GM Goes Wireless for Battery Management

The wBMS helps to ensure the scalability of Ultium batteries across GM’s future lineup, encompassing different brands and vehicle segments. Photo taken in GM’s Battery Electrical Lab in February, prior to the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors)

General Motors is going almost completely wireless for its battery management system, or wBMS, for production electric vehicles.

Developed by Analog Devices Inc., the wireless system will be the primary driver of GM’s ability to power 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 the company won’t have to develop specific communications systems or redesign wiring schemes for each new vehicle.

Much like the pack design of GM’s Ultium batteries, the wBMS’ basic structure can easily 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 even be upgraded over time with new software-based features via smartphone-like updates.

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“Scalability and complexity reduction are a theme with our Ultium batteries — the wireless battery management system is the critical enabler of this amazing flexibility,” said Kent Helfrich, GM executive director of global electrification and battery systems.

The wBMS will help GM’s electric vehicles balance chemistry within the individual battery cell groups for optimal performance. By reducing the wires within the batteries by up to 90 percent, the wireless system can help extend charging range by creating lighter vehicles overall and opening extra room for more batteries.

The new wireless system also provides a unique repurposing capability for battery reuse in secondary applications more easily than conventional wired monitoring systems. For instance, when batteries are reduced to where they are no longer ideal for vehicle performance, but still functional, the wireless packs can be combined with other battery packs to form clean power generators, without having to redesign or overhaul the battery management system.

Founded in 1965, Analog Devices Inc., the creator of the wBMS, designs, manufactures and markets a portfolio of analog, mixed-signal and digital signal processing integrated circuits that are used in all types of electronic equipment.

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