It’s plain to anyone who follows the auto industry that there are pro-EV and anti-EV factions at every legacy automaker. For the last three decades, the OEMs’ interest in EVs has flapped this way and that in the winds of quarterly earnings and political shifts.
Last fall, the “let’s wait awhile” contingent appeared to have the upper hand at GM and Ford, as the two, smarting from the UAW strike, announced plans to push back their electrification timelines, setting off a spate of “EVs are dead” crowing in the popular press. (“Not so fast,” say Car and Driver and NPR.)
This week it appears that the voltage level at GM is on the way back up, as the company announces the hiring of globally recognized battery expert Kurt Kelty, in the newly created position of Vice President of Batteries, which will report directly to GM President Mark Reuss.
If there’s one area in which GM and its buddies need to raise their games, its battery technology. All are struggling with supply chain bottlenecks, and GM’s new models based on the Ultium platform have had some teething pains, so to speak.
Kelty could be just the man to turn things around. He began working with lithium-ion batteries in 1993 at Panasonic, then led Tesla’s battery development team for 11 years, playing a key role in the creation of Tesla’s first Gigafactory. His most recent gig was as a VP at Sila, which has developed a novel silicon anode chemistry.
“Kelty will be charged with GM’s battery cell strategy and a new end-to-end approach,” says GM. “This will include the use of raw materials, research, developing and investing in new technology, commercialization of cells and packs, and end-of-life opportunities.”
“The foundation that GM has established coupled with Kurt’s exceptional battery expertise in leading battery chemistry development, establishing partnerships, building out supply chains and partnering closely with teams that have developed leading battery systems will help us achieve our electrification goals and position GM as a leader in EV technology,” said Mark Reuss.
“For more than 30 years, I’ve been focused on helping develop and commercialize battery technologies that will aid in the transition to electric transportation. Joining GM creates an even bigger opportunity to help the industry make the switch and have a lasting impact on our planet,” said Kelty.