As might be expected of such a high-tech vehicle, the upcoming GMC Hummer EV pickup has more interesting technological features than most would guess. Many of these are designed to enhance the supertruck’s off-road performance, including something called Dynamic Bump Zone.
Dynamic Bump Zone is one of several technologies discussed in an interview the Detroit Free Press recently conducted with Mike Colville, Senior Manager, Electric Vehicle Integration at General Motors. Colville is a tech guy, but he’s also very much an off-road guy. In fact, he was an off-road racer, competing in a self-built 700 horsepower four-wheel drive contraption for eight years until GM transferred him to China in 2015.
That was the end of his racing career, but he had learned a lot, and his knowledge proved to be very useful when he returned to the U.S. in February of 2019 and became involved in the development of the Hummer EV. He won’t claim to have invented Dynamic Bump Zone, but he was very much in favor of it and may even have influenced it.
Dynamic Bump Zone is intended to solve a basic problem with the conventional automobile suspension. In its simplest form, it consists of springs and dampers which have specific ratings. The designer hopes that these ratings will cope with the average conditions the vehicle will encounter, and accepts that they will be less suitable the further the vehicle diverges from its sweet spot. Springs and dampers with variable rates have become more common over the years, but they are still reactive. Dynamic Bump Zone, as its name suggests, isn’t.
Colville uses an example from his former sport. “My race truck had only 19 inches of suspension travel so anything over 18 inches of a bump, you had to do something to adjust to it or you’d be airborne,” he says. “We had a bypass shock, which basically, at the beginning or end of travel, makes the suspension really firm. But it was done with physical parts that didn’t have any electronics or smarts to them, that we’d spend hours tuning,”
The GMC Hummer EV system, by contrast, is electronic, and those electronics work so fast that the pickup truck has already calculated the severity of the bump before the driver realizes what is happening. Faster than any human could make it happen, the damping rate is adjusted to suit, and the Hummer EV rides the bump far better than it could have done without Dynamic Bump Zone.
Although he doesn’t claim credit for it, Colville is very pleased with the system. “I didn’t invent it, but I was a strong supporter of it because I knew how much it’d benefit the truck,” he says. “Making sure it had that capability came from my racing.”