What Is Electrify America? The Charging Station For All

What Is Electrify America? The Charging Station For All

Electrify America Hyundai IONIQ5
The 2022 Hyundai IONIQ 5 charging at Electrify America

Some may think of electric vehicles as a concept of the future, but over 2 million EVs are already on American roads. By 2030, that figure may exceed 5 million. Where will all of these EVs juice up on road trips? Say hello to the gas station of the future. Charging stations are growing as more automakers commit to electrification

Among the key players in EV charging is Electrify America. With roots in the 2015 dieselgate debacle, Electrify America is out to show the masses that electric cars are accessible and convenient. Maybe you’ve even seen their glowing green stations in your local Walmart parking lot. Who knows, you might find yourself at an Electrify America station sooner than you think.

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Let’s cover the basics of Electrify America:

  • How much does Electrify America cost?
  • What is Electrify America’s pricing?
  • Where are Electrify America charging stations?
  • And so much more!

Let’s dive in.

What Is Electrify America?

Electrify America Ford Mustang Mach-E

Electrify America is the rebranded name for the initiative that Volkswagen created and funded as part of its 2016 settlement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. VW was caught red-handed cheating on emissions tests for millions of diesel cars sold in the US. Remember when everyone had to sell back their cool Golf TDI? VW hit rock bottom in 2015. As part of the $2 billion punishment, Volkswagen is prohibited from branding the charging network as a VW enterprise.

So here we have it, Electrify America! Storied past aside, EA is now a large and rapidly growing player in the world of electric vehicles. Despite initial skepticism, EA showed it was serious by following through on their initial goal of adding 2,000 DC fast chargers within a few years. An average of four EA stations were opened every week since the official debut of Electrify America in May of 2018. Now, EA is embarking on the next stage of growth. 

Who Can Charge at Electrify America Stations?

Harley EV charging
Yup, that’s an electric Harley-Davidson!

Good news! Any electric vehicle model can plug in at Electrify America charging stations. Even Teslas can charge here, despite having their own exclusive Supercharger network. Tesla may have a walled garden for its customers, but EA is open to all. EA stations include several CCS plug types, which work with nearly all EV models. The stations also have a CHAdeMO plug, which only the Nissan Leaf uses as of 2022. 

Plug-and-charge is a convenience feature popularized by Tesla, but now spreading among automakers. Considering Electrify America’s Volkswagen roots, you’d think plug-and-charge would be a given for VW electric cars. Not so, at least not yet. However, it looks like automakers are at fault here, not EA. The 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E already offers plug-and-charge, saving time and hassles for owners. GM says it will soon, but not by the time Cadillac Lyriq deliveries begin this year. 

Charging Speeds

Electrify America charging

Electrify America charging stations are installed with future-proofing in mind. The vast majority of stations are capable of supplying the latest EVs with up to 350 kW charge speeds. In 2022, only a few EVs are capable of such rapid charging. The Hyundai IONIQ 5, Lucid Air and Porsche Taycan are a few examples. If your EV only accepts slower charging speeds, Electrify America certainly has the power you need to juice up.

How Much Does Charging At Electrify America Cost?

Some lucky EV drivers will have some amount of free charging at Electrify America. The Volkswagen ID.4, Hyundai IONIQ 5, Polestar 2 and even the Lucid Air all come with two or three years of complimentary charging at EA. 

Electrify America pricing is determined by the following price tiers. Customers can either pay $0.43 per kilowatt-hour of electricity, or become a Pass+ member for just $4/month and charge up at $0.31 per kWh. For the Ford Mustang Mach-E with the standard battery, a full charge will cost about $21.00 as a Pass+ member, but $30.00 as a guest.

Having such an affordable membership plan is an interesting approach. It almost seems like Electrify America is aiming to become a subscription that everyone with an EV will buy into for a sense of range security, even if they rarely use the network. Learn more about Electrify America pricing and how much it costs to charge an electric vehicle at home or on the road here

Where Are Electrify America Stations Located?

After an extremely fast build-out, EA now has chargers in 47 states. Only North Dakota, Wyoming and West Virginia have yet to receive EA chargers. Some states have many chargers. Metro areas like Washington DC, Atlanta, New York City, and of course all of California have a high density of EA charging stations. 

A large number of EA stations are located in Walmart parking lots. Others are at Target stores, shopping malls, gas stations, and other frequented stops. With the new federal push for a national EV charging network, highway rest areas may soon get their own charging stations.

As of early 2022, Electrify America has 710 charging stations active in the US. Over 100 more are on the way soon. Three-quarters of existing charging ports are of the CCS type. The remainder are CHAdeMO-type plugs, almost exclusively for the Nissan Leaf. The rest of the EV world has moved on from CHAdeMO. 

Here are all of the Electrify America charging locations as of early 2022. Future stations are in gray.

Electrify America in 2022

Source: Electrify America

The 2025 Boost Plan: 1,800 Stations and 10,000 Chargers By 2025

Electrify America charging
Electrify America’s 2025 Boost Plan

Electrify America’s original goal was to have about 800 charging stations and approximately 3,500 individual chargers in the U.S. by the end of 2021. As you can see above, they clearly exceeded that ambitious goal. Now, EA is looking ahead to their 2025 Boost Plan. The new plan calls for increasing the total number of charging stations to more than 1,700 and 9,500 individual chargers by the end of 2025. Soon, all 50 states will be home to EA charging stations. For me in West Virginia, that can’t come soon enough. It’s a charging desert out here in the hills.

Tesla Superchargers

The Tesla Supercharger Network in 2022
The Tesla Supercharger Network in 2022

With so much competition arriving in the electric vehicle segment, buyers have far more options than they did just a few years prior. Back in 2018, it was Tesla, the Chevy Bolt and the Nissan Leaf that were selling in big numbers. Now look at the list of every EV on sale in 2022. Consumers have options! And by the time Electrify America’s 2025 Boost Plan is carried out, EV sales are expected to make up at least 12% of total vehicle sales. 

Still, Tesla continues to lead electric sales by a large margin. Tesla drivers can charge at Electrify America stations if they bring their own plug adapter. Unfortunately, only Tesla cars can plug in at the sprawling Tesla Supercharger network. Tesla’s proprietary network of exclusive chargers just reached a major milestone. As of late 2021, there are 30,000 charging stalls at over 5,000 locations worldwide. One-sixth of those charging stations were built in the latter half of 2021 alone. In the US, there are nearly 1,000 Supercharger locations, a figure that is rapidly growing.

Tesla also has a level 2 Destination Network at tourist destinations, hotels, restaurants and other destinations. Soon, there will even be a Megacharger Network to support the coming Tesla Semi. Rumors abound that Tesla will open up the Supercharger network to non-Tesla cars, as they have already tried in select European countries. Until that officially happens in the US, Superchargers remain off limits to Ford, GM, Hyundai and every other automaker’s EVs.

Tesla Superchargers are not free. In fact, charging will cost $0.28 per kilowatt-hour of electricity in most markets. Learn more about how much it costs to charge an electric vehicle in our recent report

How Does Electrify America Compare to Tesla or a Gas Station?

Clearly, electricity is cheaper than gasoline, no matter where you plug in:

Cost of Charging to 100% at a Tesla SuperchargerCost of Charging to 100% at Electrify America as a MemberCost of Charging to 100% at Electrify America as a GuestCost of Filling up an 18 Gallon Tank of Gas at $3.25/Gallon
$22.96$25.42$35.26$58.50

YAA’s Take

ev charging station

The automotive industry is commiting to EVs. With nearly half a trillion dollars committed to EV development this decade, is this a ‘too big to fail’ moment? However, what good are EVs if there’s nowhere to charge them? Actually, over 80% of electric vehicle charging happens at home. Still, road trips would be dead if automakers electrify without having public fast chargers as widespread as today’s gas stations. 

Aside from the Tesla Supercharger network, Electrify America is the best shot we have at rapidly building out a DC fast charging network across America. Automakers, utilities and even the federal government are currently figuring out how to grow charging infrastructure in America. The recent National EV Charging Summit highlighted those efforts, and also the immense challenges ahead. Electrify America’s 2025 Boost Plan offers a glimpse of the electric future to come along American highways. 

What do you think? Will Electrify America and the growing Tesla Supercharger network be enough for EVs to comfortably reach the forecasted 30-40% market share in 2030?

Over-the-Air (OTA) Updates: How Automakers Are Betting on Software to Keep Up With the Pace of Innovation

Over-the-Air (OTA) Updates: How Automakers Are Betting on Software to Keep Up With the Pace of Innovation

2024 Silverado EV
2024 Silverado EV RST

At what point does a car become more of a computer on wheels? Computer integration in the automotive industry is nothing new, however it’s accelerating at breakneck speed. Both software and hardware become outdated in no time at all. Is there a way for car buying habits to steer clear of the two-year replacement cycle that smartphones have fallen into? 

As soon as computers grew wheels (in the form of electric vehicles), forward-thinking automakers launched over-the-air (OTA) update capabilities. Tesla was the first to do it, and now the likes of Ford, GM and Volkswagen are among the legacy OEMs marketing their vehicles as OTA-ready. Although, not all who’ve tried it have succeeded without hiccups. Here’s how OTA updates are changing car ownership, and what’s to come in the years ahead. 

What Is an Over-the-Air (OTA) Update?

EV charging costs

You know when your phone gives you a push notification about scheduling a time to install the latest software updates and bug fixes? Well, cars can do that too now. OTA updates are not just for software fixes. With OTA capability, vehicles can receive enhanced performance and safety improvements via a simple wireless internet connection. 

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OTA updates eliminate the need for making a service center visit for many simple fixes and updates. The updates are sent and downloaded via access to a cloud-based server with a wireless internet connection. Many updates are free of charge, and all safety enhancements are at no cost. However, we are entering a new era where OTA presents a new revenue stream for car makers. Everyone’s getting in on the subscription business, and the auto industry is no different. There are two kinds of OTA updates: those for infotainment, and those for vehicle performance and control. They may target either software or firmware, the latter of which required more advanced security protocols to implement.

Infotainment OTA Updates

Head up display Kia EV6
2022 Kia EV6

Infotainment updates improve the user experience. A classic example is how Volkswagen ID.4 owners are pleading for an improved infotainment performance after the original equipment was delivered with a laggy touchscreen and haptic buttons. Fortunately for ID.4 owners, the car is among VW’s first generation of OTA-capable models, and a fix is on the way. 

Sometimes, OTA revisions cause frustration and even anger from customers. Tesla recently pushed the Version 11 user interface to all of it’s vehicles via over-the-air download. The result was strong critical feedback from customers, most of whom were complaining about the automaker trying to fix something that wasn’t broken.

Vehicle Performance and Control OTA Updates

GM Ultium battery
GM Ultium Battery and Powertrain

How is it that the 2019 Tesla Model 3 has a quicker 0-60 time now than it had when it was delivered to customers? Or how Tesla vehicles can gain or lose access to the controversially-named ‘full self-driving’ based on driver safety scores? With OTA capability, automakers can send everything from a power boost to a pedestrian avoidance feature to cars already in driver’s hands. 

Vehicle performance and control updates can include updates to the vehicle’s powertrain, chassis systems, and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Of course, updates to these critical components of a vehicle are only possible when the components are electronically controlled and operated. For this reason, an older car model can’t be retrofitted to become OTA capable. 

Examples of fixes and improvements automakers have installed via OTA

  • Tesla offers an ‘acceleration boost’ for the popular 2022 Model Y that lowers the 0-60 time from 4.8 to 4.2 seconds
  • Tesla regularly updates the ‘full self-driving’ upgrade, which is currently in beta testing
  • The Cadillac Escalade has received GM’s first big OTA update to improve the SuperCruise hands-free driver assistance (ADAS) technology
  • Ford delayed the release of a major OTA update for the BlueCruise hands-free driver assistance (ADAS) technology 
  • Volkswagen released the first of a series of promised software updates targeted at improving the infotainment experience

Which Automakers Offer OTA Updates?

Tesla was the first automaker to roll out over-the-air capabilities with the launch of the Model S in 2012. After years of skepticism from the competition, here are the other OEMs that have announced or commenced OTA updates in their vehicles:

AutomakerOTA-Upgraded Components
AudiNavigation
BMWInfotainment, optional features
FordADAS, several other components
General MotorsNearly every vehicle component on EVs, major components on combustion vehicles
HondaInfotainment
HyundaiInfotainment, voice assistance
Jaguar/Land RoverInfotainment, charging capabilities
LucidNearly every vehicle component and system
Mercedes-BenzInfotainment, navigation
NissanInfotainment
PolestarNearly every vehicle component and system
PorscheLimited functions
RivianNearly every vehicle component and system
Stellantis (FCA)Infotainment
TeslaNearly every vehicle component and system
ToyotaInfotainment
VolkswagenSeveral vehicle components and systems on EVs
VolvoNearly every vehicle component and system

Are OTA Updates Safe?

2023 Cadillac Lyriq
2023 Cadillac Lyriq

We’re used to having virus protection on our computers. If we don’t, bad guys will find a way to compromise the computer and access personal information. Are the same security and privacy concerns applicable to automotive OTA updates? 

Since OTA updates require a wireless internet connection to install, there are risks for malware and the unintended release of personal information. The best way to protect yourself from these risks is to only accept OTA updates while connected to a secure network, such as the wifi network at your home. Don’t try updating your car at the fast food or coffee shop drive thru!

What’s Next?

EV charging costs
2022 Volkswagen ID.4

Over-the-air updates are about to take the auto industry by storm. Now that major OEMs are proudly marketing their ability to improve the user experience (which itself sounds like they’re selling more of a tech product than a car), a paradigm shift is at hand. Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess recently told The Verge about VW’s plan for a reimagined future where the relationship between the automaker and customers is more intimate and dynamic with the power of OTA updates and new ways of customizing the ownership experience.

Imagine: for a long time, we did not have access to a customer as a company. The customer access was exclusively with our retail network. What we experienced over time was that people walk away from our retail outlets and go to third parties to substitute some of the spare parts or buy new tires. Now, we have a new opportunity to be in direct contact with the customer, which is totally new for us.

New Revenue Streams for Automakers

Not only is the largest automaker in the world committing to OTA capability, the likes of Ford, GM and even tech-cautious Toyota are joining the bandwagon too. Will OTA updates remain a free upgrade for millions of car owners? Unfortunately, that’s already slipping away. Tesla offers acceleration boost upgrades for its popular 2022 Model Y for $2,000, and Toyota recently tried making customers pay for remote start, a feature that is OTA-controlled. 

Even the CEO over at Volkswagen Group acknowledges the new money-making avenues made possible by software updates, telling The Verge that eventually, customers will have to pay for what they want.

We have that revenue in mind for sure as well. Customers will be prepared for some features they didn’t buy at the start, probably after a few years or after a few months — even if they consider taking another option or another software feature, the customers would be prepared to pay a monthly fee or a one-time expenditure.”

YAA’s Take

There are advantages and disadvantages of OTA update capabilities, but it seems that the advantages far outweigh any negatives that may come with this game-changing technology. As Tesla has shown the industry, there’s a future not too far away when most recalls may be fixed via a quick overnight update, and vehicles get better over time, helping them to retain resale value. Nevertheless, we’ll approach this industry change with caution and closely monitor how automakers roll out OTA updates in the months and years ahead. 

Are you ready to treat your vehicle more like a smartphone than a means of transportation? What do you think the outcome of this major industry shift will be for consumers, dealers and automakers? Will dealerships falter without the steady stream of vehicle service that they’re used to? Only time will tell. 

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The 2023 Cadillac Lyriq Luxury EV Heralds a New Era for GM

The 2023 Cadillac Lyriq Luxury EV Heralds a New Era for GM

2023 cadillac lyriq

The 2023 Cadillac Lyriq makes its debut at the leading edge of GM’s massive $35 billion transition to EVs. After five years of offering the Chevrolet Bolt as their flagship EV, the General is going all-in with EVs. Now, all eyes are on the first three electric models arriving at GM dealerships. The first has just begun deliveries, the $100,000+ GMC Hummer EV. And now, the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq luxury SUV is about to hit the market with much anticipation.

Are Cadillac buyers on board with GM’s electrification plans? Well, it seems they don’t have a choice. By 2030, Cadillac will be an all-EV brand. Other GM brands will follow suit by 2035. In fact, GM already lost dozens of Cadillac dealerships nationwide after it provided an ultimatum requiring dealers to spend about $200,000 on EV training, charger installation and more, or withdraw from the brand altogether and accept a buyout. About one-third of Cadillac dealerships took the buyout, and GM spent a total of $274 million as it paid to have 360 Cadillac dealerships close doors. At the end of 2021, just 560 Cadillac dealerships remain in the business nationwide, down from 920 just three years prior. 

Now that the dealership shuffle has settled, it’s prime time for Cadillac to unveil the first of its EVs. The 2023 Lyriq will be the first to arrive in mid 2022. Here’s what we know about the Lyriq as it nears production. 

The Lyriq Shows That Luxurious EV Interiors Don’t Have to Be Bland

2023 Cadillac Lyriq

For starters, the Lyriq is a true SUV in size and stature. The outside has all the Cadillac design language you’d expect. Walking up to the Lyriq, you’re greeted by a welcome light show put on by the 50 LEDs illuminating the angular front grille. Stepping into the cabin, the first thing you’ll notice is the meticulous detail and labor of love, from the tree canopy inspired door illumination to the well-placed open-pore wood decor throughout. 

2023 Cadillac Lyriq

If you lament the auto industry’s shift away from physical controls in favor of haptic feedback and touchscreens, you’ll be a fan of this interior. The Lyriq strikes the ideal balance of physical buttons and knobs and a healthy serving of touch controls. The 33” horizontal screen wrapping across the front dash may sound like the antithesis of physicality, but the screen and surrounding physical controls complement each other, making for an intuitive experience. The Lyriq’s 33” single screen is surprisingly similar to what you’ll find in the much more expensive Lucid Air, and more well-placed than the single 15” screen centrally located in the Tesla Model Y. A Cadillac-exclusive AKG Studio 19-speaker audio system provides excellent sound for audiophiles. 

The Lyriq Driving Experience

2023 Cadillac Lyriq

The Lyriq’s tech is all-around impressive. Super Cruise is at the heart of Cadillac’s Smart System suite of safety and driver assist features. Super Cruise supports hands-free driving on over 200,000 miles of North American roads. The ‘hands-free’ part is a big deal, as even Tesla isn’t yet ready to make that claim (and with good reason).

A popular feature of EVs is one-pedal driving. Most EVs allow for energy recuperation as the vehicle slows down. This is called regenerative braking. In essence, some of the electricity that was used to accelerate is recovered as the vehicle slows down, and is returned to the battery. But not all EVs are capable of strong enough ‘regen’ to make the brake pedal almost unnecessary, except of course during instances when hard braking is needed. The Lyriq has what looks like paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. These are the controls for regen strength. At the highway setting, the Lyriq will slow to a stop without needing the brake. Using regen on a daily basis takes some getting used to, but as Tesla owners can attest, it ultimately becomes second nature. 

2023 Cadillac Lyriq

The Lyriq’s serene cabin is well-insulated and quiet with active noise cancellation. 8-way power driver and front-passenger seats with 4-way power lumbar, heat, ventilation and lumbar massage are all included with the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq. Rear passengers have access to dual USB-C charging outlets and a three-prong outlet for charging laptops and other larger devices. 

Great Range, Decent Charging

Cadillac claims an expected EPA range of about 300 miles on a charge. Considering the large size of the Lyriq and the rapidly growing charging networks, that’s more than enough for almost everyone. EVs are generally more efficient at lower speeds, so the Lyriq is likely to go well over 300 miles in city driving, and 275 or so on the highway. 

When it comes time to charge, the Lyriq supports 190 kW fast charging at level 3 public chargers, like those you’ll find at Electrify America and Tesla Superchargers (if they ever open up to non-Teslas in America). This works out to about 76 miles of range in 10 minutes, or 200 miles in about 30 minutes. 

At home, a level 2 charger can be installed into a 240 volt outlet like you’d use to plug in a dryer. This is where the Lyriq stands out above the charging competition. The Lyriq supports segment-leading 19.2 kW home charging, which can add up to 52 miles of range per hour of charge, or a full battery from empty in just six hours. To the uninitiated EV shopper, six hours might sound like a long time, but don’t forget that charging is done at night while you’re asleep. Most Lyriq drivers will wake up with a full battery every morning.

GM’s Ultium Platform Sees Action

GM Ultium battery

The 2023 Cadillac Lyriq will be the first time most consumers experience GM’s all-new Ultium electric platform. The 2022 Hummer EV is powered by Ultium, but it’s at a much higher price point that’s out of reach for most. Plus, it’s huge, and not everyone wants to drive a crab-walking boat around. GM’s engineers say that Ultium batteries are reliable, durable and more energy dense than anything we’ve seen before in a production EV. Cadillac claims an estimated EPA range of around 300 miles on a single charge made possible by the Ultium platform’s new chemistry. The public hasn’t forgotten about the ongoing Chevrolet Bolt recall and fire hazard, so it’s comforting to know that all new GM EVs will be built with a completely revamped and improved battery and electric motor architecture. 

The 2023 Cadillac Lyriq is powered by a 12-module, 100 kilowatt-hour Ultium battery pack and a rear-wheel-drive Ultium Platform. This powertrain delivers 340 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. It’s no Tesla, but a performance-oriented Lyriq is rumored to be on the way in 2023. For you speedsters out there, official 0-60 times haven’t been released yet, but considering that it weighs 5,610 pounds (over 1,000 pounds more than a Tesla Model Y!), the 5.0 second range is a likely figure.

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How Does the Lyriq Stack Up to the Competition?

2022 Tesla Model Y

The Lyriq Steps Into a Crowded SUV Segment that was essentially nonexistent just five years ago. One thing that may lure shoppers towards the Lyriq is its size. It’s larger than the Volkswagen ID.4, Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach-E. Thanks to the compact electric motors, the wheelbase is on par with a Hyundai Palisade, even though the interior volume is a bit less at 105 cubic feet. That’s more than the Model Y and VW ID.4, but just a cubic foot less than the much more affordable Hyundai IONIQ 5. Rear passenger leg room is generous at 40”. Everyone seems to offer a panoramic glass roof these days, and the Lyriq is no different. But the glass roof helps head room stretch to 38” for rear passengers.

Cargo volume is solid, even though there’s no frunk (front storage). There’s 28 cubic feet with seats up, and 68 cubic feet with seats laying flat. Even though that’s about the same as the ID.4, Model Y and IONIQ 5 (the Kia EV6 and Ford Mustang Mach-E are significantly less), the Cadillac Lyriq has something that none of the others have: the very essence of luxury. Better comparisons could be made with the Audi e-tron, Tesla Model X, the brand-new BMW iX, and the soon-to-arrive Genesis GV60 and Mercedes EQB. Among these competitors, the Lyriq is likely to remain more affordable.

The 2023 Cadillac Lyriq Starts at $59,990

The base Luxury trim of the Lyriq is nearly loaded as-is. The Luxury comes with 19” aero wheels versus 22” rims for higher trims, but Cadillac hasn’t shared many additional details other than that the base trim features all of the biggest perks. Reviewers who’ve had showroom tours of the Lyriq have been told that the base Lyriq has all of the above. The debut edition starts at right under $59,990, and higher trims are expected to reach well above $70,000. Unfortunately, early-access reservations are now closed. GM recommends getting a hold of a dealer to get on the list for a Lyriq when they arrive on the lot in mid-2022. Does that signal the impending doom of dealer ‘market adjustments’? It’s quite possible. We’ll update this page as Cadillac releases more information about pricing and specs for higher trims.

The Lyriq’s Weaknesses

2023 Cadillac Lyriq

One odd choice on the part of Cadillac is only offering two exterior colors for now: Satin Steel Metallic or Stellar Black Metallic. Interior themes are Sky Cool Gray or Noir (because ‘black’ sounds cooler in French apparently). Also, reservations are closed before it even goes on sale. It would be nice if Cadillac would provide a way for car buyers to get in line for a Lyriq without having to submit to dealer hassles.

For a 2023 model, 190 kW fast charging is merely okay. It’s nothing like the superior charging of the luxury Lucid Air, Hyundai IONIQ 5, Kia EV6 or the Tesla models. But it’s still better than the VW ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E and industry-worst Chevrolet Bolt’s 55 kW ‘fast’ charging. Despite these flaws, the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq is all-in-all a sweet looking luxury option for today’s car shoppers. 

YAA’s Take On the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq

The base spec of the Lyriq offers a whole lot for an MSRP of 60 grand. Could the Lyriq be the new anti-Tesla? Tesla may be the leader of EV sales for now, but for car buyers yearning for less minimalism, more luxury and competitive pricing, the Lyriq sure works out to a great deal. One thing the two share is that both GM and Tesla no longer qualify for the EV tax credit. Revisions to the EV tax credit are pending, but nobody really knows what the outcome will be. 

The Lyriq is looking like a great flagship for GM’s new Ultium battery and powertrain platform. An expected 300+ miles of range and rapid charging make this electric SUV competitive from day one. 

Will GM’s New Ultium Battery Turn the Tide Against Tesla?

Will GM’s New Ultium Battery Turn the Tide Against Tesla?

GM Ultium Platform

When GM launched its first plug-in hybrid in 2010, the Chevrolet Volt, turning a profit was an uphill climb. It was a time when EVs were a pipedream to most OEMs. Nissan was nearing the launch of the Leaf, the first fully-electric mainstream vehicle ever. Tesla was a nascent startup raising funds by selling the first-generation Roadster. Automakers old and new alike knew that if EVs were to ever become affordable for the masses and profitable for OEMs, the costs of battery production would have to plummet, and battery efficiency and durability would have to increase. 

Here we are 12 years later, and GM is ready to launch its first vehicles powered by their all-new Ultium battery platform and propulsion system. Is the platform a technological leap forward? Could it be the key to dethroning Tesla, or is GM after something different altogether? Here’s the latest on what GM claims is the game-changer for mass electrification.

GM Is Banking on the Ultium Battery for EV Domination

GM Ultium Platform

When GM CEO and chairman Mary Barra announced the Ultium platform in March of 2020, there was a lot going on in the world that overshadowed the gravity of her announcement. However, the automotive industry noticed GM’s confidence in its ability to overcome one of the biggest barriers to affordable EVs: battery production costs. Battery capacity is most often measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). For reference, a plug-in hybrid like the 2011 Chevrolet Volt has a smaller battery, 16 kWh in this case. Today’s popular EVs like the Tesla Model Y, Ford Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4 have battery capacities in the 70-80 kWh range. 

At the time of the Volt’s launch in 2010, battery costs were about $1,000 per kWh. That meant that the Volt’s 16 kWh battery was the most expensive component of the car. Now, Mary Barra says that the new Ultium platform will be produced at less than $100 per kWh. To date, only Tesla has been known to have reached such battery affordability, and it’s been considered a key ingredient in their secret sauce for success. The press release announcing Ultium didn’t beat around the bush, stating that “the first generation of GM’s future EV program will be profitable.” 

Plenty of automakers have ambitious, expensive plans for electric vehicles, but if GM is already there in 2022, are we witnessing a major disruption to the EV segment in real time?

What’s GM’s Strategy?

They’re not going it alone. In fact, all major OEMs partner with battery producers to produce their EVs, from Tesla to Ford. In this case, GM is continuing to work with LG Chem for Ultium development and production (which has already begun). LG Chem is a respected battery supplier for Stellantis, Lucid and even some Teslas. 

What could go wrong? You’ve heard about the Chevy Bolt battery fires that have resulted in recalls, stop-sales and $2 billion in expenses for GM? LG Chem supplied those batteries too. LG recently agreed to cover the massive costs of the Bolt recall, perhaps in a last-ditch effort to preserve the business partnership between the two.

The automotive industry usually welcomes second chances (remember the Great Recession bankruptcies, VW’s Dieselgate, etc.?), so let’s hope LG and GM’s partnership results in a great electric platform, one that’s far less flammable this time around. 

Ultium Is a Scalable Electric Platform

GM Ultium Platform

GM says its all-new global platform is flexible enough to build a wide range of trucks, SUVs, crossovers, cars and commercial vehicles all with the same Ultium architecture. They call it a one-size-fits-all approach to electrifying all GM brands by 2035. At the heart of the Ultium platform is a pouch-type of battery module. This is where scalability becomes easy, at least in the eyes of GM’s engineers. Ford and GM are among the legacy automakers who continue to develop pouch-type battery modules, while relative newcomers like Tesla, Lucid and Rivian are using cylindrical batteries in their vehicles. It will be interesting to see which form factor becomes the dominant battery architecture over the coming years. 

Ultium Battery Chemistry

The new Ultium battery from GM uses a state-of-the-art Nickel Cobalt Manganese Aluminum (NCMA) chemistry, which was designed to reduce the cobalt content in our batteries by more than 70 percent. Cobalt mining in Africa is notorious for human rights abuses, so the battery industry as a whole is looking to reduce reliance on the element.

GM Is Aiming for Vertical Integration

In the announcement for the new Ultium platform, GM didn’t hide the fact that they see battery production as a new source of revenue. Vertical integration of most vehicle components has been one of Tesla’s most influential strategies in the auto industry. Now GM leadership sees the value of cutting out the middleman (to an extent). “By vertically integrating the manufacture of battery cells, the company can reach beyond its own fleet and license technology to others,” reads the March 2020 announcement. They also tout their ability to leverage existing facilities and equipment for Ultium battery production.

Which Vehicles Will Be Powered by the Ultium battery in 2022?

2023 Cadillac Lyriq

The first generation of Ultium-powered vehicles is already arriving at dealerships. GM just shared the first customer deliveries of the resurrected GMC Hummer EV, a 1,000 hp crab-walking luxury electric truck. In case you’re keeping track, both Rivian and GM have delivered the first electric trucks in America before Tesla has started production of its Cybertruck.

GM Ultium Platform

Soon to follow will be the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq electric crossover (starting MSRP of $60,000), which will hit the road in 2022. The real test of the Ultium platform’s market strength will be the Chevy Silverado EV. Electrifying one of GM’s best-sellers is a bold move. We don’t know much about the electric Silverado yet, but GM will unveil the truck on January 6, 2022 at the CES expo in Las Vegas.

GM plans to stop selling combustion vehicles by 2035, so a LOT more Ultium vehicles are surely in the making. Cadillac will be exclusively electric by 2030, a mere eight years ahead. What’s next, an electric Camaro?

YAA’s Take: Is It Enough to Catch Up?

Execution is key for GM. We learned in 2008 that no automaker is too big to fail, and a Bolt-like battery blunder can’t happen with the new Ultium platform. Hopefully GM and partner LG Chem have taken the time and due diligence to get it right. It remains to be seen if GM will price its vehicles competitively.

The 2022 Chevy Bolt and Hummer EV are worlds apart in terms of affordability. In fact, the Bolt and Nissan Leaf are the only two popular EVs that typically sell for under $40,000. Will EVs forever be mostly $40k-plus models, or will American soon have Ultium-powered economy options to consider. Only time will tell if consumers are willing to spend Tesla money on a GM EV in 2022. About 641,000 employees work for the big three American automakers (GM, Ford, FCA/Stellantis). With so much money, investment and infrastructure on the line, we sure wish for their success. 

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