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Monday, May 23, 2011
feature story
Best for Batteries:
Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold

NREL's Large-Volume Battery Calorimeter has the highest-capacity chamber in the world for testing of this kind. From the bottom clockwise are NREL researchers Matthew Keyser, Dirk Long and John Ireland.
With average U.S. gasoline prices approaching $4 a gallon, drivers and automakers are thinking electric. Previously steered in this direction by concerns about pollution and dependence on foreign oil, consumer interest in electric-drive cars continues to surge. But before Americans are able to flip the switch from gasoline to electricity, automakers need batteries for the next generation of electric vehicles that can deliver the range, performance, reliability, and safety drivers expect.

The Large-Volume Battery Calorimeter (LVBC) 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'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."

"Larger and more advanced versions of the lithium ion battery technology that powers laptops are the next wave in energy storage for plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. High temperatures shorten the life of lithium ion batteries, while cold temperatures diminish lithium ion batteries' power capabilities and hurt overall vehicle performance. NREL's LVBC is the only calorimeter capable of accurately quantifying the heat generation and efficiency of these lithium ion batteries," said NREL principal engineer Ahmad Pesaran, who leads the vehicle energy storage projects.

Also in this issue:

Learn more about NREL's work in energy storage.

Source: the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)



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