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Why the Department of Defense is Studying Ultium Batteries Like the One in the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV

GM Defense is providing the batteries to the DoD. How the batteries could help our troops.

The Department of Defense is studying GM’s Ultium battery platform to determine how it can be best used to help the military. The Ultium battery platform underpins some of GM’s most important vehicles like the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV, the GMC Sierra EV Denali Edition 1 as well as the all-new Cadillac Escalade IQ. GM Defense, a subsidiary of GM, is supplying the battery technology to the Defense Department.

“The Department of Defense can benefit from billions of dollars in GM investments to develop and manufacture transformative battery technologies,” says Steve duMont, president of GM Defense. “These technologies offer significant potential to enhance operational capability, whether at the tactical edge or on installations throughout the world. GM Defense welcomes the opportunity to support this important project and to help transition our global defense and government customers.”

How the Department of Defense is Studying the Technology

The DoD is having the tests run through its Operational Energy Innovation Office. The actual tests will be conducted at the University of Texas at Arlington Pulsed Power and Energy Lab as well as the Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division. The two labs are studying how electric vehicle batteries can be used to direct energy elsewhere. The labs will evaluate the technology to understand current capabilities of commercial automotive batteries under different charging scenarios. The team’s evaluation of the technology will help the military determine how the automotive technology can best be used for energy storage in military platforms.

GM Defense’s Role in Helping the DoD

GM Defense was established to interact between the automaker and the Defense Department. It has already successfully contracted with the Defense Department to supply heavy-duty armored vehicles based on the Chevrolet Suburban. It is also supplying a line of troop carriers built on the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2.  

The Ultium Platform can deliver power and range beyond any previous GM hybrid or extended range EV technology. Because it is modular, the Ultium batteries can be made larger or smaller to fit whatever use the military wants. The Ultium Platform can be adapted to changing needs. It can also be updated to incorporate new technology. GM Defense can call on GM’s experts to help solve the DoD's energy and energy storage challenges. The tests will help both the military and GM in the long run. The testing will provide insights into the performance and design considerations when batteries are used in high-power operations.

“We are excited to work with GM Defense to test the Ultium Platform to determine its potential for use in future warfighting applications. PPEL has a long relationship with the DoD and the Office of Naval Research for testing the limits of batteries used in high power applications, and we are in a unique position to evaluate this technology and make recommendations for future use cases,” said David Wetz, a professor of electrical engineering at UTA and director of the PPEL.

“As a Carnegie R-1 university, UTA is committed to working with industry to better develop and understand the potential of new technology. This collaboration between PPEL, GM Defense and the DoD will not only improve our nation’s military capabilities, but also adds to our workforce development efforts producing next generation engineers who will solve our nation’s complex problems,” said Peter Crouch, dean of UTA’s College of Engineering.

GM Defense is already working with the DoD to evaluate and test high voltage battery systems. GM Defense provided a prototype of a battery system based on GM’s Ultium Platform for the project. Under the same contract, GM Defense demonstrated power capabilities by putting a high-voltage battery pack into a light tactical utility vehicle. Those tests will help the military determine how high the voltage can be to still be effective and safe. Again, the lessons learned will be helpful to both the automaker and the military. Everyone wants the batteries to be as effective as possible, while being safe for everyone involved.

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Mary Conway is a professional automotive journalist and has decades of experience specializing in automotive news analysis. She covered the Detroit Three for more than twenty years for the ABC affiliate, in Detroit. Her affection for the Motor City comes naturally. Her father ran a gas station while Mary was growing up, in Wisconsin.

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