The cost of running an electric vehicle could soon be as cheap as a conventional, internal combustion-powered car (ICE), according to General Motors, which claims to have developed a battery with partner LG Chem that drops the price to less than $100 per kilowatt hour.
This price is the barometer used by the auto industry as the point where EVs reach parity with ICE vehicles, and Steven A Kiefer, senior vice president of General Motors and president of GM International, says the company’s EVs will be on roads across the Middle East to the tune of one million by 2025.
Cadillac Lyriq equipped with new battery
GM’s luxury brand Cadillac is leading the auto giant’s EV push with the Lyriq crossover concept it debuted in August. Lyriq will become Cadillac’s first, fully-electric car offering a range of 480km powered by the new, cost-saving battery.
Packed in large, flat pouch cells that simplifies packaging and cooling, the battery electronics are incorporated directly into the modules to eliminate nearly 90 per cent of the battery pack wiring, compared to GM’s current EVs.
“This Ultium 400-volt battery pack is the breakthrough technology we were searching for. With LG Chem, we will drive battery costs well below $100 per kilowatt hour, which will get us on a path of cost parity with the internal combustion engine," said Kiefer.
The Ultium-powered Cadillac EVs will be designed for Level Two DC home charging of up to 19kW and with fast charging of up to 200kW. By comparison, the benchmark Tesla Model S 100D offers up to 17kW of Level Two DC charging and 140kW fast charging.
Tesla announces counter battery
Tesla has quickly announced a counter to GM’s Ultium battery, which the tech company claims will be used to launch a bargain-basement Tesla model from $25,000. Founder Elon Musk said this would begin to drop the price of batteries below GM’s $100/kWh price point over the next three years.
Battery prices are tumbling as the technology improves, with average prices in 2010 of about $1,100/kWh falling to $209/kWh in 2017 and then to $156 at the end of last year, according to BloombergNEF Research.
This marks an 87 per cent fall in real terms, where just last December, Bloomberg estimated that it wouldn’t be until 2023 before average prices would touch the magic $100/kWh quoted by Kiefer.
The future is autonomous
“We're building towards an all-electric future with Cadillac leading our EV strategy, but beyond that, I've seen the line-up of GM’s future EVs and I can tell you that there's a full spectrum of vehicles waiting for launch that spans the portfolio," said Kiefer. Adding, “Lyriq will be the first. as it has all the elements of a halo vehicle, but there will be more to come.”
The transition to a full EV company is part of a wider remit to make GM vehicles zero emission and zero fatality, including in the Middle East where a Driver Assist feature has just been added that connects the driver and other occupants to a live phone operator who can assist in the event of a crash, breakdown or other emergency.
“Our zero emission, zero crashes vision is driven by Driver Assist technology," he said. "Connectivity devices such as OnStar, which we are launching now across the Middle East, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications which gets us on a path to autonomous driving, is extremely important.”
Zero fatalities on the cards?
OnStar, which is already a regular feature in the US and other markets, also uses sensors in the car to detect airbag deployment, a rollover crash, seat belt tensioners and other signs indicating that the car has been in an accident, as well as where occupants are seated in the car. It automatically informs ambulance and emergency services of the location in addition to the car’s registration and the severity of the accident, often before the driver has had a chance to dial emergency services.
Upon detecting an incident, the OnStar operator phones the car to make contact with the driver to calm them and inform them that help is on the way.
OnStar has been proven to reduce fatalities in other regions, but a target of zero is admittedly ambitious, though one Kiefer believes is worth striving for, saying: “As 94 per cent of crashes are due to human error, we believe that in addition to an all-electric future, an autonomous future aided by features like OnStar will virtually eliminate car accidents in the long term.
“The active safety features we have now, as well as technology-driven changes to driver behaviour such as not being distracted, is probably the best thing we can do in the short term to get on this path to zero crashes, but that’s still a long way off.”
The Dubai Supreme Council of Energy has stated that electric and hybrid cars will account for 10 per cent all new car sales by 2030.