IBM, General Motors Collaborate On Electric Car

IBM’s software was used to build a ‘system of systems’ to drive the Volt’s propulsion system

IBM and General Motors have announced that IBM’s software and simulation tools helped GM engineers design and develop the software in the advanced control systems on the 2011 Chevrolet Volt electric car, which was designed and engineered in just 29 months.

According to a press release describing the collaboration, GM is using IBM’s sophisticated design and simulation software as part of its suite of product development software tools, allowing GM to improve time to market by responding to ever-changing consumer demands.

A ‘system of systems’

GM engineers used IBM products to develop some of the electronic controls for the vehicle’s battery system, electric drive unit and cabin electronics. The Volt’s propulsion system required the design of an unprecedented “system of systems, centred on software that seamlessly integrates the Volt’s 16kWh lithium-ion battery pack with its highly sophisticated electric drive system.”

Daniel Sabbah, general manager of IBM’s Rational tools division, has long talked about IBM’s ability to deliver “a system of systems” to help its customers deliver more complete solutions.

At an event demonstrating the new Volt’s capabilities, IBM officials said Big Blue is helping GM standardise its vehicle design on fewer software tools and a common, collaborative design process, further enabling global engineering teams to work more effectively and seamlessly. IBM Rational software tools were used to help GM engineers model the interactions of the Volt’s embedded systems, helping to increase the quality and efficiency in developing this unprecedented systems approach. IBM software is also used by GM engineers around the world to help manage change throughout the product development process, enabling improved collaboration.

“The Volt represents the convergence of the manufacturing and digital environments that are at the core of building smarter products,” Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of Middleware Software at IBM, said in a statement.

Simulation software

IBM supercomputers and simulation software were used to put the Volt battery packs through the paces, proving their safety and durability over nearly three years of validation testing of their nine modules and 288 cells, IBM said. The supercomputers and simulation tools provided the high performance computing needed by test teams to meet thousands of specifications and validate each of the Volt battery’s 161 components, while supporting tests in several areas, including short circuit, corrosion, dust, impact, water submersion, crush and penetration, and extreme temperature swings.

“Software and controls are a key differentiator, and have significant value in driving vehicle development and providing unique solutions to our customers, especially in vehicles as advanced as the Chevrolet Volt,” said Micky Bly, GM’s executive director of Global Electrical Systems, Hybrids, Electric Vehicles and Batteries, in a statement.