Mavizen (www.mavizen.com), a premier technology supplier to the electric motorsport industry and A123 Systems' motorsport distributor, will present a showcase of racing technologies at a free workshop during Autosport International (January 10-13, 2013 at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham).
Mavizen's workshop will take on Thursday, January 10 at 3:45 p.m. and will cover an overview of electric motorsports with presentations from TTXGP and the latest industry trends. Engineers will present the latest pack designs and case studies of A123 in the race for the next generation of motorsport.
To resevere a spot at Mavizen's free workshop, please visit http://www.the-mia.com/events_diary.cfm/flag/2/e_id/759.
When we read about Apple’s rumored development of a custom radio service, we got to thinking about mousetraps.
Getting rid of unwanted rodents is undoubtedly an invaluable service, but most people are likely impartial to the type of mousetrap they actually use (heck, some may even prefer the old fashion approach and get a cat). But what if a new technology was built into a particular brand of mousetrap such that it offered better performance and delivered rodent-eradication services more effectively?
In Apple’s case, this new custom radio product will presumably deliver a similar service to consumers that other companies have been successfully providing for years. However, will the clout of Apple’s ingenuity improve the mechanism through which service is delivered, thereby enhancing user experience? In other words, is Apple poised to build a better mousetrap?
This question can be applied to clean energy and in particular, the world of energy storage and battery technology. People don’t necessarily need devices with batteries; they need the services that those devices enable. Applying the “better mousetrap” idea, the right batteries can improve the device and therefore enhance the particular service.
For instance, consider the concept of opportunistic charging, a capability that not every battery technology can support, but one that would certainly improve a devices performance and therefore enhance the service it provides.
Take personal mobility, for example. The average user probably doesn’t need a phone that will provide 12 hours of talk time; instead, consumers want to be able to use the phone during the entire day. If the device was capable of being fully charged in a few minutes, this might meet the needs of many users and, in fact might, offer a much better user experience (thereby enhancing the service of personal mobility).
This idea can be applied to many industrial applications as well. For instance, a warehouse that has automated material handling equipment also requires batteries to power it. Engineers will often specify the power and energy requirements, as well as the physical dimensions, of the battery, when in fact, what they really need is the service that the equipment provides—the ability to pick things up and move them around, at the lowest possible system cost.
If engineers frame their requirements in terms of the service that is being offered by the device, the discussion becomes far more meaningful. The focus shifts from “watt-hours-per-kilogram” or “dollars-per-watt-hour” to how the battery will actually be utilized (for instance, what is the battery’s charging rate and how does that impact a system’s up time to maximize operations?). By framing the issue properly, engineers can design automated handling equipment (and specify its battery) properly, which will enhance the overall service offered by the system.
These are just a couple examples of applications in which battery technology is helping engineers build better mousetraps and improve the service the devices provide. But unlike in the rodent extermination business, engineers working in clean energy are taking in new challenges that require out-of-the-box thinking and innovative design. If you have a product that you believe enhances an existing service or provides a new one, we encourage you to contact us and start the discussion about how we can help.
Last week marked another first for A123—for the first time, our products are available for direct purchase online through one of our authorized distributors.
More specifically, we are offering our Nanophosphate ALMs, which are off-the-shelf lithium iron phosphate solutions designed as lighter-weight, longer-lasting replacements for lead acid batteries. ALMs improve performance and reduce total cost of ownership for a wide variety of applications, including IT and telecom backup, auxiliary power units, electric mobility and medical equipment, among others.
Starting with the ALM 12V7, A123 plans to offer additional ALMs with varying capacities, energy and physical dimensions, enabling customers to seamlessly replace their standard lead acid batteries with A123’s solutions based on their unique specifications.
Since rolling out the ALM 12V7, we have received a number of technical questions, and we appreciate the significant amount of interest and support. As we do our best to provide helpful, timely responses, we encourage anyone interested in the ALM product line to download the ALM 12V7 User Guide, which is full of useful technical information about the product. Here is an excerpt related to charging that might be helpful and gives you an idea of the content:
The ALM 12V7 is compatible with any 12V7 lead-acid battery charger of 10A or less. To determine the charge current for a battery system, multiply the number of modules connected in parallel by the recommended charge current for a single module (10A), as shown in Equation 1.
Eq. 1: (Number of modules in parallel) x (Recommended Charge Current, module) = Charge Current, Parallel String
Determine the end-of-charge voltage for the battery system by multiplying the number of modules connected in series by the recommended charge voltage of a single module (14.4V), as shown in Equation 2.
Eq. 2: (Number of modules in series) x (Recommended Charge Voltage, module) = Charge Voltage, String
To prevent damage to ALM12V7 modules connected in series from a current inrush during charging, ensure that the difference between battery system voltage and charger voltage is never greater than 10.0V and limit the peak inrush current to 10A. Limit the peak inrush current by minimizing charger capacitance and/or providing current limiting circuitry between the charger and battery system. To charge a single ALM12V7 module, the maximum charge voltage is 14.4 V and the maximum charge and inrush current is 10 A.
Once you reach end-of-charge voltage, apply a constant voltage hold at this voltage until the current decays to almost zero. This charges the cells to 100% state of charge (SOC). Refer to the following figure for an illustration:
Charging is just one of the many topics covered in the User Guide, so we encourage you to give it a read if you have any questions or just want more details on the ALM 12V7. If your question is not answered or you have a follow-up, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line and tell us more about your specific application(s) for which you are considering our ALMs.
As the world turns its attention to the Olympic Games in London and athletes continue to deliver record-breaking performances, we’ve dug up some results that we think might impress in the lithium ion battery Olympics.
The event is long-term cycling, which is the lithium ion battery equivalent of an ultramarathon. In 2006, two A123 cells were put on a 100 percent depth-of-discharge (DOD) test at 23 degrees Celsius at a 1C/1C charge/discharge rate.
The results? After more than 20,000 full DOD cycles, the cells still have about 65 percent of their initial capacity remaining. To put this in perspective, if a battery is fully changed and discharged once per day, 20,000 cycles is equivalent to approximately 55 years!
While these tests are being performed in a lab setting, the longevity of A123’s batteries has also been proven in real-world use. And considering it is reasonable for a ‘well-made’ lithium ion battery to last about 1,000 cycles before reaching 65 percent of its initial capacity, we think our cells are delivering a gold medal performance.
Today A123 announced the expansion of its long-standing relationship with BAE Systems. The news is that A123 will supply lithium ion battery packs based on prismatic cells for BAE's HybriDrive® Series propulsion system. This is a new design that is initially expected to be deployed on city transit busses, and as part of the new agreement, A123 will also supply lithium ion battery packs for additional versions of BAE’s HybriDrive system for other commercial applications.
But A123 has been supplying battery packs (based on cylindrical cells) to BAE Systems for the HybriDrive system for years. In fact, A123's battery packs are deployed in HybriDrive systems on nearly 3,000 buses globally that have amassed more than 300 million service miles to date.
Just how far is that exactly? Check out this infographic that puts this number into context:
In this edition of A123 @ the Whiteboard, we focus on cycle life, explaining how A123's proprietary Nanophosphate lithium iron phosphate battery technology retains higher capacity over a greater number of cycles as compared with other lithium ion battery chemistries.
In this edition of A123 @ the Whiteboard, we focus on the high power capabilities of A123’s proprietary Nanophosphate® lithium ion battery technology. Because of the small particle size of Nanophosphate, the chemistry is able to deliver this high power while also retaining high energy, which gives A123’s batteries an advantage over competing lithium ion. To illustrate, we use a Ragone curve to plot the relationship between power and energy for A123’s batteries as compared with competing technologies.
Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) brought together government officials, standards organizations, automakers and advanced battery companies to participate in an Electric Vehicle Safety Symposium in Washington.
Among the key takeaways from the symposium was the importance of robust, multilayered safety at both the chemistry level and in the design of the complete modules and systems. This message was somewhat understated at the symposium, but is critical when developing and manufacturing advanced lithium ion battery packs for vehicle electrification.
Typically, discussions about advanced battery safety focus on the chemistry used in the cell. While a stable chemistry is fundamental to building a safe battery system, multiple layers of protection at the module and pack level are necessary to deliver safety in real-world applications. To put it another way, as was stated during the NHTSA symposium, a perfectly safe battery chemistry can be compromised if a mistake is made in the system design.
EV battery packs are sophisticated products with a number of advanced systems working in tandem. The entire system, including its control electronics, is engineered to safely endure component failures which may occur in the pack or the vehicle. At the battery pack level, it is important to include three layers of safety: electronic controls, electrical disconnects (also referred to as contactors) and electrical fuses. These measures work in conjunction to quickly identify and address any potential faults in the battery pack, even if one safety provision is not working properly.
For instance, within the most robust EV packs, the Battery Management System (BMS) continuously monitors the voltage of every cell, the temperature of numerous points in the pack and current at the pack level. These are inputs to the continuously calculated safety algorithms, and if the BMS senses a deviation from normal operating conditions, it has a series of progressively stronger methods to intervene.
If the BMS determines an operating parameter is out of range, it records a fault code and alerts the vehicle’s master control system. If the vehicle’s master control system does not respond in a timely and appropriate manner to a serious fault, the BMS can open the contactors to disconnect the battery from the vehicle. If the BMS fails, the pack also has a hardwired safety protection circuit which is redundant to three layers of fuses (one layer at the individual cell, module and overall pack level).
One topic of discussion at the NHTSA symposium that accentuates the need for multilayered system-level security was the potential safety implications associated with overcharging the battery (which is especially relevant as the concept of fast-charging continues to gain momentum in the industry).
To ensure that charging takes place properly, EV packs are designed with control sequences that require the charger and battery to ‘agree’ on the charging conditions. For example, data exchanged between the two includes the available charge current (from the charger) and the allowable charge current (as determined by the battery). When these align, charging can commence. However, if the charger delivers charge energy outside of allowable parameters, the battery pack commands charger to correct charge conditions. If they are not corrected, battery is able to disconnect itself via contactors under its own control.
Overcharging is just one condition that can be averted by employing robust safety controls at the pack level, but this scenario illustrates why having multiple layers of safety checks within the battery packs is essential.
Welcome to the first installment of "A123 Systems @ the Whiteboard"!
This regular series will feature short videos designed to provide a concise but informative overview of various technical concepts that are pertinent to A123's business, the advanced lithium ion battery industry at large and the markets we serve.
To make this series as valuable as possible, we are asking you, our readers, to submit your questions and ideas for possible "@ the Whiteboard" episodes. Are there any technical concepts you'd like to learn more about? Anything that needs clarification? If so, email us at ThePulse@a123systems.com and we'll do our best to produce a video that answers your questions.
In today's first installment, we focus on the structure of A123's proprietary Nanophosphate lithium iron phosphate chemistry and how it differs from other lithium ion battery technologies. The unique structure of Nanophosphate enables A123's to deliver batteries and systems that offer power, usable energy, safety and life advantages.
In advance of this week’s EVS26 conference in Los Angeles, a group of eight U.S. and German automakers announced an initiative to standardize fast-charging for electric vehicles (EVs) by collectively supporting the adoption of a single-port DC charger. Common standards and protocols are essential for accelerating the mass-adoption of EVs globally, and fast charging enables the EV market by minimizing the change in behavior required for drivers to embrace electrification.
But while this announcement is welcome news for battery manufacturers, standardization of a charger is only part of the equation—the limiting factor today for fast charge is lithium ion battery technology, not the ability of the charger to deliver high power.
EV batteries are typically made to meet energy requirements, rather than power, because energy determines EV driving range. Batteries optimized for energy density, such as metal-oxide based lithium ion technology, have not been capable of long life when charged quickly. While some vehicles currently claim to offer 30-minute fast charge capability using these technologies, owners are urged to only use this capability sparingly to minimize battery degradation and reduced life. In this case, installing a charger with fast-charge capabilities is not worth the added cost of because the EV battery simply cannot handle regular fast charging.
To make an analogy, the issues of cost and range of an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle are not determined by how quickly you can pump gasoline into the tank, but rather, how much gas the tank can hold. Gasoline and batteries are energy carriers; gasoline pumps and chargers are how that energy is delivered to the vehicle. The key, therefore, for an EV is how efficiently and cost-effectively that energy can be stored and used within the battery, regardless of how quickly the charger is technically capable of delivering it.
Currently, there are a handful of lithium ion battery chemistries capable of unlimited fast-charging without significant capacity loss in the battery. The highest-performing lithium iron phosphate technologies, for example, deliver high power and charge rate, along with good energy density and cycle life, making them an ideal choice for this type of usage. Companies that offer these technologies have long considered fast charging to be the industry’s future, and now vehicles with these advanced chemistries like the Roewe E50 from Shanghai Automotive in China are starting to come to market.
Further, the ability to charge quickly also increases the efficiency and performance of other applications such as hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and the emerging micro-hybrid segment, where regenerative braking capability is a key factor in boosting vehicle efficiency. And beyond the transportation market, fast-charging lithium ion batteries can enable new applications that can take advantage of opportunistic charging to increase utilization and reduce downtime compared to incumbent lead acid batteries. Fast-charging is also ideal for applications in emerging markets where the lack of reliable grid power creates opportunities for batteries that can be quickly charged when power is available.
As with any discontinuous innovation that require users to change behavior, cooperation across the entire EV ecosystem will ensure faster adoption and interoperability. Standardizing DC fast charging for EVs is an important element to cross the chasm from early adopters to mainstream markets by ensuring that all vehicles can fuel up using the same “pump.” But unless the battery (the “tank”) is capable of accommodating fast-charging without any limitations, any perceived benefit from this standardization is significantly minimized. Fortunately, cutting-edge lithium ion battery technologies are emerging that make fast-charging a reality, and in the not-too-distant future, drivers should be able to fill up their battery with electricity almost as quickly as they fill up their gas tanks today.