NREL Teaming Up with Three ARPA-E Projects to Optimize Electric Vehicle Battery Management and Controls

NREL working with Utah State University, Washington University and Eaton Corporation to optimize the utilization, life and cost of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has joined DOE and research partners in launching the Advanced Management and Protection of Energy Storage Devices (AMPED) program with a kick-off meeting in San Francisco. Over the next three years, NREL engineers will work with teams led by Utah State University, Washington University, and Eaton Corporation to optimize the utilization, life and cost of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries for electric-drive vehicles (EDVs) through improved battery management and controls. The three projects are funded under the AMPED program with more than $7.4 million from DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

"These projects present a great opportunity for us to build on our recent R&D results and design improvements supported by DOE's Vehicle Technologies Program and create battery systems that will let drivers go further and more safely in the next, longer-lasting generation of electric and hybrid cars," NREL Energy Storage Group Manager Ahmad Pesaran says.

NREL is a recognized leader in EDV energy storage R&D. In addition to groundbreaking thermal evaluation and analysis, NREL's energy storage (ES) modeling, simulation and testing activities include battery safety assessment, next-generation battery technologies, material synthesis and research, subsystem analysis, battery second use studies, and battery computer-aided engineering. Lab research improves ES devices—from materials to batteries, ultracapacitors and complete ES systems—by uncovering new ways to enhance thermal performance and lower life-cycle costs.  

"NREL's collaboration on this project will allow us to pool our considerable resources and experience to produce a design that is not only viable, but will deliver maximum efficiency and performance," says project lead Prof. Venkat Subramanian, University of Washington's Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering Department.

The ultimate goal of these projects is to make EDVs viable options for a larger and wider population of drivers. The projects for each team are:

Power Management of Large Battery Packs - Utah State University ($3 million)

Objectives:Reduction in battery size, 20% longer battery pack lifetime or 20% reduction in battery pack energy content and 50% increase in cold temperature charge rate.

Researchers in NREL's Center for Transportation Technologies and Systems (CTTS) will work with the Utah State University team to develop electronic hardware and control software for an advanced plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) battery management system to maximize the lifetime of each cell in a battery pack. Other project partners include University of Colorado (Boulder and Colorado Springs) and the Ford Motor Company. Laboratory testing will take place at both NREL and Ford.

Battery Management System Design - Washington University ($2 million)

Objective:20% increase in utilization of untapped Li-ion battery capacity at the cell level.

The Washington University team will develop a predictive battery management system with innovative control hardware that uses advanced mathematical models to optimize battery performance. The system will project optimal charge and discharge of batteries in real-time, enhancing battery performance and improving battery safety, charge-rate and usable power capacity. NREL's CTTS researchers will use the lab's breakthrough battery multi-physics models to guide the design of the control algorithms and will demonstrate the capability of the algorithms through laboratory testing.

Predictive Battery Management for Hybrid Vehicles -Eaton Corporation ($2.4 million)

Objective:50% improvement in fuel economy of heavy-duty HEVs without sacrificing battery life.

Eaton Corporation will collaborate with NREL to develop a power control system to optimize the operation of commercial-scale hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), integrating NREL battery life predictive models with Eaton HEV control algorithms. The planned approach provides a cost-effective solution that reduces the size of the battery needed for operating large hybrid electric vehicles with no loss in battery life or vehicle performance. NREL will perform hardware-in-the-loop testing in its laboratories to demonstrate the new system.

ARPA-E's AMPED program is providing a total of $30 million in funding to 14 research projects to leverage the nation's brightest scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to develop breakthrough energy storage (Read more about this funding.).These projects focus on maximizing the potential of existing battery chemistries with innovations in battery management and storage to advance electric vehicle technologies and to help improve the efficiency and reliability of the electrical grid.

"If successful, the advanced sensing, diagnostic and control technologies developed under the AMPED program will allow us to unlock enormous untapped potential in the performance, safety and lifetime of today's commercial battery systems," ARPA-E Program Director Ilan Gur says. "My hope is that these cutting-edge projects will accelerate the impact of vehicle and grid-scale energy storage in reducing our country's reliance on imported fuels and improving the safety, security and economic efficiency of our electricity grid."

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