GM’s flexible electric vehicle platform looks promising for the masses

New product announcements from General Motors GM,
show that the much-vaunted Ultium EV architecture is starting to come into its own. We hear a lot of hype about supposedly revolutionary new electric vehicles from across the industry. However, what General Motors created with Ultium is starting to look like the real deal in mainstream electric vehicles for the masses.

What is Ultium?

Ultium is a battery and motor architecture for electric vehicles from General Motors. GM made electric vehicles back in the 1990s with the EV1, followed by the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt and the all-electric Chevy Bolt. All three of these cars were revolutionary in their own way, but none of them really went mainstream.

Ultium is the latest chapter in GM’s electric vehicle history. The batteries use a nickel-cobalt-manganese-aluminum chemistry that keeps costs down compared to lithium-ion batteries. Ultium uses a modular layout with battery cells that can be stacked vertically or horizontally.

This highly flexible architecture can be applied to a range of vehicles. This flexibility is key to Ultium’s potential.

The current state of Ultium

The only vehicles on the road today using the Ultium platform are the BrightDrop Zevo 600 pickup truck and the GMC Hummer EV pickup. The Hummer has wowed the automotive press and its owners with its exhilarating performance, high-tech interior and rugged capabilities. It’s not what we’d call an EV for the masses, however, as it’s an expensive luxury truck. An SUV version of the electric Hummer is available for pre-order.

A few other Ultium vehicles are available for pre-order now. The one that’s closest to dealerships is the Cadillac Lyriq. The Lyriq meets a high-tech EV that’s also a relatively affordable luxury SUV. Prices start at $62,990, which is actually lower than the average transaction price for a new EV, which is around $66,000 as of this writing. It’s also a price point that’s not far from gas-powered mid-size, double-row SUVs from luxury brands. Deliveries of the Lyriq are expected to start this fall, but if you order one now you’ll have to wait until spring 2023.

Two Chevrolet models with Ultium architecture are available for pre-order; the EV variants of the Silverado and Blazer. These differ significantly from their gas-powered counterparts. The Silverado EV is obviously a direct competitor to the Ford F-150 Lightning F,
The two variants available for pre-order are the WT model, starting at $39,900, and the high-performance RST model, which has a 6-figure price tag comparable to the Hummer EV pickup.

See: Ford is raising the price of the all-electric F-150 Lightning due to shortages and inflation – this is how much the pickup will cost

If you like the idea of ​​the Cadillac Lyriq but don’t have the budget for it, then the Chevy Blazer EV comes into play. It’s an electric mid-range SUV with an estimated starting price of around $44,995 and an estimated maximum range of up to 320 miles. This SUV has a lot of potential as a mainstream electric vehicle that would suit the lifestyle of a range of drivers. It will also be available with the hands-free Super Cruise driving system at a lower price than a Cadillac or Hummer. You can pre-order it now and get it already in summer 2023.

The future of Ultium

The Ultium platform starts like the Tesla brand. It starts with low-volume, high-priced offerings like the electric Hummer, and gradually works its way up to higher-volume, lower-priced offerings. An example is the upcoming Chevy Equinox EV. You can’t order an electric Equinox just yet, but it’s on a similar schedule to the Blazer EV. GM estimates a starting price of around $30,000; If it stays that way, it could be a big hit.

Another upcoming Ultium vehicle is the promising Cadillac Celestiq. The brand is positioning its upcoming flagship electric sedan to compete with vehicles like the Tesla TSLA.
Model S, Porsche POAHY,
Taycan and Audi e-Tron GT. It’s a sign that Cadillac is finally getting serious about reclaiming the throne of luxury cars as the “standard of the world.”

Read: Audi e-tron 2022 vs. Tesla Model Y – which is better?

Unsurprisingly, an electric version of the GMC Sierra is also in the works. Judging by the history of the Sierra nameplate, it will be a GMC version of the Chevy Silverado EV, likely with a greater emphasis on luxury.

An interesting curve ball in Ultium’s history is the Honda HMC,
borrows the platform. The upcoming Honda Prologue is an electric SUV that will likely be mechanically similar to the Chevy Equinox EV. According to Honda, the Prologue is the first in an “upcoming line of electric vehicles,” so we’ll likely see more Ultium-based Honda models in the future. There are also rumors of an Acura version of the prologue.

Finally, there’s BrightDrop, the newest brand in the GM family that you may not have heard of until now. BrightDrop is a commercial vehicle EV brand. FedEx FDX,
has ordered 500 BrightDrop Zevo Vans, and Walmart WMT,
has signed an agreement to reserve 5,000 of them. If you live in an area with rich EV charging infrastructure, you may soon see these vans delivering packages for you. This new brand is likely to remain as a competitor to Rivian’s electric vans.

time to speculate

So that’s what we know so far about the present and future of the GM Ultium platform. Since it can support a range of vehicles, from a luxury sport sedan to a pickup truck to a humble compact SUV, the possibilities are almost endless.

It’s likely that the Chevy Camaro will become all-electric. The Camaro has struggled for years to keep up with the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger. The poor Camaro is plagued by constant rumors that it’s about to be discontinued, like it was in 2002. That might apply to the gas-powered Camaro, but an electric Camaro that’s still affordable on the low end and powerful on the high end, would do be an exciting addition to the EV world.

See also: GM plans to install 40,000 new EV chargers here

Some versions of the Chevy Bolt will likely continue, eventually moving to the Ultium platform. But what about sedans like the Malibu? Will Chevy go the Ford route and phase out sedans and hatchbacks altogether? There could be a real market for a Malibu or Impala based on the long-range, low-price Ultium platform. We will see.

Then there’s Buick. GM has announced that Buick will be an all-electric brand in the US with a new logo and all. However, the automaker has not made any specific product announcements. Buick says its first EV will be available in 2024 and that every electric Buick will be named “Electra.”

It also recently unveiled a new one Wildcat EV concept in China. It’s a sporty coupe that’s unlikely to see the light of day, but gives us a glimpse of a new design language for the brand. It’s good to see Buick drawing on its long history with old names like Electra and Wildcat to bring some new life to what has become a budget brand of premium SUVs. An electric Buick Riviera or Grand National would be sweet, but let’s not get our hopes up too much.

Do not miss: Not ready for an electric car? These future models might make you change your mind.

We will see

The Ultium platform currently has only one commercially available vehicle on the market, and it’s a very expensive Hummer. However, there is good reason to be optimistic about the future of GM electric products. GM is taking its time making the transition to electric and has already impressed with the variety of Ultium-architected vehicles. The General is making big promises about affordable electric vehicles for the masses, which we’ve already heard about. Time will tell if it’s real this time.

This story originally continued GM’s flexible electric vehicle platform looks promising for the masses

Brian Lowry

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