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General Motors reveals Ultium Drive electric powertrains to scale up and hunt Tesla

Rather than buy electric powertrains from someone else, GM wants to keep the business inside the automaker.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
General Motors Ultium Drive Family

Here's a look at the stuff you'll probably never see in your future EV from GM.

General Motors

showcased the next piece of its future, which heavily revolves around electric vehicles of all shapes and sizes. On Wednesday, the automaker revealed "Ultium Drive," which is called a "family" of interchangeable electric powertrains. Total, the family includes five drive units and three motors.

At their core, these are electric motors paired with single-speed transmissions, which isn't groundbreaking. However, the fact GM plans for so many interchangeable combinations for a variety of purposes and electric cars is rather interesting. It's a massive bet that the automaker will be able to scale up production and achieve savings once Ultium Drive powertrains are actually rolling down assembly lines. GM could easily outsource powertrains, or e-axles as many companies call them, and plop them into future EVs.

Instead, GM believes its experience engineering and building traditional engines and transmissions, and the sheer number of supplier parts at its disposal will give it a leg up. The automaker also mentioned these powertrains will be built at existing factories on "shared, flexible" assembly lines.

GM already revealed its Ultium battery technology earlier this year, which will serve as the heart of future electric cars and provide up to 200 kilowatt hours worth of energy and ranges up to 400 miles on a single charge. Ultium Drive will send the battery's power to any drive layout the automaker decides to pursue; GM mentioned front-wheel, rear-wheel and all-wheel drive are all on the table with its newest technology.

We'll get our first taste of a production vehicle with all of the Ultium tech underneath when the first GMC Hummer EV pickups start rolling off the assembly line in 2021. Following the electric pickup will be the Cadillac Lyriq, meant to challenge the luxury electric SUV segment.

The Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV is ushering in a new era at GM

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Watch this: GMC Hummer EV: I've got an opinion