet and will operate in tandem with the company's existing battery systems labs on the same campus. The Wallace Center will open and begin building prototype battery cells for vehicle usage as early as the fourth quarter of 2022.

The work at the Wallace Center will focus on accelerating new battery technologies such as lithium-metal, silicon, and solid-state. The facility will also develop new production methods for quick deployment at cell manufacturing plants, such as GM's joint venture sites with LG Energy Solutions in Ohio and Tennessee. Ultimately, the goal is a more extended all-electric range—as much as 600 miles on a single charge—and greater EV affordability.

An essential part of making EVs more viable and attractive to consumers is lowering their costs. To help accomplish this, GM plans to use the Wallace Center as an innovation hub with its battery partners, like LG Energy, to achieve at least 60 percent lower costs in building the automaker's next-generation Ultium batteries.

This stated goal aligns with a recent Department of Energy (DOE) study on EV battery costs. According to the DOE's Vehicle Technologies Office, the cost of a lithium-ion pack declined 87 percent from 2008 to 2021. The lower costs could be due to various factors ranging from new efficiencies to advancements in technology. This latest push from GM on the battery front looks to maximize this trend.

"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."

Overall, GM plans to spend $35 billion through 2025 on EV and battery development and manufacturing. The automaker is aiming at eliminating all emissions from its light vehicle fleet by 2035.

As strides in battery development continue to drive the auto industry's shift to electrification, GM rival Ford last week announced an $11.4 billion investment that included its partnership with battery-maker SK Innovation in a push to build advanced lithium-ion battery packs in Tennessee and Kentucky for future Ford and Lincoln EVs. Also, on the battery front, China-based Geely Technology Group, corporate cousin to Volvo Cars, has announced plans to roll out 5,000 EV battery swapping stations across China by 2025.

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