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Modeling and Simulation

Two NREL researchers are silhouetted in front of computer screens displaying thermal model images.

NREL modeling and simulation experts use an extensive portfolio of validated tools to assess ES solutions for advanced vehicles.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL/PIX 22009

Multi-physics simulation of energy storage (ES) devices provides a less expensive, faster, and more controlled alternative to in-lab testing in the early stages of research and development (R&D)—which eventually leads to longer lasting, dependable and powerful batteries. NREL is a recognized leader in systems-level thermal design, performance, lifespan, reliability, and safety modeling and simulation. The lab's 1-D and 3-D steady-state and transient multi-physics models are used to examine heat transfer, electro-chemical, thermal abuse, fluid dynamics, and structural behavior of ES cells and systems.

NREL is leading teams of auto manufacturers, battery developers, and automotive simulation tool developers in the groundbreaking Computer-Aided Engineering for Electric Drive Vehicle Batteries project. The resulting software tools are expected to improve and accelerate battery design, while boosting EDV performance and consumer appeal. A predictive computer simulation of lithium-ion batteries known as the Multi-Scale Multi-Dimensional (MSMD) model acts as the framework for this suite of tools.

With its extensive portfolio of validated simulation tools, the lab's ES experts evaluate solutions for:


Electrochemical kinetic/transport models and 3-D electrochemical-thermal multi-physics models predict and maximize the performance of small and large ES cells by examining:

  • Electrode sizing and matching
  • Cell form factor and current collector design
  • Cell current, voltage, and thermal performance
  • Non-uniform active material utilization and temperature distributions that cause excessive degradation.

Life Span/Reliability

Life-predictive model and systems-level vehicle thermal design models assess battery:

  • Chemical and mechanical degradation caused by environment and cycling
  • Performance, life span, and cost tradeoffs
  • Excess power and energy sizing to meet life requirement.


Abuse reaction/thermal runaway, internal short circuit, and electrical/chemical/thermal network models evaluate cells and battery thermal runaway risk, heat transfer pathways, safety devices, and behavior during normal or abusive operation.

Techno-Economic Factors

NREL's techno-economic analyses examine the complex interconnection of technologies, environments, users, applications, and finances over the complete battery life cycle to identify cost-optimal battery use strategies. NREL's Battery Lifetime Analysis and Simulation Tool (BLAST) — formerly known as the Battery Ownership Model (BOM) — uses extensive real-world driver data, historic climate data from cities across the United States, electrical and thermal models of batteries and vehicles, a high-fidelity battery degradation model, and detailed economic accounting functions to support techno-economic studies, including:

  • Evaluating range extension strategies for BEVs, including public slow charging, fast charging, and battery swapping
  • Comparing conventional ownership scenarios and advanced service provider business models
  • Quantifying effects of driver aggression, climate, and vehicle HVAC systems on lifetime BEV utility
  • Identifying battery technical requirements for commercially viable BEVs
  • Analyzing feasibility of and barriers to battery second-use strategies
  • Assessing value of and requirements for grid-connected energy storage applications.

To ensure that computer models produce verifiable results, NREL bases its models on real-world data supplied through partnerships with major automotive and battery manufacturers, combined with data collected in NREL's thermal characterization laboratories.


NREL's Publications Database offers a wide variety of documents related to battery modeling and simulation, including:

More energy storage publications can be found here.