Battery design for electric vehicles

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Designers of electric, connected and autonomous vehicles are at a disadvantage, as they are expected to do in 5 or 10 years what the designers of internal combustion engine vehicles did over the course of 100 years: create a new, fully realised mode of transportation. By 2025, just around the corner, J.P. Morgan estimates that sales of electric vehicles will rise close to 8.4 million vehicles or a 7.7% market share.

Today’s engineers do hold a major advantage over their predecessors: access to simulation technology, which dramatically accelerates vehicle development, allowing them to model, address and eliminate issues before a physical prototype is made

One of the biggest differences with the cars of the past is that today batteries are replacing fuel tanks. However simple this may appear, these batteries are extremely complex systems requiring advanced engineering methods, from chemistry to cell engineering, to module and pack engineering, and integration into full vehicles.

The development of batteries for electric vehicles must contemplate not just the design and performance of the battery cells, but also their disposition in modules, their relative distribution, their behaviour under impact, vibrations, material fatigue, etc, besides ensuring an optimal behaviour from the thermal and electromagnetic viewpoint, avoiding interference with the rest of the electronic systems and sensors of the vehicle.

And the design engineer must balance the requirements of performance, weight and cost of the battery because we should not forget that the vehicles must be industrially produced and operated at a reasonable cost.

Any failure in the battery, whether a short circuit or problems in the cells caused by vibrations, must be foreseen at the design stage, modelled and investigated to determine their potential impact and the best way to solve them. One cannot wait for the problem to occur before studying it.

The Austrian firm Kreisel Electric managed to power with electricity the legendary Porsche 910 of 1967 using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform for design and simulation. It was a great challenge, both because of the scarcity of available space and because of the performance required, for which they developed new high-density batteries, compact, light, and with excellent characteristics regarding recharging and durability.

Software packages such as CATIA for the design stages and SIMULIA, particularly Abaqus, for the simulation are of great help in this development, allowing thousands of iterations for verifying the structural integrity and the behaviour under the more diverse circumstances in a minimal time and at a reasonable cost.


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