GM is working to make sure its new Hummer EV avoids battery faults

GM is working to make sure its new Hummer EV avoids battery faults

On September 13, 2021, a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV caught fire at a home in Cherokee County, Georgia, according to local firefighters.

Cherokee County Fire Department

DETROIT – As General Motors scrambles to fix flaws that have caught fire in at least 13 Chevrolet Bolt EVs, the automaker is working aggressively to ensure the same issues don’t occur in its next-gen Altium batteries . Seek and its all-electric version of the Hummer this fall.

New fuel system is key to the future of the automaker as it prepares to offer all-electric vehicles by 2035. The battery and the company’s entire Altium system – platform, engine, and other components – are expected to form the basis of every EV for GM for the foreseeable future.

Problems with the Bolt – the company’s main consumer electric vehicle – have prompted the automaker to recall every electric car since production began in 2016. Vehicle repairs, including complete replacement of some batteries, are expected to be on track. cost $ 1.8 billion.

This expense – around $ 13,000 per vehicle on average – highlights a gamble for automakers who plan to use common platforms or battery cells to power massive amounts of vehicles. If there is a problem, it will be expensive.

This is one of the reasons GM executives are working aggressively “around the clock” to fix problems and to ensure that future electric vehicles – like the GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyric – use their vehicles. Ultium batteries. Two of the first GM models to do this – don’t have similar issues. They are also working on wireless technology that will allow GM to quickly spot potential faults.

Mike Harpster, chief electrification propulsion engineer for GM, told CNBC: “The company is committed not only to solving this problem with the LG Cells and Bolts, but also to ensuring that all future products are poised for success. ”Dive deep into the automaker’s upcoming Lyriq.“ It doesn’t create blame or flaws, but it’s also how the peloton and vehicles respond. And on both fronts, we let’s move forward very aggressively.

The automaker’s efforts extend beyond its own organization. GM CFO Paul Jacobson recently said GM engineers were working with LG Chem, which makes batteries, to “clean up the manufacturing process” and implement certain “GM quality measures” at factories. LG. to do.

GM on Monday announced improvements to the battery cell manufacturing process as well as updated monitoring software for vehicles. Both are expected to be used for future vehicles, GM chief electrification strategy director Tim Gravey said on Monday.

GM is seeking reimbursement from LG, which produced the defective parts at factories in South Korea and Michigan.

new battery factory

The increased effort on quality comes as GM builds a US battery cell plant in Ohio through a joint venture with LG Chem called Altium Cells. This is the first of several battery plants expected from GM in the coming years.

While Altium batteries involve new chemicals and production processes compared to LG’s production and cells, GM is learning lessons from the current production process, including safety measures and monitoring of new factories.

“There are improvements to this process that have been learned from the current process,” said Harpster, who was the Bolt EV’s chief propulsion systems engineer. “It’s not just at the cell level, it’s at the module level, it’s at the pack level. Everything we have done in the past we have done with a partner, LG. All of this learning will move things forward here. This is the upper level.

Earlier this month, Greave told CNBC the new production was “no more vulnerable” than anything the company has done today.

“Any contaminant anywhere can cause problems,” he said. “If you look at the battery factories that we have today, there are all kinds of controls for that.”

GM CEO Mary Barra said last month that the new plants “will implement all of General Motors’ quality processes into the manufacturing process,” telling the company that the new facilities expect better. quality control.

“We work every day to make sure what we do is validated and tested. When we find a problem like this, and it is again, two rare manufacturing problems in the same cell, then we will fix it, ”she said on August 4 in an interview on CNBC Squawk Box.

Barra pointed out that Altium is an entirely new battery system, although battery production is always more volatile than assembling a conventional vehicle. Batteries cannot be easily removed and recharged like car manufacturers can with gasoline.

“The manufacturing processes need to be really tightened up,” Sam Abuelsamid, senior analyst at Guidehouse Insights previously told CNBC. “It’s part of managing battery behavior. They don’t like heat and they don’t like contamination. They are very sensitive.

Vermont State Police released this photo of a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV that caught fire in the driveway of State Representative Timothy Briglin, a Democrat, on July 1, 2021.

Vermont State Police

wireless monitoring system

The “rare manufacturing flaw” of Bolt EVs is a torn anode tab and a bent separator that increases the risk of fire, according to GM, when present in the same battery cell.

Although GM continues to make sure it manufactures the cells, it may be able to identify such problems sooner with Altium motor vehicles.

Notably, the new battery cells will be able to communicate wirelessly, providing GM with additional 24/7 data to assess any issues. According to officials, the Bolt EVs, by comparison, aren’t able to update their software remotely and only communicate when the vehicle is in motion or charging.

General Motors is unveiling its all-new modular platform and battery system, Altium, on March 4, 2020 at its Tech Center campus in Warren, Michigan.

Photo by Steve Fetch for General Motors

“Everything is editable live,” said Gravey. He added that the wireless system would likely have helped the company determine a problem that was existing “a little faster.”

The wireless system would also be able to remotely reset the battery software to reduce the risk of fire, he said. Currently, Bolt EV owners have to either do this on their own or take it to a dealership to have the software reset.

The wireless battery monitoring system, which will be standard on all Altium vehicles, can refocus an array of modules and sensors as needed, helping to protect battery health throughout the life of the battery. vehicle.

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