GM has unveiled its new battery system, Ultium. By licensing it to other automakers, GM’s latest innovation could knock Tesla from contention as the world’s leading electric vehicle manufacturer. | Image: Steve Fecht/General Motors via AP
- GM’s new battery technology is hoping to end range anxiety.
- This is arguably one of the most competitive threats to Tesla.
- Elon Musk’s biggest problem would be the battery tech being adopted on a mass scale by other auto makers.
The long-range version of Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) best-selling Model 3 boasts 322 miles on a full charge. The mass-market car accelerates from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds, though a performance version can do the same distance in 3.2 seconds.
If that’s impressive, GM (NYSE:GM) wants you to know that you haven’t seen anything yet.
Earlier this month, the Detroit automaker revealed its new Ultium batteries. The new batteries will have a range of “up to 400 miles or more” and boast an acceleration speed of 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds.
GM’s Ultium batteries better and cheaper than Tesla’s
In addition to the increased range, GM is also promising to make its battery tech cheaper than Tesla’s. GM has committed to continuously embark on lowering the cost of the batteries to below $100/kWh.
Achieving the target would make GM’s battery tech over 50% cheaper than Tesla’s. According to Cairn Energy Research Advisors, Tesla’s battery cost per kilowatt-hour is currently $158.27.
That by itself is a signal to Tesla that there is serious competition on the road ahead. GM has indicated that the new battery tech will be used across multiple product categories from its cheapest vehicles to its luxury brands as well as its trucks.
What Elon Musk should be losing sleep over
GM’s biggest threat to Tesla is its plan to license the superior battery technology to other automakers.
In the press release GM noted:
By vertically integrating the manufacture of battery cells, the company can reach beyond its own fleet and license technology to others.
This means the technology lead that Tesla has enjoyed over the years is now over. It means Tesla will have more competitors than it has ever had to contend with in virtually every auto categories.
In 2019 Tesla sold 367,500 cars. Globally, the total number of new cars sold was estimated to be 77.5 million in 2019. Tesla’s sales amount to about 0.5% of global car sales. The EV maker is a tiny player, so if GM’s battery innovation reaches critical mass, Tesla will have huge competition on its hands. The EV maker already faces stiff competition even with the inferior battery models of its rivals.
Getting crushed in Europe’s star EV market
Take the case of Tesla’s most important market in Europe, Norway. Though Tesla’s numbers will only become clear at the end of the first quarter, currently in the first two months of 2020, Tesla is trailing in vehicle registrations.
In February, Norway’s best-selling EV was the Audi e-tron, which sold 1,131 units. The Audi e-tron starts at $74,800 in the U.S. and boasts a 204-mile range.
The comparable SUV from Tesla’s stable, the Model X, has better specs but only managed 20 sales in February.
Audi outsold Tesla in Norway in February | Source: Seeking Alpha
The Long Range Plus version of the Model X comes with a 351-mile range and starts at $79,690 in the U.S. after incentives.
This demonstrates that if traditional car makers with established brands, deep pockets, market knowledge and distribution infrastructure get armed with superior battery technology, Tesla could be easily upended in the EV space.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.
This article was edited by Sam Bourgi.