GM Unveils Ultium Family of Five EV Drive Units and Three Motors

Detroit’s General Motor Co. has unveiled its family of five interchangeable drive units and three motors for electric vehicles.
Ultium Drive units
General Motors’ next-generation EVs are expected to be powered by a family of five interchangeable drive units (pictured) and three motors, known collectively as Ultium Drive. // Photo courtesy of GM

Detroit’s General Motor Co. has unveiled its family of five interchangeable drive units and three motors for electric vehicles.

Known collectively as Ultium Drive, the units, which include five drive units and three motors, will power the next generation GM EVs and help the automaker transition its current vehicle portfolio to a fully electric lineup.

The company says Ultium Drive will providing “significant advantages” over its previous EVs in performance, scale, speed to market, and manufacturing efficiencies.

Ultium Drive combines electric motors and single-speed transmissions to apply power – generated by Ultium battery cells – to the wheels of GM’s upcoming EVs. GM will lead the design and development of Ultium Drive’s modular architecture.

According to GM, Ultium Drive will be more responsive than its internal combustion equivalents with precision torque control of its motors for smooth performance. The motors within Ultium Drive are expected to offer industry-leading torque and power density across a wide spectrum of different vehicle types.

“GM has built transmissions for many notable automakers,” says Ken Morris, vice president of  autonomous and electric vehicle programs at GM. “Making motors, transmissions, driveline components, and systems are among GM’s best-known competencies, and our manufacturing expertise is proving not only transferable but advantageous as we make the transition to EVs.”

GM says it applied 25 years of EV experience to Ultium Drive with lighter and more efficient designs that feature “clever” integration. By integrating the power electronics into the drive units’ assemblies, for example, the mass of the power electronics has been reduced by nearly 50 percent from GM’s previous EV generation, saving cost and packaging space while increasing capability by 25 percent.

Like GM’s industry-first almost completely wireless battery management system, this consolidation of parts and features also makes it easier to scale Ultium Drive across GM’s future EV lineup.

The power and versatility of these drive units, the automaker says will help it migrate high-output segments like pickup trucks and performance vehicles to all-electric propulsion while providing the bandwidth to propel GM’s EV portfolio well into the future.

The GM Ultium Drive family covers front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive propulsion combinations, including high-performance and off-road capabilities.

All five drive units are expected to be powered by one or more of three motors including a primary front-wheel drive motor, which can be configured for front- or rear-wheel drive, and an all-wheel drive assist motor.

GM will save on vehicle design and production costs by developing Ultium Drive alongside its next generation of EVs, leveraging internal expertise to improve efficiency and fit drive units and motors into future vehicles.

“As with other propulsion systems that are complex, capital intensive, and contain a great deal of intellectual property, we’re always better off making them ourselves,” says Adam Kwiatkowski, executive chief engineer for global electrical propulsion at GM. “GM’s full lineup of EVs should benefit from the simultaneous engineering of Ultium Drive. Our commitment to increased vertical integration is expected to bring additional cost efficiency to the performance equation.”

Most of the Ultium Drive components, including castings, gears, and assemblies, will be built with globally sourced parts at GM’s existing global propulsion facilities on shared, flexible assembly lines, allowing the company to more quickly ramp up its EV production, achieve economies of scale, and adjust its production mix to match market demand.