GM Introduces Wireless Battery Management System, Offers Discount to Uber Drivers

Detroit-based General Motors Co. is introducing an almost completely wireless battery management system for producing its electric vehicles. It is designed to save space and bring electric vehicles to market more quickly.
GM’s Battery Electric Lab
GM has introduced its almost completely wireless battery management system for producing electric vehicles more quickly. Pictured is GM’s Battery Electric Lab. // Photo courtesy of General Motors Co.

Detroit-based General Motors Co. is introducing an almost completely wireless battery management system for producing its electric vehicles. It is designed to save space and bring electric vehicles to market more quickly.

The system, developed with Analog Devices Inc. in Massachusetts, will be a primary driver of GM’s ability to power many different types of electric vehicles from a common set of battery components.

The system is expected to drive GM’s Ultium-powered electric vehicles to market faster, as time won’t be needed to develop specific communication systems or redesign wiring schemes for each new vehicle. Instead, the system will help to ensure the scalability of Ultium batteries across GM’s future lineup, encompassing different brands and vehicle segments.

Much like the pack design of GM’s Ultium batteries, which is flexible enough to incorporate new chemistry over time as technology changes, the system’s basic structure can receive new features as software becomes available. With expanded over-the-air updates provided by GM’s all-new Vehicle Intelligence Platform, the system could be upgraded over time with new software-based features via smartphone-like updates.

“Scalability and complexity reduction are a theme with our Ultium batteries – the wireless battery management system is the critical enabler of this amazing flexibility,” says Kent Helfrich, executive director of global electrification and battery systems at GM. “The wireless system represents the epitome of Ultium’s configurability and should help GM build profitable EVs at scale.”

The system will help GM’s electric vehicles balance chemistry within the individual battery cell groups for optimal performance. It can also 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 in the batteries by up to 90 percent, the system can help extend charging range by creating lighter vehicles overall and opening extra room for more batteries. The space and flexibility enables a cleaner design, simpler and more streamlined battery restructuring as needed, and more robust manufacturing processes.

The wireless system also provides a repurposing capability for battery reuse in secondary applications more easily than conventional wired monitoring systems. When the wireless packs are capacity-reduced to the point where they are no longer ideal for optimum vehicle performance, but still functional as consistent power supplies, 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 that is traditionally required in second-life usage.

GM’s wireless battery management system is protected by cybersecurity measures that are foundational to the company’s electrical architecture. It includes protective features within the hardware and software layers, including protection of wireless communications.

“General Motors is paving the way toward an all-electric future, and Analog Devices is proud to work with this highly respected automotive leader on the next generation of electric vehicles,” says Greg Henderson, senior vice president of automotive, communications, and aerospace and defense at Analog Devices. “Our collaboration is aimed at accelerating the transition to electric vehicles and a sustainable future.”

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

In related news, GM has announced a partnership with California-based Uber to help accelerate the rideshare industry’s transition to an all-electric, zero-emissions future by offering drivers on Uber’s platform special pricing on the purchase of a new electric vehicles and charging accessories.

“Improving access to EVs for on-demand service providers can help reduce overall tailpipe emissions in cities across the country and help accelerate widespread EV adoption,” says Sigal Cordeiro, executive director of sales and marketing for global innovation at GM. “Our collaboration with Uber will facilitate drivers’ switch to an EV, empowering these drivers, their passengers, and communities to experience electric vehicles and contribute to cleaner air in our cities.”

For current eligible drivers on the Uber platform in the U.S. and Canada, GM will extend the same discount it offers its employees on the purchase of a new 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV. U.S. drivers will also have access to 20 percent below manufacturer suggested retail price on Bolt EV accessories, including at-home charging equipment. Starting in Los Angeles and Denver, well-qualified drivers with Uber Diamond-tier status will also be eligible for special financing through a pilot program with GM Financial.

“Through this program, we’re offering new ways for drivers and customers across the country to fall in love with driving electric,” says Steve Majoros, vice president of Chevrolet marketing. “This is a key opportunity to grow Chevrolet’s EV business through a program that matches our expertise and strength with a rideshare platform that brings its own scale and reach.”

GM data suggests rideshare drivers can experience lower maintenance costs when using a Bolt EV compared to traditional gas-powered vehicles. Drivers also cite in-vehicle technology and the spacious interior as benefits.