General Motors is working on batteries for the US military | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Subscribe to Top Gear magazine
Sign up to our Top Gear Magazine
Tuesday 3rd October

General Motors is working on batteries for the US military

Milspec EVs with 1,000bhp? Somebody cue the Wagner

Published: 10 Oct 2022

In a thoroughly American development, General Motors is working on “a battery pack prototype for testing and analysis on Department of Defense platforms". Or, in regular-strength English, it’s developing battery and motor tech for the US military. 

Underpinning this charge (yes, we meant that one) is a ‘modular and scalable’ battery and drivetrain architecture, which someone in GM’s marketing department decided to call ‘The Ultium Platform’. Which sounds like the title of a James Patterson novel, but then what do we know about anything. 

Advertisement - Page continues below

But why, you might ask, is it a “thoroughly American development”? Well, America’s rather famous for its private defence companies – and the bonkers amount of money they make. In any given year, there are about a dozen defence contractors on the Fortune 500 (i.e. the 500 highest-earning companies in the US of A), and some, like Lockheed Martin, are household names. Americans are quite good at that whole ‘military-industrial complex’, as it turns out. 

So it makes sense, then, for General Motors to have a military division – at least fiscally. It makes so much sense, in fact, that GM actually started up a defence division back in the 1950s, called – if you can believe it – GM Defense. General Motors sold it to General Dynamics (no relation) in 2003, but it was clearly a regrettable decision – GM started up its rather logically named defence division again in 2017, and has been going great guns ever since. And yeah, we meant that one too.  

So the rather menacing bits of kit you see in the photo are GM’s Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV), based on the same architecture as the Chevy Colorado truck. At the moment they’re running a 185bhp turbo-diesel and six-speed auto, which is very definitely milspec – as in adequate and cost-effective. On the other hand, The Ulterior Parables (or whatever GM calls its electric platform) should be able to make up to 1,000bhp in a) full military trim, and b) whichever quagmire America finds itself in next. Little wonder the DIU is interested.

Oh, and full disclosure: the DIU, or Defense Innovation Unit, is an arm of the Department of Defense. Founded in 2015, its purpose is to find, adapt and use civilian technology to bolster the military’s capacity and address shortcomings in national defence. See, that’s how you spell it, Americans. 

Advertisement - Page continues below

Neither GM nor the DIU say what exactly the ‘scalable battery packs’ will be used for beyond “a light- to heavy-duty battery EV that can support reduced reliance on fossil fuels in the operational and garrison environments”. But considering the US Army has already ordered 649 (yes, that specific) ISVs, and has been looking at the Hummer EV, those Bourne Ultimatum batteries are probably not going in a Chinook. Although, it must be said, the ISV can. 

And considering the original Hummer was a road-going version of a military vehicle, which GM then bought – and made an even softer one based on the Chevy Tahoe... it feels like the wheel has come full circle, no?

Top Gear

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

More from Top Gear

See more on Electric

Promoted Content

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5