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GM CEO Mary Barra with the company's flexible electric vehicle platform. Photo: GM

General Motors on Wednesday took the wraps off a broad lineup of electric vehicles powered by a new proprietary battery technology, representing a dramatic transformation of the 112-year-old automaker.

Why it matters: It's a $20 billion bet over the next five years that GM hopes both consumers and investors will endorse as the company walks a tightrope between maximizing sales of its profitable gas-powered trucks and SUVs and delivering on a long-term vision for a cleaner, less congested world.

  • "I believe in my heart that we are doing the right thing and we will be seen as leaders in electrification," CEO Mary Barra told reporters at an event at GM's research and development center near Detroit.

Yes, but: Electric vehicles make up only about 1% of the U.S. auto market, and most of those are sold by Tesla. Other carmakers are rushing to introduce battery-powered models in the next few years, but consumers have shown little enthusiasm to buy them.

  • GM President Mark Reuss said the tipping point will come when carmakers solve all of the "pain points" currently keeping people from choosing an EV for their primary car — utility, driving range, charging infrastructure and value.
  • The 10 electric models it showed reporters and analysts Wednesday — mostly trucks and SUVs, including three Cadillacs, two Buicks, two Hummers and three Chevrolets — are the first step toward convincing them. They go on sale starting in 2021.
  • GM stock has been mired under its 2010 IPO price of $33 for years, despite the wider bull market — showing investors aren't buying its electric transformation story yet. Barra says they'll believe it when they see what GM delivers.

The state of play: It begins with GM's new Ultium batteries, jointly developed with South Korea's LG Chem, which can be packaged in a variety of formats, enabling a modular EV platform that will underpin everything from urban taxis to luxury cars, work trucks and high-performance cars.

  • Importantly, GM says lower battery costs — below $100 per kWh — combined with lower engineering complexity means the first wave of EVs will be profitable from the start.
  • "What we have done is build a multi-brand, multi-segment EV strategy with economies of scale that rival our full-size truck business with much less complexity and even more flexibility," Barra said.

Details: The pouch-style battery cells can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack, allowing engineers to optimize energy storage and layout for each vehicle design.

  • Battery options between 50 and 200 kWh could provide a driving range of 400 miles or more with 0 to 60 mph acceleration as little as three seconds.
  • GM says most EVs will be charged overnight or at work, but the cars are designed to charge at public DC fast-chargers as well.

Behind the curtain: GM showed reporters and analysts the new GMC Hummer electric pickup truck, as well as an SUV version of the Hummer.

  • It also showed a mid-sized luxury SUV, the Cadillac Lyriq, whose spacious interior includes a 34-inch curved LED display across the dash and rear seats with a high-tech console.
  • It also showed a mockup of a full-size electric SUV, similar in size to the Cadillac Escalade, and a concept design for a new flagship Cadillac sedan.
  • Also on display were mockups of a Buick SUV and a crossover, as well as a mid-sized Chevrolet crossover, and next-generation Chevy Bolt EV hatchback and a slightly larger Bolt crossover.

What to watch: Production is expected to begin in fall 2021 at a GM factory in Detroit, its first assembly plant dedicated to EV production.

  • GM and LG Chem will also break ground soon on a new battery cell production facility in Ohio that will power the new electric models.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: Former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

4 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.