General Motors Energy is Building an Electrified Future
By combining EVs, battery storage, and cloud-based data management, GM is moving beyond its traditional role as a carmaker.
If you are building large-scale batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and chargers for the home, and are part of various consortiums building out charging and electrification infrastructure, why wouldn’t it make sense to combine all your new energy initiatives under one label? That’s the driving force behind General Motors Energy (GM Energy).
Image used courtesy of General Motors
Looking beyond building EVs and building upon GM’s Ultium battery program, GM Energy combines Ultium Home, Ultium Commercial, and Ultium Charge 360 to provide its customers with energy management services while also helping to improve the resiliency of the nation’s power grid.
New GM Technologies
GM is looking at new technologies such as vehicle-to-home (V2H) and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) solutions via bi-directional charging, stationary battery storage systems, the integration of solar energy, and even the use of hydrogen fuel cells.
Many energy management services will revolve around software applications via cloud management tools and developing robust microgrid solutions. Housing data and energy management tools and acting as a central interface, GM’s Energy Services Cloud will connect residential, commercial, and fleet customers to manage energy consumption through various software applications.
As electrification proceeds, there is a growing understanding that finding the most optimum times to charge EVs might not be as simple as charging them overnight.
Balancing excess solar and wind energy production during the day with at-work charging might be more efficient and help moderate peak demands on the grid. GM Energy will examine stationary and EV storage batteries to allow individuals and businesses to sell energy to utilities during times of peak demand and to charge these systems when energy prices are low. Such V2G applications will be one of the keys to keeping the grid reliable and safe as more RVs reach the market.
Solar Power and Energy Storage
GM’s interest in stationary storage is evidenced by agreements with SunPower to develop and offer residential customers a home energy system.
SunPower is one of the country’s leading solar energy technology providers. The system it is developing with GM will include an integrated EV and home battery system and solar panels to help power them. The goal is to be able to power a home during a power outage and to be able to sell excess solar energy back to the utilities when excess energy is being produced. The system will be available at the same time as the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV pickup truck launch.
Another backup power solution using EVs is being developed in a project between GM and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to provide V2H capability during short-term outages. Using a bidirectional charger, an EV can serve as a power source when the system is fully developed by the end of 2023. Additional work is underway with Con Edison, Graniterock, and New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) to provide GM Energy technologies.
The key to GM Energy is its Ultium lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are used in a modular layout that includes pouch-type cells that can be vertically or horizontally stacked, depending on the form required for each vehicle. The company recently announced an agreement with Australia-based Queensland Pacific Materials to obtain the nickel and cobalt materials needed to support GM’s goal of building 1 million EVs by 2025. Nickel and cobalt are two of the most expensive materials in a lithium-ion battery and are a part of the battery’s cathode. Their use provides battery cells with the highest power and energy outputs and the greatest longevity.
Queensland Pacific’s Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub (TECH) Project. Image used courtesy of Queensland Pacific
The metals produced by Queensland Pacific will be used in GM vehicles such as the GMC Hummer EV, Chevrolet Blazer EV, Chevrolet Silverado EV pickup, Cadillac, and Chevrolet Equinox EV. The process under development by Queensland Pacific will reduce waste and use environmentally conscious extraction methods to produce what is claimed to be the world’s cleanest nickel and cobalt.
The U.S. has announced a goal of 50 percent of new vehicle sales as EVs by 2030 and that all new vehicles will be electric by 2035. This wholesale conversion of the transportation system to EVs is also being matched by a transition of the electrical power grid away from fossil fuels to renewables like wind and solar. Both sources require battery energy storage to be implemented effectively.
GM Energy is becoming an important part of electrification and the new world it is bringing about.