Smarter battery management

18 Jan 2017

Article in Horizon 2020 Projects: Portal, Jan 2017

Smarter battery management

Swedish company Insplorion develops sensors to enable improved electric vehicles through a superior battery management system

As one of the biggest challenges our global society faces moving forward, global warming is placing pressure on governments, institutions, companies and individual citizens to fundamentally reconsider the use of resources and their impact on the environment. Emission of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, from burning fossil fuels has been identified as the main reason for global warming. As a result, governments around the world have set ambitious CO2 emission reduction goals to limit long-term global climate change.

One of the largest sources of CO2 emissions is conventional vehicles. In the EU, for example, cars account for 12% of total CO2 emissions. A key factor in reducing total CO2 emissions is therefore reducing car fleets’ emissions. In 2021 the EU target is for all new registered cars to reduce their emissions by 23% on average from the current value.

It is unlikely that car manufacturers will meet the ambitious 2021 target through optimising the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) alone, and thus some form of engine electrification will be required. A major challenge for car manufacturers is therefore succeeding in the transition from ICEs to electrified powertrains.

Inefficient batteries
The largest barrier for transitioning from ICE powertrains to electrified powertrains is the current relative technical disadvantages of electric vehicle (EV) batteries, where lithium-ion batteries are the current technology of choice, primarily hindered by two barriers:

  1. Economic barrier: current total cost of ownership (TCO) of EVs is significantly greater than the TCO of ICE vehicles, primarily due to the high initial price of EVs and the high cost of batteries; and
  2. Practical barriers: the limited driving range, battery safety hazards and a limited charging infrastructure lead to uncertainty among consumers.

The two barriers are both related to the inefficient way the batteries are controlled. The car manufacturers use large safety margins within their battery management systems to prevent battery damage; due to that voltammetry, the measuring method, fails to inform the battery management system with accurate information.

Voltage is not sufficient
Insplorion’s sensor technology NanoPlasmonic Sensing (NPS) has the potential to significantly reduce several inherent problems related to inefficient use of the batteries, by measuring the battery health and charge directly inside each battery cell. The NPS technology is based on the control of nanoparticles and their interaction with light. The sensor consists of the nanoparticles placed at a thin optical fibre that is placed inside the battery cell, ensuring minimal physical impact on the battery.

A sensor inside the battery cell measures changes in chemical and physical composition, which holds much more relevant information about the state of the battery than voltammetry, the current state-of-the-art technology. Consequently, Insplorion’s sensor gives better data to the battery management system, enabling a more efficient use of the battery while in use and during charging. The information from the sensor inside the battery cells can also be used to detect early warning signs of catastrophic failure.

Big impact
A more direct and precise sensing of the battery allows better control of how the energy and power is used, which enables a more efficient usage of the battery performance. The main application of the sensor technology is to enhance the driving distance of electric vehicles, decrease the charging time, and improve safety and performance.

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