General Motors (GM 0.70%) said that it is boosting its electric vehicle (EV) investments as it moves to bring more battery-powered vehicles to market, more quickly. 

Speaking at a conference hosted by Barclays on Thursday, CEO Mary Barra said that GM now plans to spend over $27 billion to bring a slew of new all-electric vehicles to market -- 30 across its global portfolio by the middle of the decade. That's up from the $20 billion it said that it would spend when it shared details of its new Ultium battery technology in March, just before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. 

Not all of those 30 EVs will be sold in the U.S. market, but quite a few will be: more than two-thirds of the total, Barra said. Put another way, GM now expects 40% of its U.S. models to be battery-electric vehicles by the end of 2025.

A silver GMC Hummer EV, a large electric SUV, on a sand dune.

GM developed the electric Hummer SUV on an accelerated schedule. The company has now moved up the launch dates for 11 more EVs in development. Image source: General Motors.

The high points of GM's ramped-up EV plan

Here are the key points presented by Barra and GM product chief Doug Parks on Thursday:

  • GM has accelerated the development programs for 12 of its upcoming electric vehicles, including the GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq crossover. The Lyriq is now expected to launch in the first quarter of 2022, nine months ahead of its previous schedule.
  • GM now plans to launch a total of 30 new EVs around the world by 2025. Each of GM's four U.S. brands -- Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC -- will get at least two battery-electric models. 
  • All of those vehicles will use GM's proprietary Ultium batteries and powertrains. Engineering work over the last several months has increased the maximum range of vehicles powered by Ultium batteries from 400 miles to 450 miles. 
  • The automaker will devote more than half of its capital spending to EVs and self-driving programs. 
  • GM is already testing prototypes of the next generation of Ultium batteries. It expects the second-generation battery to deliver twice the energy density of its current batteries, at half the cost. Those second-generation batteries won't require significant changes to the company's EV architecture, Parks said. 

While GM will produce the Ultium batteries in a joint venture with Korean battery giant LG Chem, it is doing most of the research and development work itself, at its technical center in Warren, Michigan. The company will break ground on a new lab and manufacturing center for the second-generation Ultium cells in Michigan in 2021, Parks said. 

A silver prototype Cadillac Lyriq, an electric luxury SUV, at GM's technical center in Warren, Michigan.

GM's second Ultium-based electric vehicle (after the Hummer) will be the Cadillac Lyriq crossover. The Lyriq is now expected to launch in the first quarter of 2022, about nine months earlier than previously expected. Image source: General Motors.

What we know about the next 12 GM electric vehicles

The 12 electric-vehicle launches that have been moved up include:

  • Four Ultium-based products for the GMC brand, including the Hummer EV and an electric pickup truck;
  • Four EVs for Chevrolet, including a pickup and a compact crossover SUV; and
  • Four Cadillacs, including the Lyriq.

One or two of the Chevrolet models are likely to be based on the current Bolt EV, rather than on the new Ultium technology. (We know that GM has a crossover version of the Bolt coming soon.) Parks said that there are also two EVs for Buick in the works, and others in development for markets outside of the United States (think China). 

Including all of its battery-electric models around the world, GM expects to be selling about 1 million EVs a year by mid-decade, Parks said. 

A "teaser" photo of the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt-based crossover SUV, shown in shadow.

One of the upcoming electric Chevrolets will be an SUV-flavored version of the current Bolt EV. Image source: General Motors.

GM hopes that investors are paying close attention

Why is GM stepping up its electric-vehicle efforts? For starters, the company thinks that it's the right thing to do. 

"Climate change is real," Barra said. "We want to be part of the solution by putting everyone in an electric vehicle."

But there's more to it. Barra, along with lots of auto investors, would like the market to recognize that GM has the expertise, resources, technology, and plan to be a leader in the emerging market for electric vehicles. While GM has made impressive progress with its EV efforts, its valuation has lagged far behind start-ups and newer auto-industry entrants with far less manufacturing expertise and capability.

Among the things the market may be undervaluing: GM promises that its Ultium-based EVs will be profitable early on. 

"The all-electric future we are building integrates all the things we do better than anybody else, so we can put everyone in an EV, generate profitable growth, and create shareholder value," Barra said.