General Motors CEO Mary Barra gives the go-ahead for the completely modernized location in Detroit-Hamtramck. (Image: GM)

The new electric vehicles are based on the new Ultium platform, which is intended to be used across different vehicle types and to bring together a large number of different modules and drive types under a common architecture. This is how the network should be in the production area at plants and the corresponding processes, machines and tools are standardized.

“In order to create our ambitious transformation towards electromobility, the share of electric vehicles in our total production in North America will be around 20 percent by 2025”, explains Gerald Johnson, Executive VP Global Manufacturing and Sustainability at GM. By 2030, every second vehicle with an electric drive is expected to roll off the production line.

Savings through brownfield modernization

Compared to building a new greenfield plant, the modernization measures saved around a third of the costs, according to the car manufacturer. The location is therefore considered to be a blueprint for future conversions of existing production facilities. By the year 2030, upgrades for brownfield plants will save around 15 billion US dollars compared to new buildings. When the site was rebuilt, the start-up time was significantly reduced, among other things, through the increased use of digital tools. Compared to the four-year start-up phase in the greenfield, it was possible to start production within a year, according to GM. The measures have also simplified the fact that the manufacturing process between electric vehicles and combustion engines is around 80 percent identical.

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The goal is climate-neutral production

General Motors would like to reduce the emissions of its own vehicle range to zero by 2035 and make the entire company climate-neutral by 2040. By the year 2025, the carmaker wants to bring more than thirty electric models onto the market and invest around 35 billion US dollars in e-mobility and autonomous driving.

When building and operating Factory Zero, General Motors relies on a high level of recycling and sustainable resource systems. Among other things were elements reused the old factory as part of the rebuilding. For example, cement elements from the buildings were used in road construction. At the same time, the OEM relies on systems for the treatment and use of rainwater as well as solar carports on the company premises.

With the establishment of appropriate systems for the effective use of resources, GM is following a comprehensive trend in the industry: Renault opened earlier this month the second Refactory of the group in Seville, Spain. In addition to recycling solutions, the focus here is on systems for the second-life use of energy storage systems and the extension of vehicle life cycles. BMW is investing in the US startup Lilac Solutions, among other things the mining of sustainable materials, while Daimler uses its own suppliers as part of the strategy Ambition 2039 obliged to adhere to its own climate protection standards.

Nevertheless, there is still a lot of catching up to do within the industry, including among other things a study by the management consultancy Staufen shows. According to the study, the industry is increasingly weighting environmental protection. At the same time, however, according to nine out of ten respondents, there is still untapped potential in their own company. Another problem is the manufacturers’ request to shift the main burden on their own suppliers.

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