General Motors on Thursday announced a partnership with a lithium metal battery startup to increase the U.S. automaker’s battery development, allowing for a higher electric vehicle driving range in a smaller package.
The joint development agreement with SolidEnergy Solutions (SES) of Woburn, Massachusetts, will allow the automaker to cut weight from the vehicle, a key goal for automakers as they move forward to roll out electric vehicles. GM has said by mid-decade its Ultium battery packs are projected to cost 60% less compared to today’s packs with twice the energy density.
The companies plan to construct a manufacturing line at SES to assemble a prototype battery by 2023. General Motors has invested an undisclosed amount in SES in 2015. Terms of the partnership announced Thursday were not revealed.
Battery cells that utilize lithium metal instead of conventional graphite have the potential to store more energy and thus giving more driving range in future electric vehicles (EVs), or the same range in a much smaller and lighter battery pack.
GM executives said the technology being developed with SES will be utilized in future Ultium-based vehicles, the first of which go on sale this fall with the release of the GMC Hummer electric pickup truck.
“This is a great opportunity for us to find greater energy in a smaller package that will free up space inside the vehicle for other technology,” Kent Helfrich, executive director of GM’s worldwide electrification and battery systems, said in an interview.
Last year, the automaker introduced Ultium as a key pillar in its push to cut battery costs and extend the electric driving range. GM is constructing a $2.3 billion joint-venture Ultium battery plant in Ohio with LG Energy Solution, a unit of LG Chem, and the companies expect to add a second factory, possibly in Tennessee.
The preliminary prototype batteries have finished 150,000 simulated test miles at GM’s technical center in Warren, Michigan, the automaker said. Other investors in SES include SAIC Motor, SK Innovation and Applied Materials.
The deal is not exclusive and SES can work with automakers apart from GM, Helfrich said.