U.S.-based General Motors has released its new Ultium battery system, with claims of improved mileage and lower costs. GM intends on licensing the technology to other automakers. Current market sentiment partially indicates that this new battery technology may have the potential to become a thorn in Tesla’s side.
The Ultium battery from GM is good for 400 miles or more per charge. The Long Range model of Tesla’s best-selling vehicle, Model 3, gets 322 miles on a full charge, with a 0-60 mile time of 4.4 seconds. High-end Model 3s have a 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds. The Long Range Plus model of Tesla’s Model X gets 351 miles on a full charge.
In addition to improved mileage, GM also promised lower prices compared to Tesla’s offerings. An overview of international media finds that GM has been pushing to lower its battery cost under 100 USD/kWh, which is 50% cheaper than Tesla’ batteries. Data from Cairn Energy Research Advisors shows that Tesla’s battery cost is currently 158.27 USD/kWh.
“A lithium-ion design, Ultima mixes the internal chemistry up a bit, incorporating nickel, manganese, cobalt and aluminum, among other elements into its cathode side, so-called NMCA chemistry,” says CNET’s Craig Cole. “A potential breakthrough, engineers have reduced the cobalt content of these batteries by around 70%, a material that's both pricey and difficult to obtain these days. They've managed to substitute it with aluminum, which is cheaper and far more readily available.” The engineering breakthrough came by way of a joint effort between GM and LG Chem.
GM says it will apply its new battery technology to multiple new models, from entry-level cars to luxury brands and trucks, but some commentators believe that the biggest threat GM poses to Tesla lies in the possibility of the former licensing its battery technology to other automakers.
Tesla’s sale of 367,500 cars in 2019 accounted for approximately 0.5% of global new car sales, which totaled 77.5 million units last year. These numbers would suggest Tesla is not currently a major manufacturer in the auto industry; should GM’s battery innovations prove to be market-viable, Tesla will face massive competition.
Tesla’s sales have been noticeably hindered in the face of increasing competition from traditional carmakers. “Take the case of Tesla’s most important market in Europe, Norway…in the first two months of 2020, Tesla is trailing in vehicle registrations,” says Mark Emem, reporting for CCN.com. “In February, Norway’s best-selling EV was the Audi e-tron, which sold 1,131 units…. Model X… managed 20 sales in February.”
GM aims to produce several models of affordable EVs within the next few years. More specifically, it expects to introduce up to 20 models by 2023 and sell one million EVs, including trucks, annually in the U.S. and China by 2025.
Tesla has been the primary driver in the global EV market with 367,500 cars sold last year. There appears to be further room for growth, as the company rolls out its Model Y, the fourth car in its portfolio, by either year’s end or 2021.
Tesla’s stock price has more than doubled in the past three months, while its market cap grew by hundreds of millions of US dollars. This can be attributed to investors believing Tesla to lead the way for the auto industry to move towards EVs.
According to Mark Emem of CCN.com, “if traditional car makers with established brands, deep pockets, market knowledge and distribution infrastructure get armed with superior battery technology, Tesla could be easily upended in the EV space.”
（Image：Flickr/cchana CC BY 2.0）