When GM spilled details on its new Ulitum battery, it revealed that capacity will be up to 200 kWh and range of vehicles equipped with such batteries will boast up to 400 miles of range. The numbers are impressive, but the misleading headlines make it seem as though the figures somehow trump Tesla.
First, GM's actual statement in its press release:
Ultium energy options range from 50 to 200 kWh, which could enable a GM-estimated range up to 400 miles or more on a full charge with 0 to 60 mph acceleration as low as 3 seconds.
And here's what that evolved into in some headlines from around the web:
- GM's New Electric Car Battery Tops Tesla's
- Get Ready Tesla, GM Is Touting a 400-Mile Range for Electric Vehicles
- GM Promises Profitable Electric Cars With Tesla-Beating Range
Those are just a few of the GM-beats-Tesla headlines. The problem is, General Motors never made such a claim and wisely never mentioned Tesla as a competitor or a target. And here's why.
Ultium-Powered Vehicles Don't Yet Exist
First off, the claims made by GM in regards to range are just that...claims. There's no vehicle with Ultium batteries in production and no vehicle with those batteries either with a range figure certified by the EPA or with real-world testing to verify those claims.
Sure, perhaps GM has tested its own setup and feels comfortable claiming 400 miles of range from a 200-kWh battery, but until an actual product enters production and gets its EPA-rated range, we have to remain cautious in regards to automaker claims.
Remember, the Porsche Taycan was originally projected to have a range of over 300 miles, but it later got EPA certified much lower. Yes, our independent Taycan tests verified it can go much further per charge than the EPA states, but that's anecdotal.
Tesla Has Much Bolder Claims
400 miles of range is an impressive figure, but remember that Tesla has already stated its future vehicles will go much farther than that.
500 is a lot, but guess how far Tesla says the new Roadster will go? Over 620 miles per charge.
Tesla's Range Today Is Nearly 400 Miles From A 100-kWh Battery Pack
Saving the best for last, the current Tesla Model S Long Range goes 390 miles per charge with a battery pack that's just half the size of the largest GM Ultium pack. Yes, that's right. Tesla's today can almost hit 400 miles on just 100-kWh of battery, so saying that GM's 200-kWh Ultium battery tops Tesla's is a statement that surely misses the mark. It's bigger, but not necessarily better.
GM's Battery Tech Is Unique And Much Improved Though
Let's not overlook the fact that GM's new Ultium battery represents a huge improvement over the automaker's current tech though.
First off, it's a relatively large and longish rectangular pouch cell with its electrodes located at separate ends. GM says a large-size format because that means each pack would then need fewer cells. Fewer cells means less wiring, less weight, less complexity, and lower costs.
The chemistry of the cell is different than that used in its current plug-in vehicle, the Chevy Bolt EV. At 100 Ah, it holds 60% more energy than the Bolt EV battery cells.
Improving energy density, along with increasing the scale of production, also lowers cell cost. GM says that in packs produced now, cells are about $145 per kWh, but soon it will be under $100 per kWh and that figure is expected to drop even more in the future.
Let's be honest though. Tesla has a product you can buy right now. GM's promised 400-miler could still be years away. Remember way back in 2017 when GM first revealed its massive EV offensive? Well, this is GM EV offensive "take two" and there's a chance it could never come to life, just like take one failed to result in the release of any groundbreaking EVs from any of General Motors' brands.
We truly hope GM pulls it off this time around, but to say GM has already topped Tesla is a statement that is far from true.