In a somewhat unusual move for an automaker, GM divulged this week it is far along the curve toward li-ion batteries cheap enough to sell its reasonably priced Bolt at a profit.
Entering 2016 GM said its cells cost $145 per kilowatt-hour, and by late 2021, they could be at the $100 mark.
Without actually naming Tesla or other competitors expected this decade and next, GM has otherwise put the industry on notice it will not be second-rate in the electrified vehicle market.
An estimated price for what cells cost for the Chevy Volt was upwards of $400-$500 per kilowatt-hour a few years ago, but today, GM is as low as one-third that for its pending Bolt EV, and expects further declines.
The occasion of the revelation was its Global Business Conference, an annual financial meeting in Michigan where GM was laying out its case for its investment potential as a company to analysts.
To get the cells to a fully assembled pack a car can use will require a container along with cabling and circuit boards for monitoring the cells, along with possibly cooling/heating support. Unknown are GM’s assembled pack cost estimates, but its cell costs are very low and it is looking to pare costs throughout where it can.
By contrast, Tesla is on a comparable glide path, has said it hopes for the $100 per cell by a 2020-ish timeframe as its Nevada Giga factory comes fully online, enabling it to sell its Model 3 for as low as $35,000.
GM is cutting costs with battery suppliers, while Tesla has taken on the task of doing the manufacturing itself.
While the Tesla Model 3 may be shown for the first time next March and may make it to production as soon as the following year or two, Chevrolet is also ahead of the curve with its Bolt.
The automaker has 55 test mules in the works, and 1,000 engineers tasked to developing a growth opportunity. It’s to cost somewhere around $37,500 though its design and style may be quite different from whatever Tesla rolls out next year.
Actual prices and specs are still in flux, but the takeaway is GM is on its way. It has yet to officially announce the Bolt EV will be a 2017 model year, though this is widely believed, and has been reported as though it’s certain.