Monday, May 20

GMC Hummer EV: Excessive Use of Materials in Battery Pack

GMC Hummer EV: Excessive Use of Materials in Battery Pack

Tearing down the Ultium battery pack found in a GMC Hummer EV proves there’s room for improvement, especially when profits are on the line.

The GMC Hummer EV entered the market as a new pickup truck powered entirely by electricity. This truck tipped the scales at more the 9,000 pounds and brought a price tag of more than $100,000. Once the price of this EV truck was listed, most didn’t question the high cost of materials associated with the battery pack. That said, as GM continues to utilize the Ultium technology for smaller electric vehicles, the cost and excessive use of materials may become a problem.

Is the Ultium battery pack wasteful?

Whether it was out of several extra degrees of caution or the need for the Hummer EV to be an off-roading truck, the current battery pack utilizes much more materials than expected. The team at Munro & Associates tore down the battery pack in this GMC truck to learn more about it. Unfortunately, during this teardown, their worst fears were confirmed. This battery pack has an excess of materials and complexities that make it heavier and more costly than other EVs. This could be a problem going forward.

How heavy is the Hummer EV battery pack?

If you only have the massive battery brick in the floor of this GMC electric truck, you’ll quickly realize it’s nearly as heavy on its own as an entire Mazda Miata. This battery pack tips the scales at more than 2800 pounds. As expected, the Hummer EV has one of the largest battery packs in the entire industry. As you might expect, this massive part contributes to the heft of this GMC truck. The question we should be asking is whether or not GM could have created a lighter battery if they had utilized other materials.

What makes this battery so complicated?

The Ultium battery pack found in the GMC Hummer EV is an extremely complicated item. EV batteries are inherently complicated, utilizing lithium-ion cells to store energy, but the way GM built this battery is much more complicated than most. Removing a battery that weighs nearly 1.5 tons is extremely difficult. Once out of the truck, the team tearing it down found the cradle was made entirely from stamped steel. In fact, there are 139 individually stamped steel components that stay together through the use of 3,500 laser projected and spot welds. This makes the entire build more complicated.

Why is the stamped steel an issue?

Steel is heavy, expensive, and adds to the overall mass of the GMC Hummer EV. Most automakers build the battery cradle out of aluminum to reduce the mass of their EVs. Additionally, the amount of machine work and welding that went into this Hummer battery pack was incredibly shocking. This added to the overall manufacturing cost of the truck. It’s possible the Hummer EV could have cost a few thousand less if the process were less complicated and more like other automakers?

The concerns continue in the battery

The Ultium battery pack not only has a massive steel cradle but also has a complicated power distribution system. GM also spends more time and materials on cell separators than competitors in the EV world. Overall, this translates to a lot of money that might not have been necessary to build this battery pack. As the Ultium battery system is moved to smaller SUVs, there might be a few things that GM needs to reconsider when building these new EVs.

Could the massive battery be an off-road need?

Is it possible the large Ultium battery pack in the GMC Hummer EV was made with extra packaging and materials because this truck was made to be an extreme off-road electric truck? This is certainly possible. The added protection of steel makes it easier to take this truck out on some of the toughest trails and avoid rocks and other items damaging or puncturing the battery casing.

Can GM build this battery pack cheaper?

The Hummer EV is certainly an example of excess, as the Hummer name has always done. Still, the transition of the Ultium battery pack to the Chevy Blazer, Equinox, and other electric SUVs could require a smaller version of this battery system that doesn’t use steel. The technology can still be utilized, but a less costly solution would make it easy for these smaller SUVs to be sold at more affordable prices. Is this what GM is doing with these new EVs? We’ll soon find out.

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