Announcements about new products from General Motors GM,
shows that its much-hyped Ultium EV architecture is starting to come into its own. We’re hearing a lot about supposedly revolutionary new electric vehicles from across the industry. However, what General Motors has created with the Ultium is starting to look like the real thing in consumer electric vehicles for the masses.
What is Ultium?
Ultium is an EV battery and motor architecture from General Motors. GM has been making electric vehicles since the 1990s with the EV1, followed by the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt and the all-electric Chevy Bolt. All three of these cars were revolutionary in their own way, but none of them really caught on.
Ultium is the next chapter in GM’s electric vehicle story. The batteries use nickel-cobalt-manganese-aluminum chemistry, which reduces costs compared to lithium-ion batteries. Ultium uses a modular layout with battery cells that can be stacked either vertically or horizontally.
This highly flexible architecture can be applied to a variety of vehicles. This flexibility is key to Ultium’s potential.
Ultium’s current state
The only vehicles on the road today that use the Ultium platform are the BrightDrop Zevo 600 commercial vehicle and the GMC Hummer EV pickup truck. Hummer impressed the auto press and its owners with its exciting performance, high-tech interior and rugged capability. However, it is not what we would call an EV for the masses because it is an expensive luxury truck. An SUV version of the electric Hummer can be pre-ordered.
A few other Ultium vehicles are available for pre-order now. The closest one to dealerships is the Cadillac Lyriq. The Lyriq hits a high-tech EV that’s also a relatively affordable luxury SUV. Pricing starts at $62,990, which is actually lower than the average transaction price for a new EV, which is around $66,000 at the time of writing. It’s also priced not far from the gas-powered mid-size 2-row SUVs from luxury brands. Shipping of the Lyriq is expected to begin this fall, but if you order one now, you’ll be waiting until spring 2023.
Two Chevrolet models using the Ultium architecture are available for pre-order; The EV variants of the Silverado and Blazer. These are both quite different from their gas powered counterparts. The Silverado EV is clearly a direct competitor to the Ford F-150 Lightning F,
The two variants available for pre-order are the WT model, which starts at $39,900, and the high-performance RST model, which is comparable to the Hummer EV Pickup with a 6-figure price tag.
See: Ford raises price of all-electric F-150 Lightning amid shortages, inflation — here’s how much the pickup will cost
If you like the idea of the Cadillac Lyriq but don’t have the budget for it, that’s where the Chevy Blazer EV comes in. It is an electric mid-size SUV with an estimated starting price of around $44,995 and an estimated maximum range of up to 320 miles. This SUV has great potential as a mainstream electric vehicle that fits the lifestyles of a variety of drivers. It will also be available with the Super Cruise hands-free driving system at a more affordable price than a Cadillac or Hummer. You can pre-order one now and get it in summer 2023.
The future of Ultium
The Ultium platform debuts, as does the Tesla brand. It starts with low-volume, high-price offerings like the electric Hummer and gradually evolves into higher-volume, low-price offerings. An example is the upcoming Chevy Equinox EV. You can’t order an electric Equinox yet, but it’s on a similar timeline to the Blazer EV. GM estimates a starting price of around $30,000; if it can stick it could be a big hit.
Another upcoming Ultium vehicle is the promising Cadillac Celestiq. The brand is positioning its next electric flagship sedan to compete with models like the Tesla TSLA,
Model S, Porsche POAHY,
Taycan and Audi e-Tron GT. It’s a sign that Cadillac is finally serious about reclaiming the luxury car throne as the “standard of the world.”
Lily: 2022 Audi e-tron vs. Tesla Model Y – which is better?
Not surprisingly, an electric version of the GMC Sierra is also on the way. Judging by the Sierra’s nameplate history, it will be a GMC version of the Chevy Silverado EV, likely with a greater emphasis on luxury.
An interesting curve in Ultium’s history is that the Honda HMC,
take the platform. The next Honda Prologue is an electric SUV that will likely be mechanically similar to the Chevy Equinox EV. Honda says the Prologue is the first in an “upcoming series of electric vehicles,” so we’ll likely see more Ultium-based Honda models in the future. There are also rumors of an Acura version of the Prologue.
Finally, there is BrightDrop, the newest brand in the GM family that you may not have heard of until today. BrightDrop is an electric car brand for commercial vehicles. FedEx FDX,
ordered 500 BrightDrop Zevo and Walmart WMT vans,
has signed an agreement to reserve 5,000 of them. If you live in an area with abundant electric charging infrastructure, you may soon see these vans delivering packages to you. This new brand will likely continue to compete with Rivian’s electric vans.
It’s time to speculate
So here’s what we know so far about the present and future of the GM Ultium platform. Since it can support a variety of vehicles, from a luxury sports sedan to a pickup truck to a humble compact SUV, the possibilities are nearly endless.
It is likely that the Chevy Camaro will be fully electric. The Camaro has struggled for years to compete with the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger. The poor Camaro is plagued by constant rumors that it’s being discontinued again, just like in 2002. That may be true of the gas-powered Camaro, but an electric Camaro that’s still affordable at the low end of the range and performance in the high end would be an exciting addition to the world of electric cars.
Also see: This is where GM wants to install 40,000 new EV chargers
Some versions of the Chevy Bolt will likely continue and eventually transition to the Ultium platform. But what about sedans like the Malibu? Will Chevy follow Ford’s lead and ditch sedans and hatchbacks altogether? There could be a real market for a Malibu or Impala based on the Ultium platform with a long range and a low price. We will see.
Then there’s Buick. GM announced that Buick would become an all-electric brand in the US, with a new logo and all. However, the automaker has not made any specific product announcements. Buick announces that its first electric vehicle will be available in 2024 and that every electric Buick will carry the name “Electra”.
It also recently unveiled a new Wildcat EV concept in China. It’s a sporty coupe that probably won’t see the light of day, but gives us a glimpse of a new design language for the brand. It’s good to see Buick building on its long history with old names like Electra and Wildcat to breathe new life into what has become a premium SUV economy brand. An electric Buick Riviera or Grand National would be nice, but don’t expect too much.
Do not miss: Not ready for an electric car? These future models may change your mind.
Time will tell us
The Ultium platform currently only has one vehicle available on the market and that is a very expensive Hummer. However, there are good reasons to be optimistic about the future of GM electrics. GM is taking its time to go electric and has already impressed with the variety of Ultium architecture vehicles. The General is making big promises about affordable electric vehicles for the masses, as we’ve heard before. Time will tell if it is right this time.
This story originally took place on Autotrader.com.