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General Motors joins Tesla and Ford pushing beyond mobility and into energy

Taking a page from the Tesla's playbook General Motors is making a unified play to become a global energy business.

Last week, the company announced that it was making the move into energy services launching a new business unit called GM Energy, which combines the company's work with homeowners, utilities, fleet operators, and small businesses under one umbrella.

It's a strategy that reflects how vehicle electrification and battery technologies will transform the distribution of power around the country and around the world.

And if it sounds similar to the playbook that Elon Musk has been advancing at Tesla... that's because it is.

Unlike Tesla (and like Ford), not everything at GM is being done in-house.

The company said that it would partner with the solar energy installation company SunPower to offer a combined solar energy and storage system for homes.

With the solar company providing panels, GM will provide electric vehicles and batteries in a bundled offering for buyers of the company's electric cars and trucks -- starting with the Chevrolet Silverado EV that's slated to start production in 2023. GM expects SunPower to be installing its integrated systems by 2024.

Ford has a similar partnership with SunRun that was announced last year and the two companies are already installing systems alongside the commercial release of Ford's electric F-150.

SunPower is only one piece of the puzzle for GM. The big Detroit-based automaker also will offer these integrated energy storage, electric mobility, and power management services to businesses and utilities.

The company envisions playing across a whole range of energy applications using electricity, hydrogen fuel cells, and more.

The list includes charging from homes and from the utility grid, providing stored battery power to the electric grid, offering off-grid energy storage applications, microgrid solutions, and the software and services that can manage all of those things.

“The reliability of the U.S. electrical power grid has never been more important," said Travis Hester, vice president of GM EV Growth Operations, in a statement. “GM Energy has the opportunity to help deliver sustainable energy products and services that can help mitigate the effect of power outages and provide customers with resilient and cost-effective energy management.”

With the announcement, GM is trying to stake its own claim to be the go-to source for energy management. And with offerings for industrial and business customers that extend well beyond Tesla's electric vehicle offerings, GM (and Ford) could see big gains in fleet categories that Tesla can't touch.

“GM Energy’s mission is to offer customers access to a full suite of energy products and services, including solutions beyond the vehicle, accelerating the seamless transition to an all-electric future,” said Hester. “With the expansion of our enterprise business through GM Energy and one of the most comprehensive portfolios of energy management products and services available, we will help to reduce the barriers of entry for sustainable power and further accelerate the mass adoption of EVs.”

Back on the home front, GM put a spotlight on its recent pilot project with Pacific Gas and Electric in California to provide bi-directional charging and backup power for homes in the event of blackouts. That program is due to roll out more widely in 2023.

GM Energy is also working with Con Edison in New York, and Northeastern utilities like Graniterock and New Hampshire Electric Cooperative on similar programs.

Behind all of this is a significant investment in new energy storage technologies like Soelect, OneD Battery Sciences, and the publicly traded battery company, SES.

These tech companies -- and battery recyclers like the GM-backed Lithion, or Redwood Materials, or Ascend Elements -- ensure that GM vehicles and energy storage systems can store more power, more safely, and at lower costs for consumers and businesses alike.

Speaking to TechCrunch about its investment in Soelect, Mark Lubin, a spokesperson for GM's new technology innovations said, “One of the competitive advantages of adding Soelect to GM Ventures’ portfolio is its fast charge-capable anode technologies, which could serve as an enabler for both future lithium-metal and solid-state EV battery anode designs.”

“This investment, and others in the space, further expands GM Ventures’ efforts to accelerate the advancement of battery technologies that could increase range, improve efficiency and reduce costs in future GM products,” Lubin said.


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