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Tesla’s million mile battery: Veteran auto’s ‘fake it till you make it’ strategy is perfectly fine

Inside Tesla Gigafactory Shanghai's battery pack facility. (Credit: Tesla)

It is no secret that Tesla is actively pursuing a million-mile battery. With such an innovation, Tesla hopes to make its electric cars outlast gasoline-powered vehicles several times over, while ensuring that its energy storage devices are capable of lasting literal decades while being actively deployed. But if recent news is any indication, it appears that Tesla is not the only company that is closing in on a million-mile battery. 

During a recent online investor conference, GM Executive Vice President Doug Parks stated that the veteran American automaker is also working on a million mile battery solution. Beyond this, Parks suggested that GM is “almost there” in developing a battery that’s far above the Ultium batteries that were announced last March. Unfortunately, the GM executive did not specify a solid timeline for the introduction of its own million mile battery, only stating that multiple teams were working on it. 

GM’s rather sudden announcement of its million-mile battery echoes the company’s overall strategy with its electric vehicle program. Back in March, the automaker unveiled a sweeping electric vehicle strategy that will involve $20 billion in investments and about 20 EVs for practically every market. But despite the grandiose plans and announcements, the veteran automaker did not really disclose a lot of concrete details about its EV push, such as pricing, specifications, and timing. 

GM CEO Mary Barra speaking at the company’s EV Day on March 4, 2020. Credit: Tesla Daily Podcast

GM’s approach to electric vehicles almost seems like a “fake it till you make it” strategy. Back in March, there was a lot of talk about Tesla’s upcoming Battery and Powertrain Day, which was speculated to involve discussions and announcements about the company’s next-generation of electric vehicles and energy solutions. GM’s “EV Day” seemed to be a response to this. In the same light, the previous weeks have involved updates about the impending release of Tesla’s million mile battery, an innovation that is apparently “almost there” in GM. 

While this may at times feel like veteran automakers like GM are simply following Tesla’s EV playbook, it must be noted that every step made by legacy carmakers towards electric vehicles is a step towards the wider adoption of sustainable transport. Thus, despite the fact that GM’s EV strategies today are more smoke and mirrors and concept vehicles, the American automaker’s focus on electric cars is still admirable. This is a pretty big point for GM, considering that it is the very company that practically stopped the first coming of the modern electric car with its controversial cancellation of the EV1. 

Besides, it is difficult to deny that legacy automakers such as GM are making an effort towards electrification now. Despite the fact that leaked production plans accessed by Reuters indicated that GM and Ford only intend to produce 320,000 EVs in 2026 for the North American market, the company is still investing heavily in EVs. For its Ultium batteries, for example, GM has stated that it is working with Korean firm LG Chem to find ways to reduce costs and improve overall performance. Adam Kwiatkowski, executive chief engineer of GM’s electric propulsion systems, noted that the automaker and LG Chem are also looking at investments in mines, hedging metals prices, and potential partnerships with metal refiners. 

Tesla’s 2170 battery cells. (Credit: Tesla)

The next few years will definitely be one for the record books, as Tesla enters its next phase with its million mile battery and Plaid powertrain, and legacy automakers such as GM take a serious stance on electric vehicles. It’s easy to forget, after all, that less than a decade ago, the pervading narrative in the auto industry was that electric cars are still intended to be stuck as niche products, glorified golf cars for the wealthy and not much more.

The landscape today is very different, and there’s no bigger symbol of this change than GM’s own Hummer EV, a vehicle that’s the spiritual successor of the gas-guzzling monster SUV that pretty much killed the EV1. Other vehicles like the Tesla Cybertruck, which is expected to break the stereotypes of EVs as vehicles that cannot be used for real work and utility, further shows the steady trend forward for electric cars.

Tesla is a leader in the electric vehicle movement. That much is sure. But the company itself has noted that it cannot transition the world towards sustainability on its own. For true sustainability to happen, other companies, legacy carmakers like GM included, have to go all-in on the EV movement as well. One can only hope that this time, announcements such as GM’s million mile battery initiative are more on the “make it” side than on the “fake it” side. 

H/T @ajtourville.

Tesla’s million mile battery: Veteran auto’s ‘fake it till you make it’ strategy is perfectly fine
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