GM Reveals Ultium Drive and Wireless Battery Management System for EVs

General Motors has announced two new EV-related technologies that it plans to use for its next-generation electric vehicle line-up.

Firstly, the company revealed the ‘Ultium Drive’ – the name for a family of five interchangeable drive units and three motors.

The company says that Ultium Drive will help it transition its current portfolio to a fully electric lineup, providing significant advantages over GM’s previous EVs in performance, scale, speed to market and manufacturing efficiencies.

Ultium Drive combines electric motors and single-speed transmissions to apply power – generated by the company’s Ultium battery cells – to the wheels. GM will lead the design and development of Ultium Drive’s modular architecture.

The company says the motors within Ultium Drive are expected to offer industry-leading torque and power density across a wide spectrum of different vehicle types.

“GM has built transmissions for many notable automakers,” said Ken Morris, GM vice president, Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Programs. “Making motors, transmissions, driveline components and systems are among GM’s best-known competencies, and our manufacturing expertise is proving not only transferable but advantageous as we make the transition to EVs.”

GM says its experience has helped to deliver lighter and more efficient designs and by integrating the power electronics into the drive units’ assemblies, the mass of the power electronics has been reduced by nearly 50 per cent from GM’s previous EV generation, saving cost and space while increasing capability by 25 per cent.

The power and versatility of these drive units, GM claims, will help the company migrate high-output segments like pickup trucks and performance vehicles to all-electric propulsion.

The GM Ultium Drive family covers front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive propulsion combinations, including high-performance and off-road capabilities.

All five drive units are expected to be powered by one or more of three motors including a primary front-wheel drive motor, which can be configured for front- or rear-wheel drive, and an all-wheel drive assist motor.

GM says it will save on vehicle design and production costs by developing Ultium Drive alongside its next generation of EVs.

“As with other propulsion systems that are complex, capital intensive and contain a great deal of intellectual property, we’re always better off making them ourselves,” said Adam Kwiatkowski, GM executive chief engineer, Global Electrical Propulsion. “GM’s full lineup of EVs should benefit from the simultaneous engineering of Ultium Drive. Our commitment to increased vertical integration is expected to bring additional cost efficiency to the performance equation.”

All GM EVs built on the Ultium platform will be powered by Ultium Drive.

GM has also announced that it will use an almost completely wireless battery management system, or wBMS, for production electric vehicles. The company said that this wireless system, developed with Analog Devices, Inc., will be a primary driver of its ability to ultimately power many different types of electric vehicles from a common set of battery components.

The wBMS is expected to drive GM’s Ultium-powered EVs to market faster, as time won’t be needed to develop specific communications systems or redesign complex wiring schemes for each new vehicle. Instead, the wBMS will help to ensure the scalability of Ultium batteries across GM’s future line-up.

The company says that, much like the pack design of its Ultium batteries – which are flexible enough to incorporate new chemistry over time as technology changes – the wBMS’ basic structure can easily receive new features as software becomes available. With expanded over-the-air updates, the system could even be upgraded over time with new software-based features via smartphone-like updates.

The wBMS can conduct real-time battery pack health checks and refocus the network of modules and sensors as needed – helping to safeguard battery health over the vehicle’s lifespan.

By reducing wires within the batteries by up to 90 percent, the wireless system can also help extend charging range by creating lighter vehicles overall and opening extra room for more batteries.

This wireless system also provides a repurposing capability for battery reuse. When the wireless packs are capacity-reduced to the point where they are no longer ideal for vehicle performance, but still functional as consistent power supplies, GM says they can be combined with other wireless battery packs to form clean power generators. This can be done without a redesign or overhaul of the battery management system.

The wireless battery monitoring system will be standard on all planned GM vehicles powered by Ultium batteries.

Source: Motor Trader E-magazine (October 2020)

6 October 2020

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