GM: Next-gen electric cars will cost less, go farther

DETROIT - General Motors (GM) says its next generation of electric vehicles will cost the company 30 percent less than current ones, making them profitable after the new version debuts in 2021.

CEO Mary Barra made the forecast at an investor conference Wednesday. She expects to cut battery cell cost from $145 per kilowatt hour of electricity to under $100, yet produce a range of over 300 miles. The company also plans to reduce manufacturing costs and gain sales as electric vehicle demand rises worldwide.

Barra also said GM is developing a new manufacturing platform for electric vehicles.

"This will launch in 2021 and support multiple brands and multiple segments," she said in the presentation. "At General Motors, we are very much dedicated to leading in battery technology as well as electric vehicles. So this all new EV platform, one of the things we'll be doing is structurally integrating the batteries into the architecture that will allow us to take out cost and gives us a better flexibility from a design perspective."

GM has pledged to roll out 20 new zero-emissions vehicles by 2023 with two new ones coming in 18 months. Currently most automakers lose money on electric vehicles.

Barra says GM generates enough capital to finance electric and autonomous vehicle research as well as traditional vehicles.

Despite GM's ambitious plans, electric vehicles remain a small part of the car maker's business. GM has sold a total of 150,000 partly or all-electric vehicles in the US, Barra noted. The company sold more than 2.7 million vehicles globally in 2016. 

Electric vehicles will account for more than 30 percent of new cars sold in key automotive markets by 2040, up from just 1 percent of new car sales in 2016, research firm IHS Markit predicts.