3 Battery Trends For An Evolving Industry

Read on ecnmag.com.

A lot of exciting things are happening in the engineering industry. In just five years, we’re expecting to see driverless cars on the roads, we’re caring a lot more about our planet by trying to live “greener” lives, and all of our products are getting smarter than us.

And this year, we’ve made some huge advancements. A Tesla Model S set the record for driving 452.8 miles on a single charge, which is a huge improvement over earlier trials.. But with an evolving industry comes challenges. As technology advances, components need to do the same. So, what’s the life source behind all this new tech? Batteries.

If we want to live greener, smarter lives, our batteries need to live up to those standards, too. An electric car will only run so far or a smartphone will only stay powered for so long if it’s powered by an inferior battery. Here are 3 battery trends Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) can expect to see as the industry evolves.

Green Batteries

By 2020, it will be difficult to buy a new vehicle that runs while idling. As tightening regulations for fuel economy and carbon emissions puts additional challenges on car manufacturers, start-stop technology will continue to become more demanding.

The market for new vehicle and aftermarket Start-Stop batteries is expected to rise to 56 million worldwide by 2020, compared to 22 million today, according to automotive battery manufacturer, Johnson Controls. In this time frame, 85 percent of all new vehicles in Europe and 40 percent in the U.S. and China are expected to be powered with Start-Stop batteries.

In anticipation of this increasing demand, Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) battery production capacity will be a major battery trend.

Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) batteries are a type of advanced lead-acid batteries and are an ideal solution for Start-Stop vehicle systems due to their cycling performance.

“Start-Stop is the best solution to help automakers meet upcoming environmental regulations,” says Lisa Bahash, group vice president and general manager Original Equipment, Johnson Controls Power Solutions. “It requires minimal changes to the vehicle and costs significantly less than battery systems in hybrid or electric vehicles.

Start-Stop technology automatically shuts off the engine when the car is idle and restarts it when the driver’s foot leaves the brake pedal. During this time, the vehicle’s electrical systems use energy from an advanced lead-acid battery rather than the gas-powered engine, saving fuel.

Compared to traditional, flooded lead-acid batteries, AGM batteries contain a glass mat separator that consistently maintains the electrolyte around the positive plate to extend battery life. The tight-fitting construction applies uniform pressure on the plates in the battery and reduces the effects of vibration.  AGM batteries are also sealed and valve-regulated, which means they deliver extreme cycle life and high energy.

AGM batteries in Start-Stop applications are already seeing a very high adoption rate, particularly in Europe as automakers work to achieve increasingly stringent CO2 targets for their vehicles, according to Craig Rigby, Advanced Market & Technology Strategist at Johnson Controls Power Solutions. “This trend is expanding globally as fuel economy and CO2 emission regulations are driving technology choices for automakers, says Rigby. “AGM batteries in Start-Stop vehicles improve fuel economy up to 5 percent without any significant changes to the powertrain.”

AGM batteries will continue to be a proven, reliable technology that automakers trust to have in their vehicles as they are challenged to meet upcoming environmental regulations.

Moldable Batteries

As lithium ion struggles to meet cost hurdles, especially in aggressive fuel economies, the demand for advanced lead acid technology continues to grow strong. Lead acid battery chemistry has its advantages over Lithium ion—it produces the lowest amount of heat compared to other chemistries which allows for simple battery assembly without elaborate cooling systems. They’re also fully recyclable in high volumes.

However, fitting a battery into packaging space can sometimes be a challenge. To combat this, Electriplast Corporation, a leader in conductive hybrid plastics, is redefining lead acid batteries. The company has successfully demonstrated a prototype 12v lead acid bipolar battery with electriplast plates.

“ElectriPlast redefines bipolar plate design based on a plate core made of highly conductive loaded resins and with metal/lead covered surfaces,” says Slobodan “Bob” Pavlovic, Vice President of Engineering at ElectriPlast Corporation.

“The molding process for our bipolar battery allows us to produce a nearly unlimited number of 3D shapes and sizes which allow the bipolar plate and integral structures to be executed in any desired embodiment and the inherent conductivity of ElectriPlast eliminates the need for conductive vias or other means to connect electrically two sides of the plate.”

Because bipolar technology eliminates the use of top lead to connect the plates, it reduces battery weight by nearly 50%.  The plates are easy to assemble into the bipolar battery package and can also be made as a ‘drop-in’ replacement for existing “quasi bipolar plates.”

All existing bipolar battery solutions have quasi-bipolar plates, which either have a metal core and a difficult sealing solution at interfaces or are made out of plastic with tin-based vias through the cross section of the plate to enable transfer of electrical energy. So being an electrically conductive polymer, Electriplast allows for designs that satisfy all electrical and assembly requirements.

As bipolar battery solutions become more developed, the technology can be used in applications from transportation to grid efficiency and fuel cells, making this advancement a real game changer.

Smart Batteries

As technology gets “smarter” better batteries are needed. Battery technology is constantly growing to meet the demanding needs of “smart” technology, but one of the biggest challenges OEMs face is battery lifecycle.

Saft, a designer and manufacturer of advanced technology batteries for industry, has launched a battery remaining life analysis service based on real and actual conditions.

It starts by taking a representative sample of meters from the deployed fleet.  The meters are then dismantled and the batteries removed for laboratory analysis including mechanical integrity checks, remaining capacity, and determination of actual state of charge and actual state of health.

“This service allows utilities to accurately plan their maintenance and/or renewal operations on their metering assets by giving accurate data about the real state of charge and state of health of meters’ batteries in the field,” says Cécile Joannin, Market Manager for Metering at Saft.

“Until Saft’s new battery life analysis, there was no systematic measurement of batteries’ remaining capacity after meters deployment.”

Previously, battery lifetime was calculated based on the discharge profile (meter’s electronics current consumption) and environmental parameters set during project development.

However, after deployment and during a meter’s life, some parameters may change, such as index transmission frequency and software updates. A change in parameters can impact battery lifetime compared to the project lifetime calculation. Meter lifetime analysis will now give OEMs the remaining battery capacity based on current conditions, taking the guesswork out of metering asset management decision making processes.

Saft’s remaining life analysis service isn’t just limited to metering applications—it can be applied to any battery from any manufacturer.

With better batteries, all of the predictions for an autonomous, green, smart future may actually be true. And I wonder, how far will Teslas be driving on a single charge then, or will batteries be so advanced that they recharge themselves?

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