What Are Split Battery Systems in Electric Vehicles?

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What Are Split Battery Systems in Electric Vehicles?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are equipped with large battery packs, capable of storing substantial amounts of electricity to fuel their motors over extensive distances. However, not all EVs feature a singular battery pack; some, like the GMC Hummer EV and the Tesla Cybertruck, utilize divided battery arrays to enable charging at specific voltages.

These split battery configurations, allowing for charging at either 400 or 800 volts, offer added flexibility through the ability to have the battery modules work in series or parallel. The GMC Hummer EV typically operates on about 400 volts and includes a battery assembly comprising 24 individual modules, totaling a gross capacity of 246 kWh—with 212 kWh being usable. This assembly weighs approximately 2,800 pounds, akin to a compact car’s weight, and is notably tall due to its dual-layer arrangement of battery modules.

The construction of the Hummer EV’s battery pack, with its modules stacked in two layers of twelve, is encased within a welded stamped steel case. This design choice, differing from Ford’s F-150 Lightning which uses lighter aluminum and composite materials for the battery casing, was made by GM to enhance the vehicle’s structural integrity.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are equipped with large battery packs that store substantial amounts of electricity, necessary for driving the powerful motors over long distances. However, not all EVs house their batteries in a single unit. In some cases, like with the GMC Hummer EV and Tesla Cybertruck, the battery pack is divided into multiple arrays to support different charging voltages.

These vehicles can alter the configuration of their battery modules between series and parallel connections, offering versatility in charging at either 400 or 800 volts. The GMC Hummer EV, for instance, operates typically at around 400 volts and comprises 24 battery modules with a total gross capacity of 246 kWh, out of which 212 kWh is usable. This pack is unique for its considerable weight, about 2,800 pounds, and its unusual height due to the stacking of two sets of 12 modules each within a heavy-duty steel case. This design choice by GM, in contrast to lighter alternatives used by others like Ford, significantly contributes to the vehicle’s structural integrity, enabling features like removable roof panels without compromising on rigidity.

Despite its standard 400-volt operation, the GMC Hummer EV’s design allows it to switch to 800 volts for charging, facilitating rapid replenishment from compatible high-voltage DC fast chargers at speeds up to 350 kW. This switch is made possible by reconfiguring the battery modules to operate in series, thus doubling the voltage and enabling the vehicle to add around 100 miles of range in just 12 minutes.

The Tesla Cybertruck employs a similar strategy but starts from an 800-volt baseline, courtesy of its four 200-volt battery modules arranged in series for normal operation. This design supports Tesla’s first 800-volt system, further showcasing the versatility and advanced engineering in the EV landscape to accommodate high-speed charging solutions.

The Cybertruck’s ability to operate at double the voltage of previous Tesla models allows for significantly faster charging, peaking at 350 kW when connected to a V4 Tesla Supercharger designed for 800-volt EVs. However, charging at a V3 or older Supercharger limits the Cybertruck to 400 volts, capping the speed at around 250 kW.

Tesla’s design, featuring multiple battery modules, not only facilitates this enhanced charging capability but also paves the way for future voltage increases. Tesla has hinted that the 1,000-volt architecture, currently exclusive to the Semi truck, could be adopted in other models, with the Cybertruck being a prime candidate.

The split pack design employed by both the Cybertruck and Hummer EV eliminates the need for a DC-to-DC converter or voltage booster, streamlining the system to adjust voltage needs directly. This design choice reduces both cost and weight, allowing the Tesla to operate virtually at 400 volts with standard chargers, while GMC’s Hummer EV shifts to an 800-volt configuration when connected to appropriate chargers.

Similarly, the new 800-volt Porsche Macan EV divides its battery into two segments, ensuring compatibility with 400-volt chargers but at a reduced maximum charging speed. Ford is also exploring an 800-volt EV architecture, suggesting a move towards split battery arrays for enhanced charging flexibility.

As the industry continues to evolve, the trend of segmenting EV battery packs for dual voltage compatibility is likely to grow, especially with the increasing introduction of 800-volt EVs requiring support across diverse charging infrastructures.

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