GM Back in the EV Spotlight
Following the introduction of the EV1 in the mid-1990s, GM dabbled with electric hybrids but didn’t introduce its next fully electric car, the Chevy Bolt, until 2016. It could be said that although GM was a pioneer in the EV industry, the Detroit-based automaker fell asleep at the wheel, waking 20 years later to discover Tesla and others were not only testing the EV market, but surpassing them in many ways.
Today, GM is reestablishing itself as a frontrunner, ranking third on Edmund’s 2023 list of top EV car makers. However, GM is striving to be more than an EV leader, it has the lofty goal of transforming the world by creating “EVs for everyone” (#EverybodyIn). To do so, GM has pledged $35 billion toward creating more than 30 new models and producing more than one million EVs annually by 2025, using its versatile, state of the art Ultium battery platform.
Unfortunately, GM is already facing challenges in achieving its world-transforming mission. According to Mike Van Boekel, a union chairperson, are outpacing battery manufacturing, leading to battery shortages at the company's plants due to lack of raw materials. GM is not alone. Noting similar challenges for other OEMs, Casey Selecman, a forecast director with AutoForecast Solutions, stated, “Everyone is up against it globally, there are looming threats of shortages for nickel, lithium, graphite and cobalt.”
Foreseeing lithium battery material bottlenecks, GM has solidified nearly with companies such as conventional and unconventional mines, direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology, and battery recycling. These moves are part of GM’s overarching strategy to secure a battery supply chain from raw materials to battery cells, thereby establishing EV battery supply chain dominance and positioning itself ahead of the pack for years to come.
With the federal subsidy policies put in place under the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, OEMs and consumers alike will continue to be incentivized to make the shift to EVs, which will only continue to put pressure on raw materials suppliers and battery manufacturers. Given EV tax credits are limited to EVs produced in North America with materials sourced in North America or from allied nations, it is imperative that OEMs work with local sourcing and manufacturing companies.
However, the U.S. has nominal production capacity, and although several projects ranging from mines to gigafactories are in the works, it will take years for these projects to reach production. But with hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into U.S. and Canadian battery material resources including Thacker Pass and the Salton Sea and emerging extraction technologies, American OEMs such as GM are faced with a complex balancing act of accelerating EV production, while avoiding costly supply chain issues leading to assembly plant shutdowns.
There is no doubt that the stakes are high, and timing is everything. After a pioneering stab at the future in 1996, GM sees a second chance at being a leader in the EV space but realizes that it is more than just a race to build EVs; it is a race to secure the raw materials to produce them.