Dynamic Cell-Level Control for Battery Packs

Utah State University (USU)
Robust Cell-level Modeling and Control of Large Battery Packs
Image of USU's technology
ARPA-E Award: 
Logan, UT
Project Term: 
01/01/2013 to 12/31/2015
Project Status: 
Critical Need: 
Today's electric vehicle batteries are expensive and prone to unexpected failure. Batteries are complex systems, and developing techniques to cost-effectively monitor and manage important performance measures while predicting battery cell degradation and failure remains a key technological challenge. There is a critical need for breakthrough technologies that can be practically deployed for superior management of both electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy storage systems.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
USU is developing electronic hardware and control software to create an advanced battery management system that actively maximizes the performance of each cell in a battery pack. No two battery cells are alike--they differ over their life-times in terms of charge and discharge rates, capacity, and temperature characteristics, among other things. Traditionally, these issues have been managed by matching similarly performing cells at the factory level and conservative design and operation of battery packs, but this is an incomplete solution, leading to costly batching of cells and overdesign of battery packs. USU's flexible, modular, cost-effective design would represent a dramatic departure from today's systems, offering dynamic control at the cell-level to their physical limits and side stepping existing issues regarding the mismatch and uncertainty of battery cells throughout their useful life.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, USU's dynamic, cell-level control system would substantially reduce electric vehicle battery pack cost by increasing the system-level tolerance to mismatched cells, which could facilitate greater electric, hybrid-electric, and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle adoption by consumers.
Advances in energy storage management could reduce the cost and increase the adoption of electric vehicles and renewable energy storage technologies, which in turn would reduce our nation's dependence on foreign sources of energy.
Improving the reliability and safety of electric vehicles and renewable energy storage facilities would enable more widespread use of these technologies, resulting in a substantial reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
Enabling alternatives to conventional sources of energy could insulate consumers, businesses, and utilities from unexpected price swings.
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Ilan Gur
Project Contact: 
Prof. Regan Zane
University of Colorado, Boulder
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
National Renewable Energy Laboratory