GM is poised to launch a battery partnership with Samsung SDI according to multiple media sources, with a Memorandum of Understanding possibly signed between the two companies this week.
The sources claiming an upcoming alliance between GM and Samsung are unofficial according to InsideEVs. The partnership would require GM to decide on a changeover to cylindrical battery cells in place of the pouch-style cells currently used in its Ultium batteries.
The news comes after GM’s previous partner, LG Energy Solution (also from South Korea) declined to help The General build the fourth Ultium Cells battery plant in the U.S. GM and LG Energy broke ground on three Ultium Cells facilities in collaboration.
One of these facilities –Ultium Cells in Warren, Ohio – is already operational. The other two are still under construction, with the main factory building’s steel structure at the Ultium Cells plant in Lansing, Michigan completed just days ago at the start of March 2023. The Ultium Cells plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee should be operational before the end of the year.
LG Energy bowed out of the Ultium Cells project based on cost and the scale of the operations. This led to questions about whether GM will continue using pouch-style battery cells in its modular Ultium battery, given that LG Energy is one of very few companies able to make pouch battery cells, or use both technologies moving forward.
The question may be answered if GM does indeed ink a partnership with Samsung. The latter makes cylindrical battery cells, not pouch cells, including 46 millimeter diameter 46xx cylindrical cells designed for high-energy applications.
It’s unknown at this point if switching to cylindrical cells will oblige GM to develop a new electric vehicle platform, or if the BEV3 and BT1 architectures can be adapted to use this cell type. However, in regards to this question, “one of the strengths of the GM platform is the ability to use pouch, prismatic and cylindrical battery cells,” according to past remarks by GM CEO Mary Barra.
The unofficial sources provide additional detail on an allegedly upcoming GM-Samsung battery plant. While GM originally planned to build its fourth Ultium Cells location in Indiana, the new factory is said to be earmarked for construction in Michigan.
If the reports are accurate, the new joint Michigan battery plant would be able to produce 30 gWh to 50 gWh of batteries yearly once it is operational. This would be sufficient to equip up to half a million electric vehicles with a 100 kWh battery annually. Added to the output of the other Ultium Cells plants, this capacity could help GM achieve its goal of building one million EVs annually by 2025.