General Motors announced on October 20 that it is partnering with Korean electronics giant LG Corp. in development of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV’s entire powertrain and other vehicle subsystems, in a new business relationship that GM engineering executives said could point to a new model for electrified vehicle development.
The GM-LG “joint development agreement” for Bolt involves 11 new and unique components and subsystems, including the battery cells and pack; traction motor (a GM design); power inverter; high-power distribution module; battery heater; accessory power module; power line communications module, infotainment system; and instrument cluster.
Two years ago LG set up a new group, LG Electronics Vehicle Components, that is spearheading the joint effort with GM, according to the group’s Vice President, Ken Chang, who spoke with Automotive Engineering and other media at GM’s Warren, MI, Tech Center. Chang’s group includes engineers and technologists from the broader LG family of companies, including battery maker LG Chem; LG Innotek; LG Display; and LG Electronics. He said LG Electronics has invested more than $250 million in a new facility in Incheon, Korea, dedicated to Bolt product development and production.
The Bolt is scheduled to launch 3Q16 at GM’s Orion Township Assembly plant north of Detroit. According to Mark Reuss, Executive VP of Global Product Development, the new electric car is currently in the vehicle integration phase of development, with 100 examples now in road and other testing regimens. Reuss said Bolt will “set new standards for EVs and electrified-vehicle development,” with the LG partnership a “disruptive move.”
GM has had a growing relationship with LG since 2007, when the Korean company began supplying GM’s OnStar module. The companies furthered their bond when LG was selected out of hundreds of battery-cell specialists to supply the lithium-ion pouch-type battery cells for the first-generation Chevrolet Volt, which launched in 2010. Since then LG Chem has delivered more than 23 million cells at less than 2 ppm quality levels, said Pam Fletcher, GM’s Executive Chief Engineer for Electric Vehicles.
“This partnership represents a tremendous collaboration, between our engineers and LG’s, from top to bottom,” Fletcher told Automotive Engineering. “Our teams are working shoulder to shoulder.”
With LG responsible for so much of the Bolt’s powertrain, the relationship appears similar to that of some computer makers with chipmaker Intel. Some industry observers maintain that GM should market Bolt’s high level of LG technology content in some way, much like laptop badges that say “Intel Inside.” Industry experts note that LG’s consumer electronics products are highly respected.
The new GM-LG strategic partnership for Bolt may be the broadest of its kind between a North American automotive OEM and an offshore-based supplier. It is a bold move for both companies, and represents a new way of automotive product development, with potential for speeding time to market and reducing systems cost. The Bolt, with a range greater than 200 mi (322 km) between charges, will be priced from around $35,000 and will compete against Tesla’s upcoming (promised for 2017) Model 3 as well as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3.
According to Reuss, GM’s component strategy has three options: build, buy, and partner, depending on which option makes the most economic and strategic sense.