General Motors will produce Ultium-brand Level 2 elecric vehicle charging equipment and work with its dealers donate thousands of the units to underserved areas in cities and rural areas.
There are three levels of charging equipment, with power ranging from 11.5 to 19.2 kW, and they'll be usable by all EV customers, not just GM EV owners.
Deliveries of the first Ultium charging stations start in early 2022, and customers can include the cost of a station when financing their new GM EV.
General Motors said today it will sell its own electric-vehicle charging stations, branded with the Ultium name—and donate more than 40,000 of them to its 4000-plus franchised dealers to install in their communities.
The goal, the company said, is to expand access to charging stations in "underserved, rural, and urban areas where EV charging access is often limited." It's a recognition that while GM aspires to sell only EVs as passenger cars and light trucks by 2035, many of its dedicated customers and longtime dealers have little exposure to them—and, crucially, may have never seen or noticed a public EV charging station.
The three Ultium charging stations announced today vary in the amount of power they deliver (from 11.5 to 19.2 kilowatts, higher than many competing stations) and in their features, including models with an embedded touchscreen and a camera. All are networked via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing GM to monitor and aggregate charging data, though the company says users can opt out if they prefer. All offer dynamic load balancing, meaning that when electric utilities signal they need to reduce demand or want to encourage off-peak charging, the stations can adjust the energy delivered to the vehicle.
Deliveries of the first Ultium stations will start early next year, and EV buyers can roll the cost into their auto financing at the dealer. Importantly, the stations are intended for both home and commercial use. That's a hint that, like Ford, General Motors may anticipate faster EV adoption among commercial-vehicle fleets, lured in by EVs' far lower per-mile running costs, than among consumers who often need to be educated one by one.
As for what GM calls the Dealer Community Charging Program, the company will give each of its EV-certified dealers up to 10 Ultium charging stations for free. The dealer is expected to work with community leaders to identify highly visible, long-dwell locations where EV charging doesn’t presently exist. Those may be parking lots at arenas, sports fields, fairgrounds, and the like—locations that will be "accessible, visible, and ubiquitous," in the words of Hossein "Hoss" Hassani, GM's North America director of EV commercialization and ecosystem.
The new stations won't be at the dealerships themselves, however. Dealers have other programs under which they can install charging stations—though their real-world accessibility varies greatly. (EV drivers often report that dealership charging stations nominally open to the are frequently blocked by other vehicles.) This program is intended to get EV charging out in front of the people who have never seen such a site—or may not be aware that they’ve encountered one.
The stations will be branded Ultium Charge 360, GM's unwieldy name for what the company calls its "holistic charging approach that integrates charging networks, GM vehicle mobile apps, and other products and services to simplify the overall charging experience." Essentially that translates to making EV charging more available, simpler, and easier. No EV maker except Tesla has accomplished that goal so far, but with more than a dozen EVs from its four U.S. brands hitting the market by 2025, the company realizes it has to do better.
Earlier this month, GM CEO Mary Barra said the company would spend $750 million by 2025 to improve electric-vehicle charging and make it accessible to all Americans. This morning's announcement is a first cautious step toward that goal.
Asked if that rather large amount of cash would include DC fast-charging for trips beyond an EV's range, Hassani demurred. "This is what we’re announcing today," he said. Clearly, though, if GM is serious about making EV charging available to all U.S. drivers, we can expect more such announcements, and soon.
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