GM is using its Ultium battery tech for a lot more than EVs

GM Energy will encompass home and office battery systems as well as the Charge 360 network.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

I wasn't kidding when I told you that GM is going all-in on Ultium, the battery technology behind the company's electrification efforts, not to mention an entire generation of Chevy and GMC EVs. On Tuesday, the automaker announced that it is expanding its portfolio into energy management services — think big stationary batteries to store rooftop-generated solar power on a home or business — with its new spin-off business, GM Energy.

The new venture will be comprised of three smaller ones: Ultium Home, Ultium Commercial and Ultium Charge 360, offering "solutions ranging from bi-directional charging, vehicle-to home (V2H) and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications, to stationary storage, solar products, software applications, cloud management tools, microgrid solutions, hydrogen fuel cells and more," according to GM's announcement on Tuesday.

The new company will be partnering with a number of established firms and utilities in the energy industry. For example, GM will be working with SunPower to develop and market a integrated home energy storage system that incorporates an electric vehicle with solar panels and battery banks to enable easy Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) power transfers. GM plans to have that home energy system ready for sale alongside the release of the EV Silverado next fall, 2023.

Additionally, GM Energy has partnered with California's Pacific Gas and Electric utility for another V2H pilot program that will let you run your household appliances off of your EV's battery during blackouts. Eventually, the company plans to add V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) capabilities, which will allow you to sell excess energy produced by the solar panels back to your local utility.

For businesses, Ultium Commercial may help ease the transition to an electrified fleet. Many such existing GM customers, "have fleets of vehicles are looking to electrify their fleets, but aren't really aware of how to set up the charging infrastructure, how to manage their energy," Mark Bole, vice president and Head of V2X Battery Solutions at GM said during an embargoed press briefing last week. "And so, not only do we come in as a hardware and software provider, but in a sense, really, as a strategic advisor for these commercial customers."

"There are more power failures in the US than any other country in the industrialized world," Travis Hester, vice president of GM EV Growth Operations, added. "There were 25,000 blackouts in California alone last year, over 15 and a half billion dollars of lost commerce, just in California. So when you look at the numbers, there is a desire — and we're seeing it very clearly from commercial customers reaching out to us and asking us for assistance to deal with some of these problems."

GM is also transferring its public charging station network, Ultium Charge 360, over to GM Energy. Charge 360 launched in 2021 in Washington, Florida and California. GM partnered with Blink Charging, ChargePoint, EV Connect, EVgo, FLO, Greenlots and SemaConnect to streamline their collective 60,000-plug network of 350 kW Level 3 DC fast chargers and provide "more seamless access" to drivers. The automaker built upon that network this past July, announcing a 500-station "coast-to-coast" expansion in partnership with EVGo. In all, GM hopes to have 2,700 such EV fast charging stations across the US and Canada under its Ultium Charge 360 banner by 2025.