Innovative battery tech boosting safety and disrupting the EV sector

AIS048, AIS156 and AIS038 are a few of the regulatory standards that ensure battery pack safety requirements concerning the electric power train of various category vehicles.

Updated: Oct 26, 2021 5:03 PM
For representational purposes only

Speaking at a recent climate conclave, India’s Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways said that by 2030, 80 percent of two-wheelers and 30 percent of private vehicles in India will be electric. This statement is just one of the many goals being set by the government to turn India into a major player in the electric vehicles market space. And this push towards EVs is being bolstered by increased consumer interest and awareness about electric vehicles.

However, before EVs become a success in the Indian market, there is a slew of challenges that the sector faces.

1. EV Commercial viability– There is still a significant price gap that remains between conventional vehicles and EVs. And this price gap poses a challenge in a price-sensitive market like India.

2. Range anxiety: This is a term many EV owners are familiar with. It refers to the feeling of anxiety when the battery charge is low, and a sure source of electricity might not be available. For a driver, this raises serious concerns about being stranded in the middle of nowhere and it adds to the inconvenience and stress of a journey. There are several studies that show a causal link between range anxiety and avoidance of purchasing an EV. India’s current charging infrastructure is nowhere close to matching its ambitious EV goals and this will be a primary deterrent for automobile buyers who might be interested in EVs but are plagued by range anxiety.

3. Consumer perception – The consumer perception of electric vehicles in India is still uncertain and in the nascent stage. It is a technology that the masses are still not familiar with and along with the above challenges, lack of assurance about satisfactory resale value and service infrastructure will tend to act as deterrents.

While this consortium of prevailing challenges does exist, it would be unfair to ignore the upsides. Thanks to increasing awareness and relative advancement in technology, the following are the advantages of electric vehicles.

1. Low total cost of ownership – EVs undoubtedly offer a significantly lower cost of ownership in their life cycle when compared to conventional vehicles.

2. Easier to maintain -The only major components in an EV are the battery and the electric motor, and this makes EVs much easier to maintain.

3. Cleaner environment – Electric vehicles do not emit pollutants into the air and the noise pollution component is close to nil when compared to their ICE counterparts. Hence, EVs ensure a cleaner and quieter environment.

4. Easiest driving operation: An electric vehicle is simple to drive and the overall ease of operation is high.

Role of Lithium-Ion Batteries in Electric Vehicles

Lithium-Ion batteries are a type of rechargeable battery that is essential to electric vehicles and several other portable electronics. When compared to typical lead-acid or nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries, Lithium-Ion batteries have a higher energy density. They also deliver several advantages such as high energy density, fast charging, low self-discharge, long lifetime and cycling performances. And they typically have thousands of charging/ discharging cycles. This is why their use is highly preferred in the EV market.

However, a high Capex expenditure and certain safety concerns related to thermal runaways are the key challenges when it comes to using Lithium-Ion batteries.

In order to improve the safety of Lithium-Ion batteries, they should be operated within specified conditions. This is why EVs have various types of electronic control systems such as battery management system (BMS) and a monitoring unit like Telematics Control unit (TCU).

A battery management system assists in delivering optimal power to the vehicle systems. It also collects data on voltage, temperature, etc. through various sensors in the batteries. With the help of this collected information, it monitors, controls, and stores the battery’s performance. It avoids overcharge and discharge of the batteries that can occur in any type of catastrophe. It also allows the user to know the battery pack’s behaviour before a devastating event. Communication is also one of the primary functions of the BMS wherein it communicates with additional vehicle controllers and / or chargers. It can also provide some forecasting of battery pack capabilities.

TCU is the one that controls wireless tracking, diagnostics, and communication to and from the vehicle. BMS and TCU manage the battery by protecting it from going away from operating outside its safe operating area by monitoring its state, calculating secondary data, storing or reporting that data, controlling its environment, authenticating it, and/or balancing it.

Additional safety is also enhanced by using safety materials like thermal interface materials, insulators and fire-retardant materials.

The government has also formulated regulatory standards in order to ensure the safety of Lithium-Ion batteries. They provide a common language to measure and evaluate safety. It protects consumers by ensuring safety, durability, and market equity. These standards also allow the technology to work seamlessly and establish trust so that markets can operate smoothly. The tests strive to simulate how Lithium-Ion batteries would react in actual use case scenarios.

AIS048, AIS156 and AIS038 are a few of the regulatory standards that ensure battery pack safety requirements concerning the electric power train of various category vehicles.

Author: Vipul Narendra Shah, General Manager-R&D, Nexcharge

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not represent those of The Indian Express Group or its employees.

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