The largest manufacturer in the world from the Great Depression of 1929 to the subprime crisis of 2008 was General Motors, and today it is mainly focused on North America and China. Leaving aside the Chevrolet Bolt, one of the most affordable electric cars in the United States, its production is very low. Fewer than 500 units of the GMC HUMMER EV have been built since December.
Part of that slow, slow, slow pace is due to the limited supply of batteries. GM had known for a long time that it was going to need many, so in 2019 it designed, together with LG Energy Solution, deployment of four battery factories -at the moment, without giga- based in the United States. The first of these is already operating in Warren, Ohio, near the factory that was sold to Lordstown Motors and is now owned by Foxconn.
The plant is owned by Ultium Cells LLC, the joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution. It has an area of 26 hectares and 800 people are working. When it is at full capacity, some 1,300 will work. Right now employees are in the process of unionizing, something GM doesn’t mind.
Ultium cell production at the moment is for the GMC HUMMER EV, which has yet to put up ridiculous numbers even for a rookie like Rivian Automotive, which has delivered many more Rivian R1Ts. They’re also ridiculous numbers against archrival Ford Motor Company, which already has thousands of F-150 Lightning rolling around the US. Still, the HUMMER is aimed at a customer who spends a lot more, but neither the Chevrolet Silverado nor the GMC Sierra is ready to fight back against Ford.
The other model that uses Ultium cells is the Cadillac Lyriq, which is also produced in very modest numbers. In a matter of months, models like the Chevrolet Blazer and Equinox will come. Three other battery factories are about to open: Spring Hill, Tennessee, Lansing, Michigan, and the fourth has yet to be announced. Aside from that, General Motors also secured lithium and battery precursor materials for its product offensive.
GMC HUMMERs are built at Factory Zero in Hamtramck, Michigan.
GM’s 2019 move has turned out to be strategically correct because the Inflation Reduction Act increasingly requires not only that eligible cars up to $7,500 be built in America, but that their batteries come from a local supply chain. By 2025, General Motors aims to sell 1 million units a year in North America, and for this, the four battery factories will be crucial.