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EV/AV Report: September 14, 2020

Toronto, Ontario ⁠— Transport Canada research unveils issues with EV supplies and demand, General Motors explores wireless EV battery technology and Walmart explores drone delivery in this week’s EV/AV Report. 

Demand dilemma

New research commissioned by Transport Canada confirms that the supply of electric vehicles at Canadian dealerships is inadequate to meet consumer demand.

According to “Plug-In Electric Vehicle Availability,” prepared by Montreal’s Dunsky Energy Consulting for Transport Canada, only one in three Canadian car dealers had at least one EV in stock in the first half of February 2020. Outside of Quebec, B.C. and Ontario, that figure fell to fewer than 20 percent of dealerships. 

Overall, only nine percent of Canadian dealerships had four or more EVs in stock in February.

The study also confirms issues with long wait times for the delivery of a requested PEV. More than 60 percent of dealerships surveyed had a three- to six-month wait time.

A Transport Canada spokesperson confirms that the federal government “recognizes that limited supply of zero-emission vehicles continues to be a barrier to greater uptake.”

In 2019, the spokesperson says, Transport Canada committed to working with automakers to establish voluntary sales targets to ensure supply kept up with the expected increase in demand following the introduction of the federal Incentives for Zero-Emission Vehicles program.

Today, it is “continuing to evaluate the need for additional measures,” she says.

Making waves with wireless

General Motors will be the first automaker to use an almost completely wireless battery management system, or wBMS, for production electric vehicles. This wireless system, developed with Analog Devices, Inc., will be a primary driver of GM’s ability to ultimately power many 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 time won’t be needed to develop specific communications systems or redesign complex wiring schemes for each new vehicle. Instead, the wBMS helps to ensure the scalability of Ultium batteries across GM’s future lineup, encompassing different brands and vehicle segments, from heavy-duty trucks to performance vehicles.

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.

By reducing wires within the batteries by up to 90 percent, the wireless system can help extend the charging range by creating lighter vehicles overall and opening extra room for more batteries. Space and flexibility created by this reduction in wires not only enables a cleaner design but also simpler and more streamlined battery restructuring as needed and more robust manufacturing processes.

“General Motors is paving the way toward an all-electric future, and Analog Devices is proud to work with this highly respected automotive leader on the next generation of electric vehicles,” said Greg Henderson, Analog Devices, Inc. senior vice president of Automotive, Communications, and Aerospace & Defense. “Our collaboration is aimed at accelerating the transition to electric vehicles and a sustainable future.”

The wireless battery monitoring system will be standard on all planned GM vehicles powered by Ultium batteries.

Groceries in the sky

Walmart said on Wednesday it would run a pilot project for delivery of grocery and household products through automated drones, along with end-to-end delivery firm Flytrex, as the U.S. retailer looks to beef up its delivery business.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart said the test would start on Wednesday in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with cloud-controlled drones picking up and dropping off select items.

“We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone. That still feels like a bit of science fiction,” Tom Ward, senior vice-president, customer products, said in a statement.

The company has accelerated the expansion of its pick-up and delivery services in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, as virus-wary consumers increasingly prefer having items delivered at their doorsteps.

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