GM Wireless Battery Management Step Towards Wireless Charging?

General Motors is taking the plunge into committing all of its future BEVs to host wireless battery management capabilities.

The move does, however, raise the specter of this being the first step towards full wireless BEV charging despite the grave concerns of the climate change lobby. While charging your vehicle or smartphone wirelessly is being promoted for convenience, several studies point to a huge cost in wasted electricity using the technology versus the existing hardwire approach. One such from the Battery University suggests while “technically feasible, but high cost, low efficiency and field emission when transmitting high power remain insurmountable challenges”.

It claims that current inductive charging in the household environment is just 75%-80% as efficient at hardwire. If this mode of charging is scaled up globally with smartphones and BEVs, the extra load on energy production would be catastrophic for global warming not least because more than 70% of the planet’s electricity is still generated by burning fossil fuels. There are also as yet unresolved issues over the health affects of powerful electromagnetic fields created by wireless charging stations.

Yet GM promises to be the first automaker to use an almost completely wireless battery management system, or wBMS, for production electric vehicles. This wireless system, developed with Analog Devices, will be a primary driver of its potential to power many different types of EVs from a common set of battery components.

The automaker is hoping the system will drive its Ultium-powered BEVs to market faster, in a statement saying “as time won’t be needed to develop specific communications systems or redesign complex wiring schemes for each new vehicle”. It also allows the scaling up of the batteries across vehicle segments from heavy-duty trucks to performance vehicles.

The wBMS’ basic structure can receive new features as software becomes available. With expanded OTA updates provided by GM’s all-new Vehicle Intelligence Platform, the system could even be upgraded over time with new software-based features via smartphone-like updates.

By reducing wires within the batteries by up to 90%, the wireless system can help extend charging range by creating lighter vehicles overall and opening extra room for more batteries. The space and flexibility created by this reduction in wires not only enables a cleaner design, but also simpler and more streamlined battery restructuring as needed and more robust manufacturing processes.

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

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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