Published on July 19th, 2020 |
by Steve Hanley
July 19th, 2020 by Steve Hanley
Last week, General Motors released its latest sustainability report. Buried within its nearly 200 pages, the company offered some new information about its electric vehicle plans. Globally, The General will have 20 electric models available to customers by 2023, many of them aimed at the Chinese market. But at least 12 will be sold in America as well.
The biggest surprise in the report is news of a full size pickup truck from Chevrolet that reportedly will have a range of 400 miles. No further details are available, which leaves open the question whether is will be a Silverado clone or something completely different. Surely the segment-smashing Tesla Cybertruck has got people at the highest levels of GM, Ford, and Dodge scratching their heads. Do they stick with what has worked for generations (which has generated massive profits for them year after year) or strike out boldly in new directions as Tesla has done? There is no timeline specified, but by 2023, we should know how GM and the rest of the industry plan to respond to the Cybertruck.
According to Autoblog, Chevrolet plans to introduce a midsize electric SUV before 2023. Could it be based on the Chevy Menlo available in China? A new version of the Bolt is also coming along in about a year from now. Expect it to look a lot like the Buick Velite 7 now on sale in China. It is clearly a re-bodied Bolt that is more SUV and less 5 door hatchback. We don’t know yet whether that car will be made in China and imported to the US or built stateside. According to CNET, the car will be the first non-Cadillac model to offer Super Cruise, GM’s semi-autonomous driver assistance technology.
Buick will also get two new electric offerings — one styled as a traditional vehicle with a crossover shape to “maximize interior space and cargo,” the other model with “more expressive proportions.” That could suggest something like the Buick Enspire concept that has reportedly been approved for production.
Cadillac Will Lead
GM clearly intends electric SUVs from its Cadillac division to lead its version of the EV revolution. The Lyriq electric SUV is set to debut in August and it will be joined over time by 3 more electric SUVs. One of them will be a “globally sized” model that puts the emphasis on interior space and three-row seating. A smaller SUV about the size of the current XT4 is also planned, as well an Escalade-size vehicle. As with the Chevy electric pickup truck, we don’t know whether it will be an electrified echo of the Escalade or an entirely new vehicle.
Of the 12 new electric models coming from GM, only the Cadillac Celestiq is a sedan. That car will reportedly be the ultra luxury standard bearer for the brand, similar perhaps to Daimler’s Maybach. According to rumors, it will be largely hand built at a rate of 1.2 cars per day and priced at $200,000 — making it the most expensive Cadillac ever.
3 Chevies, 2 Buicks, and 5 Caddies. That makes 10. The other two electric offerings that will round out GM’s promise to bring 12 new electric vehicles to US shoppers will be sold under the Hummer brand. One will be a pickup truck and the other will be an SUV. Details are sparse, but General Motors has always relied on badge engineering to make one model do double or triple duty within the corporate structure. A vehicle can be a Chevrolet, a Buick, or a Cadillac simply by slipping in some more comfy seats and slapping a different name on the tailgate.
It’s highly likely that first Buick SUV mentioned above will also be the midsize Cadillac electric SUV or that the Chevy electric pickup will be a close corporate cousin to the Hummer. Will a Hummer SUV be materially different from the proposed Escalade-style electric SUV? Seems unlikely.
GM has just unveiled is Ultium battery, developed in cooperation with LG Chem, and yet it is said to already be working on low- or zero-cobalt alternatives for the future. There are rumblings within GM of electric vehicles with a range of 400 miles or more. 600 miles may one day be possible. Fast charging at up to 350 kW is also under development.
Clearly, battery prices will need to drop substantially before such long range vehicles become possible. Think what the cost of a 200 kWh battery would be today! A secondary question is whether the EV revolution is best served by such massive batteries. How much range is enough to convince people they don’t need to worry about running out of battery power? And isn’t it more important to build more 300 mile EVs than a few 500 mile EVs?
GM may be working hard to bring EVs to market but it always seems to be following rather than leading the EV revolution. An electrified Suburban/Escalade or a $200,000 sedan hardly seem to be as transformative as any of the offerings from Tesla to date with more coming soon.
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