GM will make Ultium Drive systems in-house
Alongside gas drivelines at existing plants
Five interchangeable drive units and a trio of electric motors will power the next generation of General Motors EVs all known as Ultium Drive. A GM exec says that drivelines are, and have been, one of its biggest strengths, and the company hopes to carry that forward into modern electric vehicles.
Rather than a single unit, Ultium Drive will be a small family, all based on the same technologies but offering combinations that make the various systems work in a wide range of vehicle shapes, sizes, and use cases. It will also give one of the largest automakers in the world an advantage when it comes to scale, speed to market, and for manufacturing efficiencies compared with its previous EVs, produced with much more variation and in smaller numbers.
“GM has built transmissions for many notable automakers,” said Ken Morris, GM vice president, Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Programs. “Making motors, transmissions, driveline components and systems are among GM’s best-known competencies, and our manufacturing expertise is proving not only transferable but advantageous as we make the transition to EVs.”
GM has more than 25 years experience with EVs, dating back before even the short-lived EV1. That, the company says, has given them insights into better designs. For example, GM says, integrating the power electronics into the drive units has reduced mass by 50 percent, cutting costs and packaging space while increasing capability.
Ultium will allow for front, rear, and all-wheel drive, providing high-performance and off-road capabilities. Developed alongside its new EVs, GM says that they are better able to manage efficiency and packaging going forward.
Why make their own instead of finding a partner or supplier? “As with other propulsion systems that are complex, capital intensive and contain a great deal of intellectual property, we’re always better off making them ourselves,” said Adam Kwiatkowski, GM executive chief engineer, Global Electrical Propulsion. “GM’s full lineup of EVs should benefit from the simultaneous engineering of Ultium Drive. Our commitment to increased vertical integration is expected to bring additional cost efficiency to the performance equation.”
Most Ultium Drive components can be built on flexible assembly lines at existing GM propulsion plants, helping those plants and allowing GM to ramp up quickly.