General Motors has made a lot of noise about its Ultium battery technology, and that makes sense, given that it will underpin a whole lot of new models from the GM galaxy of brands in the coming years. Now, according to an announcement made by GM on Monday, Ultium is getting a little better thanks to the addition of a heat pump.
What’s a heat pump, and why does that matter? RRRRRRRAAAAAANNNGGGE, Eli, RANGE! A battery pack in operation in an electric vehicle generates a fair amount of heat as it charges and discharges. Getting heat out of the pack is the job of an EV’s cooling system, but rather than just waste that heat, a heat pump can use it to heat the vehicle’s cabin rather than using battery energy to power a separate heating element.
A heat pump can also assist in other ways. For example, it can take the energy generated from the phase change of its liquid refrigerant to help precondition a battery in the extreme cold or even power some low-level functions of the vehicle. The total benefit to vehicle range can be as much as 10% and, friends, that’s not exactly chicken feed.
GM is far from the first EV manufacturer to use the technology — Tesla, for example, has been using heat pumps for a few years — but it’s a good sign that the General’s engineers are thinking ahead and finding ways to make GM vehicles as good as they can be. The heat pump will be standard on all Ultium-powered vehicles, including the Hummer EV and the Cadillac Lyriq.