Despite the crisis, General Motors is sticking to the timetable for most of its electric offensive. By the middle of this decade, GM has also reaffirmed its goal of achieving annual sales of one million electric cars in the two largest markets, North America and China.
The presentations of the all-electric Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer EV models, which were originally scheduled for April and May respectively, have been postponed due to the pandemic and are to be made up for this year. These models will be the first representatives of the Group’s new electric car platform unveiled in March.
With the modular platform, including the new battery kit called Ultium, General Motors intends to significantly reduce complexity and become more flexible compared to the previous combustion engine models. The batteries, which come from a joint venture with LG Chem, are also expected to reduce costs. Here GM is talking about battery cells that cost less than 100 dollars per kilowatt-hour.
Now Ken Morris, vice president for electric and autonomous vehicles, said in a conference call with US journalists “product development work is proceeding at a rapid pace,” adding that, “we’re absolutely on time with executing both those products”. The same applies to Ultium batteries, said Morris. However, it remains to be seen how long the Group will be able to continue the development from the home office. As long as it’s a matter of design and simulation, working from home is possible. But if prototypes are to be built and tested or the production facilities are to be converted and adjusted, things become more difficult.
For the Hummer and Lyriq, although Morris did not announce exact dates for their premieres, he said they “will definitely debut this year, but I hope sooner rather than later”. He hinted that GM is working on digital presentations, meaning that they do not expect to be able to unveil the two vehicles in the foreseeable future at a face-to-face event.
According to Morris, GM is also sticking to its medium-term sales target. “We still want to get as many electric vehicles on the road as possible as quickly as possible, and by mid-decade, we aim to sell one million electric vehicles per year in our two largest markets in North America and with our joint venture partners in China,” he said. At the end of March, however, Reuters cited internal documents showing that both GM and Ford were planning electrification with significantly lower numbers than both companies had publicly stated. Instead of one million electric cars, the report spoke of 320,000 internally planned e-vehicles for 2026 – for Ford and GM together.
What Morris was considerably less specific about, were the goals for the subsidiary Cruise that is developing autonomous driving for GM. The Cruise Origin should actually be built together with the Hummer EV in Detroit-Hamtramck. Whether after the Corona crisis the demand for autonomous vehicles for ridesharing services is as high and the technology is ready seems to be an open question at the moment.
GM stops pedelec project
Despite much optimism at GM, the company does have a victim in the corona crisis with an electric drive: As the company confirmed to The Verge, the Ariv pedelec project has been discontinued. Because of the pandemic, GM said that it had had to take a close look at its various business areas. “Ariv has generated significant insights about micromobility for General Motors, and we plan to use those insights to benefit future innovation,” said Brian Tossan, GM director of global innovation. The website, where customers could place orders for the well-received pedelec (pronounced “arrive”), instead directs them to GM’s website, which seems odd when cycling has become more important and experienced an even greater uptake in Covid-19 times, especially in Europe where the Ariv was targeted.
More understandable is GM’s withdrawal from Maven car-sharing, since all shared transport offers have suffered under the given restrictions of social distancing to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Besides, carmakers are finding that expertise in carmaking does not necessarily amount to successful sharing businesses.
>> With reporting by Sebastian Schaal.
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