New Battery Testing Facility Could Boost Future of Electric Vehicles

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Golden, Colo., April 21, 1998 — A new, state-of-the-art battery testing facility could give a boost to battery manufacturers and the growing electric and hybrid electric vehicle industry.

The Battery Thermal Test Facility at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will help design better battery modules and packs for the vehicles of the future. Predicting, measuring and controlling the temperature of batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs) or hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) can help improve vehicle performance by 20-30 percent.

Battery facility manager Dr. Ahmad Pesaran explained the core of the new facility is a uniquely developed battery calorimeter and cycler. "These two devices work together to measure heat generation of the batteries under a variety of driving cycles and conditions," Dr. Pesaran said.

"We specifically developed the equipment specifications to ensure the heat generation of full-size battery modules can be measured with high accuracy."

The calorimeter is an enclosed device that can measure heat generation in any battery material under a variety of conditions. The calorimeter's design allows for the control of outside, ambient heat sources that could effect thermal readings from the battery.

The cycler can both charge and draw current from a battery, allowing for thermal testing of any voltage. It can also be used to test the performance and life cycles of battery modules and packs.

NREL researchers have already demonstrated the benefits of proper thermal management of lead-acid and other batteries using the new equipment. In one case, following NREL's recommendation to add cooling holes to an HEV lead-acid battery module resulted in a significant improvement in the battery's thermal performance and temperature distribution.

In addition to the battery cycler and calorimeter, NREL has been using thermal imaging techniques to visually evaluate the behavior of modules under a variety of cycling profiles. Heat transfer and fluid flow experiments have been used to design battery packs. The laboratory's computer-aided design expertise can project the thermal performance of modules and packs and address structural and packaging issues.

NREL's techniques can also be applied to other applications such as fuel cells, ultracapacitors and energy storage for power tools.

NREL's advanced battery research is funded through DOE's Office of Advanced Automotive Technologies in support of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles.

For on-line information visit NREL's Battery Thermal Management Test Facility.