General Motors opens ‘Factory Zero’


General Motors has opened its ‘Factory Zero’ in Detroit-Hamtramck in the presence of US President Joe Biden. The company sees the conversion of the factory into an all-electric car plant as “a model for future renovations” of its existing facilities.

Pre-series production of the GMC Hummer EV electric pickup has already begun at the factory, which was converted into an all-electric car plant at the beginning of 2020. The first units are to be delivered to customers this year. Soon, the SUV version of the GMC Hummer EV, the electric Chevrolet Silverado and the electric shuttle Cruise Origin will also be rolling off production lines at Factory Zero.

All these vehicles are based on the Ultium platform, which the manufacturer is calling “the heart of the EV product strategy”. This vehicle architecture includes not only the proprietary batteries (manufactured by Ultium Cells, a joint venture with LGES) but also the proprietary drive units called Ultium Drive and the power electronics.

Since the Ultium platform can cover more vehicle segments than internal combustion platforms, GM hopes for great savings potential. General Motors says that this platform for zero-emission vehicles will enable the company to standardise and streamline machinery, tooling and assembly processes. They say that this kind of flexibility allows for lower capital investment and greater efficiency as additional assembly line conversions take place.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra said: “GM’s U.S. manufacturing expertise is key to achieving our all-electric future”. In the presence of US President Biden, she said:  “We’ve equipped Factory Zero with the best and most advanced technology in the world to build the highest quality electric vehicles for our customers.”

The term ‘Zero’ is meant to stand not only for zero emissions from the electric vehicles built there but also for “GM’s vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.”

General Motors claims that the conversion of the existing factory cost only about two-thirds of what it would have cost to build a new greenfield plant. The company hopes to avoid 15 billion US dollars (13.2 billion euros) in costs by 2030 when it converts other plants. When all plants have been converted towards electric vehicles, the amount saved is expected to amount to 20 to 30 billion dollars – this capital will instead be invested in customer-oriented products, services and technologies.

“To meet our ambitious EV transition, GM’s North American EV vehicle assembly capacity will reach 20 per cent by 2025, and then 50 per cent by 2030,” said Gerald Johnson, GM’s executive vice president of global manufacturing and sustainability. “Factory ZERO serves as a model for transitions that will take place at other factories around the world in the coming years.”

General Motors did release a picture of US President Biden next to a GMC Hummer EV, but a quote from Biden was not included in the press release. The US president had recently caused disgruntlement among international carmakers, with the stipulation that EV subsidies would only apply to electric vehicles built in the US.


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