Electric cars

GM takes on Tesla with electric cars, boats, planes and trucks

General Motors is entering the electric boat market. In fact, like the American auto giant shoot President Joe Biden’s brilliant and ambitious plan to accelerate the deployment of electric cars, GM has also been working quite quietly on a quest to build electric cars. Airplanes, the trains, and delivery trucks – all powered by its own battery and hydrogen fuel cell technologies.

Among the huge lineup of electric vehicles in the works at GM, you might have the chance to drive or ride in one of the new electric boats. The company recently announced that it purchased a 25 percent stake in Pure Watercraft, a Seattle-based startup that makes battery-powered outboard motors for boats. As part of the deal, GM will supply Pure Watercraft with components at the same discounted rate as its internal divisions and help Pure Watercraft grow its manufacturing network. After GM’s investment of $ 150 million in cash and in-kind, Pure Watercraft is valued at $ 600 million.

The companies haven’t shared what specific products they will be working on together, but the team that developed GM’s Forward Marine First, an electric pontoon the company first debuted at the Miami International Boat Show in 2019, will join the collaboration.

“Boating has historically benefited from advances in automotive technology,” Andy Rebele, CEO of Pure Watercraft, told Recode. “They’ve been using automotive engines and technologies in boats for many, many years, and that’s the epitome of what’s happening in the age of electric vehicles.”

GM’s dive into the electric boating industry is a sign the company is taking its “business” seriously.all-electric future. “This commitment includes the investment at least $ 35 billion will launch 30 electric vehicle models worldwide by 2025 – 20 of these vehicles will be available in the United States. GM took it a step further this year and announced it phase out all its gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2035 and make its operations carbon neutral by 2040. Now the company is struggling to build the tools and factories it needs to achieve that goal.

The key to GM’s electric dreams is Ultium lithium-ion battery technology, which will be incorporated into a wide range of vehicles. In partnership with LG, the company spend billions to build two factories plants for batteries in Ohio and Tennessee, which will be completed in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Even more battery factories could follow in the years to come. GM also entered into a strategic supplier agreement with semiconductor maker Wolfspeed earlier this fall to secure computer chips that are specifically designed for electric vehicles. And just last week, GM hosted President Biden at the inauguration of its newly renovated $ 2.2 billion electric vehicle assembly plant, Factory Zero. GMC Hummer electric pickup trucks and Chevy Silverado trucks will be among the first vehicles manufactured there.

“The reason electric cars always cost more than the equivalent internal combustion engine vehicle is the battery,” Karl Brauer, executive analyst at the automotive search engine website, iSeeCars.com, told Recode. “Controlling everything about batteries – production and cost – is probably the most efficient thing an automaker can do in a world that is turning to electric vehicles. ”

While the company has doubled its manufacturing capabilities for electric vehicles, it has also designed components so that they can be adapted for other forms of transportation. In particular, GM has invested heavily in its Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell technology, which uses hydrogen and oxygen in the air to generate electricity. (Unlike batteries, which directly store electricity, these fuel cells store hydrogen which is then converted into electricity). The company has already found several customers for this technology, including the Navistar trucking company, the aeronautical equipment manufacturer Liebherr-Aerospace, and the Wabtec freight rail manufacturer, which uses Hydrotec fuel cells as well as GM Ultium batteries.

GM’s path to a fully electric future will not be easy. GM is essentially competing with all the historic automakers around the world for its share of the electric vehicle market, and there have been a few missteps already. Earlier this year, the company recalled all 141,000 Chevy Bolt electric cars it has been producing since 2017 due to a risk of fire linked to the batteries. Meanwhile, new electric vehicle startups are attracting a lot of attention and investment. Electric truck maker Rivian and luxury electric car maker Lucid have rivaled or even exceeded stock market valuations of Ford, GM and Stellantis, which owns Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep. Tesla also shows no signs of slowing down. The company plans to complete a new Gigafactory, an electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Texas this year, and it recently became a trillion dollar business.

Many other companies are carving out their own niche in the electric vehicle industry. Beyond Pure Watercraft, the electric boating industry also includes a startup called Arc, which is building a $ 300,000 24-foot boat with a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour. Electric semi-trucks are in the works at several companies, including Chinese automakers BYD and Geely as good as You’re here. There are also startups developing electric air taxis, some of which will also be autonomous. Palo Alto-based company Kitty Hawk plans to launch its maiden flight in the the next months with its CEO Sebastian Thrun as the first passenger. Some companies are even developing electric tractors.

But GM can have an advantage. Biden has often expressed support for union-backed automakers, and also credits GM CEO Mary Barra for electrifying “the entire auto industry.” The White House also doesn’t have the best relationship with Tesla, who does not have a union and was not invited at the August White House summit on electric vehicles. At the same time, Biden’s Build Back Better spending program would offer, among other goals, additional tax credits on electric vehicles built in the United States and manufactured by union companies – which is exactly what GM is trying to do.

And then there’s the fact that GM is a century-old automaker that manufactures more than half a billion vehicles over the life of the business. This experience could be critical as GM strives to integrate not only its cars, but many different modes of transportation, into its electric future.

This story was first published in the Recode newsletter. register here so you don’t miss the next one!


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