GM takes on Tesla with electric cars, boats, planes and trucks
General Motors is getting into the electric boat business. In fact, as the American auto giant pushes President Joe Biden’s splashy and ambitious plan to accelerate the rollout of electric cars, GM has also been working quite quietly on a quest to build planes, trains and trucks of electric delivery – all self-powered. battery and hydrogen fuel cell technologies.
Among the huge lineup of electric vehicles in the works at GM, you might actually get the chance to drive or ride in one of the new electric boats. The company recently announced that it has purchased a 25% stake in Pure Watercraft, a Seattle-based startup that makes battery-powered outboard motors for boats. Under the agreement, GM will supply components to Pure Watercraft at the same discounted rate as its internal divisions and help Pure Watercraft expand its manufacturing network. After GM’s investment of $150 million in cash and in-kind, Pure Watercraft is valued at $600 million.
The companies did not share the specific products they will work on together, but the team developing GM’s Forward Marine First, an electric pontoon boat the company debuted at the Miami International Boat Show in 2019, will join. to cooperation.
“Boating has historically benefited from advances in automotive technology,” Andy Rebele, CEO of Pure Watercraft, told Recode. “They’ve been using automotive engines and automotive technology in boats for many, many years, and it’s the epitome of what’s happening in the age of electric vehicles.”
GM’s dive into the electric boating industry is a sign that the company is serious about its “all-electric future”. This commitment includes investing at least $35 billion to launch 30 electric vehicle models globally by 2025 – 20 of these vehicles will be available in the United States. GM went even further this year and announced it would phase out all gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2035 and make its operations carbon neutral by 2040. Now the company is racing to build the tools and the factories it needs to meet them. goal.
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 is spending billions to build two battery manufacturing plants in Ohio and Tennessee, which will be completed in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Other battery factories may 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 specifically designed for electric vehicles. And just last week, GM hosted President Biden at the grand opening of its newly renovated $2.2 billion electric vehicle assembly plant, Factory Zero. GMC Hummer electric pickups and Chevy Silverado trucks will be among the first vehicles made there.
“The reason why electric cars always cost more than the equivalent internal combustion engine vehicle is the battery,” Karl Brauer, executive analyst at 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 moving towards electric vehicles.”
As the company doubled its electric vehicle manufacturing capabilities, it also designed components so they could be adapted for other forms of transport. In particular, GM has invested heavily in its Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell technology, which uses hydrogen and oxygen from the air to generate electricity. (Unlike batteries which store electricity directly, these fuel cells store hydrogen which is then converted into electricity). The company has already found several customers for the technology, including truck company Navistar, aerospace supplier Liebherr-Aerospace and freight rail maker Wabtec, which uses Hydrotec fuel cells as well as GM’s Ultium batteries.
GM’s path to an all-electric future won’t be easy. GM is essentially competing with every traditional automaker in the world to reclaim its share of the EV market, and there have been a few missteps already. Earlier this year, the company recalled all 141,000 Chevy Bolt electric cars it has produced since 2017 due to a battery-related fire hazard. 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 surpassed the 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 company.
Many other companies are carving out their own niche in the electric vehicle industry. Beyond Pure Watercraft, the electric boating sector also includes a startup called Arc, which is building a $300,000 24-foot boat with a top speed of 40 miles per hour. Electric tractor-trailers are in the works at several companies, including Chinese automakers BYD and Geely as well as Tesla. There are also startups developing electric air taxis, some of which will also be self-driving. Palo Alto-based Kitty Hawk plans to launch its maiden flight in the coming months with CEO Sebastian Thrun as its first passenger. Some companies are even developing electric tractors.
But GM may have an advantage. Biden has frequently expressed support for union-backed automakers and also credits GM CEO Mary Barra with electrifying “the entire auto industry.” The White House also doesn’t have the best of relations with Tesla, which doesn’t have a union and wasn’t invited to August’s White House summit on electric vehicles. At the same time, Biden’s Build Back Better spending program would provide, 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 has manufactured more than half a billion vehicles in its corporate life. That experience could be key as GM races to integrate not just its cars, but many different modes of transportation, into its electric future.
This story was first published in the Recode newsletter. register here so as not to miss the next one!