GM to Build Energy Storage Prototype for DOD

July 17, 2023 by Shannon Cuthrell

As part of a new defense contract, General Motors will develop an advanced energy storage prototype to power mission-critical equipment in tactical operations. 

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) recently tapped General Motors to deliver an advanced energy storage prototype supporting soldiers’ tactical energy requirements in remote locations. 


GM Defense’s energy storage system for the Department of Defense

A rendering of GM Defense’s energy storage system for the Department of Defense. Image used courtesy of GM Defense


The contract was awarded to the car giant’s North Carolina-based defense subsidiary, GM Defense, under the DoD Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)’s Stable Tactical Expeditionary Electric Power (STEEP) program, which targets technologies offering tactical microgrid and energy management to reduce logistical operations and reliance on fossil fuels as a primary energy source. Cummins Power Generation also landed a new contract under STEEP. 

The DIU’s announcement said the DoD relies heavily on mobile generators in a microgrid configuration for tactical power systems but lacks an integrated energy storage setup to improve fuel efficiency and generator performance. The DIU added that the new system would feature an embedded control function to boost grid stability and reliability while allowing for silent watch operations and peak load shaving. The STEEP program is expected to be ready for operational testing and demonstration in 1.5 to two years.

GM Defense’s announcement said it envisions a “scalable and adaptable” energy storage system extending uninterruptible and reliable power to mission-critical equipment, including command and control, radar and weapons systems in remote locations, communications, and other applications demanding a stable power grid infrastructure. The system will be based on GM’s Ultium battery platform, the advanced propulsion architecture in its growing portfolio of electric vehicles. (Ultium Cells LLC, a joint venture involving South Korea-based battery maker LG Energy Solution, leads GM’s battery development and production.)

GM Defense added that the system would provide intelligent tactical microgrid functions compatible with hydrogen-based generators, stationary and mobile battery power, or existing fuel-powered generators for efficient power management and distribution. A document on its website indicates the STEEP solution would have a maximum weight of 3,960 pounds, 60 kilowatt-hours of usable energy based on the Ultium platform, and liquid cooling and heating based on advanced commercial systems. 


Details on GM Defense’s STEEP energy storage prototype

Details on GM Defense’s STEEP energy storage prototype. Image used courtesy of GM Defense


GM’s Defense Business Is Expanding

Steve duMont, the president of GM Defense, said the contract aligns with GM’s efforts to reduce warfighter fuel consumption and lower acoustic and thermal signatures while supplying efficient energy for tactical operations. 

This isn’t GM Defense’s first DoD contract. In 2022, the DIU selected the company to provide an Ultium-based battery system prototype as part of the Jumpstart for Advanced Battery Standardization (JABS) project, which aims to standardize battery modules across the DoD. The contract has since expanded to integrate GM’s high-voltage battery packs into multi-mission and logistics vehicles. 

GM plans to build on the JABS program’s test phases and the new STEEP participation to deliver its battery technologies to DIU programs. It also mentioned that STEEP would transition to a U.S. Marine Corps program if successful, marking GM Defense’s first program with the Marines since the subsidiary relaunched in 2017. 

GM Defense was founded in 1950 and mainly specialized in armored vehicles before defense giant General Dynamics acquired the unit in 2003 for $1.1 billion. Over a decade later, GM revived the brand to serve new demand in the defense market after working with the military on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. 

GM Defense later unveiled its fuel cell-powered Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure four-wheel concept vehicle as part of a U.S. Army project. It also developed the ZH2 fuel cell EV, a modified Chevrolet pickup design with a sturdy and stealthy drive system capable of operating through jungle environments. And in 2020, it was awarded its first major contract, a $214.3 million procurement deal to supply over 2,000 Infantry Squad Vehicles (ISVs) to the Army. Earlier this year, the Army approved full-rate production of the ISV units. 


GM’s Infantry Squad Vehicles are supplied to the U.S. Army

GM’s Infantry Squad Vehicles are supplied to the U.S. Army. Image used courtesy of GM Defense


The subsidiary has since expanded its footprint outside the domestic market, recently forming GM Defense International to pursue business opportunities in Europe, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific region, in addition to North America.