Reconfigurable Battery Packs

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
A Multi-Purpose, Intelligent, and Reconfigurable Battery Pack Health Management System
Image of Penn State's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$1,355,922
Location: 
University Park, PA
Project Term: 
01/01/2013 to 12/31/2015
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
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: 
Penn State is developing an innovative, reconfigurable design for electric vehicle battery packs that can re-route power in real time between individual cells. Much like how most cars carry a spare tire in the event of a blowout, today's battery packs contain extra capacity to continue supplying power, managing current, and maintaining capacity as cells age and degrade. Some batteries carry more than 4 times the capacity needed to maintain operation, or the equivalent of mounting 16 tires on a vehicle in the event that one tire goes flat. This overdesign is expensive and inefficient. Penn State's design involves unique methods of electrical reconfigurability to enable the battery pack to switch out cells as they age and weaken. The system would also contain control hardware elements to monitor and manage power across cells, identify damaged cells, and signal the need to switch them out of the circuit.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, Penn State's reconfigurable battery packs would enhance battery safety and performance while addressing the costly and inefficient overdesign common to today's best electric vehicle battery packs.
Security: 
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.
Environment: 
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.
Economy: 
Enabling alternatives to conventional sources of energy could insulate consumers, businesses, and utilities from unexpected price swings.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Ilan Gur
Project Contact: 
Prof. Hosam Fathy
Partners
Gannon Motor and Controls LLC
University of Michigan - Dearborn