GM Factory ZERO renames an old plant for its electric future

Chris Davies - Oct 16, 2020, 10:00am CDT
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GM Factory ZERO renames an old plant for its electric future

GM is renaming its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center, with the future home of its all-electric vehicle production now being known as Factory ZERO. The new name – which hints that someone at General Motors may have watched a few too many superhero movies – was confirmed today, and is a nod to not only the zero emissions GM Ultium-based EVs will produce.

It’s also, GM says, a reflection of Factory ZERO’s role in pushing zero crashes and zero congestion. They’re going to be a little more tricky to achieve, it seems fair to predict, though General Motors divisions like Cruise are hoping that fully autonomous vehicles will at least help on that front.

The Cruise Origin, a purpose-designed EV for driverless operations that has no steering wheel or other traditional controls, will be among the first of the vehicles that GM produces at Factory ZERO. The other of note is the GMC Hummer EV, a fully-electric pickup that reboots the Hummer name with a thoroughly different drivetrain from the original. GMC plans to officially unveil the Hummer EV later this month, though production isn’t expected to kick off until late in 2021.

Indeed, while Factory ZERO may have a new name on the sign, it still has some way to go before it can actually begin building cars. GM is currently splashing out $2.2 billion on the facility, upgrading Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center from what used to be the home of models like the Cadillac CT6 and Chevrolet Impala. It’s actually no stranger to electrification, either, having been responsible for GM’s Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrids.

For the Hummer EV, Cruise Origin, and upcoming EVs like the Cadillac Lyriq, however, the platform will be very different. They’ll use GM’s new Ultium architecture, a battery and platform combination that will give the automaker hitherto-impossible flexibility in vehicle size, shape, drivetrain, and range. Ultium will also allow GM to expand beyond its own nameplates, with Honda already confirmed to use the technology for EVs of its own.

As for Factory ZERO itself, GM has numerous ways in which it aims to cut the plant’s environmental impact. There’s a 516 kilowatt ground mount solar panel farm helping feed it with power, and a second bank of panels, delivering a further 30 kilowatts, on the carport. GM says it plans to use renewable energy there entirely by 2023.

There’ll be stormwater treatment which will stockpile water for the cooling towers and the fire suppression system, along with a 16.5 acre wildlife habitat. During the conversion and upgrades, concrete waste from the old plant was used to build temporary roadways, GM says. When open, it’s expected to create more than 2,200 jobs in the US.

It’s fair to say that General Motors hasn’t been the most agile of the automakers when it comes to EVs so far. Although it has experimented with PHEVs like the Volt and ELR, currently it only has a single all-electric model – the Chevrolet Bolt EV – on the books. As the Cadillac Lyriq previewed, Ultium certainly has promise; however, we’ll still need to wait some time to see what Factory ZERO is actually capable of delivering in the real world.


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