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GM hires ex-Tesla battery guru Kurt Kelty to beef up its battery efforts

General Motors has hired battery expert and ex-Tesla executive Kurt Kelty to be the automaker's new vice president of batteries -- a brand new role for the company. His first day will be February 19.

Kelty will join GM at a time when the company has struggled to increase the output of the battery packs for its new Ultium platform, which is supposed to power its next-generation electric vehicles.

“The foundation that GM has established coupled with Kurt’s exceptional battery expertise in leading battery chemistry development, establishing partnerships, building out supply chains and partnering closely with teams that have developed leading battery systems will help us achieve our electrification goals and position GM as a leader in EV technology,” GM president Mark Reuss said in a statement.

Kelty's role will likely affect the Ultium program, although his job is designed to be far broader. GM has had teams dedicated to different pieces of the battery process. However, there has never been one role that strings together every step, including sourcing raw materials and identifying and testing out new technologies.

Kelty spent more than a decade as the head of Tesla's battery team. He was there through the launch of Tesla's first four cars: The Roadster, Model S, Model X and Model 3. He also used to work at Panasonic, Tesla's partner in cell development at the Gigafactory in Nevada.

More recently, he was the vice president of commercialization at Sila Nanotechnologies, a company founded by early Tesla employee Gene Berdichevsky that has been developing a silicon-based anode that can dramatically increase the energy density of lithium-ion batteries.