GM's Cruise Origin EV platform to be shared by many electric vehicles

Jonathon Ramsey

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GM on Monday announced that it was spending $2.2 billion at its Detroit-Hamtramck facility, part of its $3 billion commitment made after the UAW strike to transform Hamtramck into the company's first plant to exclusively build a wide variety of electric and autonomous vehicles. The operation will eventually employ 2,225 people.

Hamtramck is still building the Cadillac CT6 and Chevy Impala. Production of those cars will wind down Feb. 28, when GM will idle the lines for 18 months of retooling. During the transition, more than 800 workers will likely be transferred to build pickups at Fort Wayne, Indiana, or Flint, Michigan.

When Hamtramck production of new EVs begins in late 2021, the Cruise Origin electric shuttle revealed last week will be among the first vehicles built there. Also, an electric pickup likely branded as a Hummer to be sold as a GMC, which will be debuted by LeBron James during the Super Bowl this Sunday.

GM made quite a few pronouncements during the unveiling of the electric, autonomous Cruise Origin last week in San Francisco. We heard that the Origin was designed to last for for 1 million miles, be "roughly half the cost of what a conventional electric SUV costs today,” and riders could save as much as $5,000 per year by giving up their cars for Origins.

Much was left out, as well, such as detailed specs on the platform, and when the Origin could see wide deployment. Carscoops addressed one open question about the platform, reporting that the Origin's bones will be shared among a number of other GM battery-electric vehicles, probably starting with the Cadillac EV due in 2021. The site received confirmation of that tidbit from Megan Soule, the automaker's assistant manager of Electrification, Battery Technology, Fuel Cells, R&D and GM Ventures Communications.

It seems what we've been shown in the Origin is the first fruit of the multi-vehicle EV strategy GM CEO Marry Barra presented at the 2017 Barclays Global Automotive Conference. One of the slides (below, full PDF presentation here) touts an "All new multi-brand, multi-segment platform" with a "Structurally integrated all new battery system." The next slide places that modular platform at the center of 11 new vehicles, the van-looking silhouette on the upper right labeled "SAV," for shared autonomous vehicle, apparently in reference to the Origin. Key bits of text in Barra's presentation match snippets from speeches given during the Origin's debut, such as the parts about improved battery chemistry and fast-charging, and reduced vehicle costs.     

The platform's central products are two five-person SUVs, one in the compact class, one dubbed "Lux 3." The luxury model is thought to be Cadillac's electric vehicle — probably the one we thought we'd see at this year's Consumer Electronics Show but whose debut got pushed back to sometime during the first half of this year, making way for the Origin's introduction last week. We'd expect GM to be more forthcoming with platform details during the Cadillac debut, seeing that several other electric offerings like the pickup and van — possibly the "LCV," large cargo vehicle, in the slide — are due to arrive in 2021, rolling out of the resurrected Detroit-Hamtramck facility. After those come everything from a seven-seat large SUV to a low-roof car, made possible in part by flexible accommodations for battery pack installation.