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Electric Vehicle Battery Testing: It's Hot Stuff!

May 26, 2011 - 2:45pm

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NREL's Large-Volume Battery Calorimeter has the highest-capacity chamber in the world for testing of this kind. From bottom clockwise:NREL researchers Matthew Keyser, Dirk Long & John Ireland | Photo Courtesy of Dennis Schroeder

NREL's Large-Volume Battery Calorimeter has the highest-capacity chamber in the world for testing of this kind. From bottom clockwise:NREL researchers Matthew Keyser, Dirk Long & John Ireland | Photo Courtesy of Dennis Schroeder

Nailing down optimal battery performance in electric vehicles is a little like finding a good bowl of porridge: not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Luckily for battery developers, the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has an innovative tool called the “Large Volume Battery Calorimeter” (LVBC) that’s serving up crucial data on that performance-maximizing sweet spot. As we continue to highlight Department of Energy collaboration with industry and our national laboratories to enable development and deployment of innovative battery technologies, I wanted to share this great LVBC feature by NREL’s Anya Breitenbach and Julia Thomas:


“The Large-Volume Battery Calorimeter (LVBC) is a crucial tool to help put these new automobiles on the road. Unveiled last year by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the LVBC is designed to precisely measure the heat generated by batteries for electric-drive vehicles, analyze temperature's effects on systems, and help pinpoint  the ways to manage battery temperatures for the best performance and maximum life. The Vehicle Technologies Program at the Department of Energy supported the development and fabrication of the LVBC for advancing battery technologies for advanced vehicles.

To make electric-drive vehicles that are attractive to consumers, the batteries that power those cars need to be affordable, high-performing, long-lasting and operate at maximum efficiency in a wide range of driving conditions and climates. The next generation of electric-drive cars and light trucks will be required to travel farther on electric power alone, placing greater energy demands on the vehicles' battery packs. As the packs get larger, regulating battery temperatures become even more important in helping improve performance, lifespan, safety and affordability. The best tool automakers have for assessing thermal control and optimizing battery performance is NREL's LVBC.

NREL engineer Matthew Keyser holds an A123 battery module over the calorimeter he designed and built with the help of his staff. | Courtesy of Dennis Schroeder

"NREL's large-volume battery calorimeter is the first system large enough and accurate enough to test the whole battery systems for electric vehicles," says Dr. Said Al-Hallaj, chairman and CEO of AllCell, a major battery integrator. "We strongly believe that this leading-edge instrument is critical in developing the battery management system of the next generation of electric vehicles."

The piece goes on to explain how the LVBC works, and why its comprehensive abilities are so critical to providing accurate analysis of the latest technologies:

“…the LVBC is the only calorimeter designed to test the liquid-cooled batteries found in the Ford Electric Focus, the Chevy Volt and the Tesla Roadster. GM used an earlier NREL calorimeter to help create the Volt battery.

‘We knew there was a need for this technology. Testing cells and smaller modules in lower-capacity calorimeters was only giving us — and car and battery manufacturers — part of the picture,’ said NREL Senior Engineer Matthew Keyser, who developed the LVBC.”

For more on the LVBC, read the full text of this article here.

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