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Ultra-Precise Battery Tester

Ford Motor Company

High-Precision Tester for Automotive and Stationary Batteries

Image of Ford's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$3,127,999
Location: 
Dearborn, MI
Project Term: 
01/01/2013 to 03/31/2016
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
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: 

Ford is developing a commercially viable battery tester with measurement precision that is significantly better than today's best battery testers. Improvements in the predictive ability of battery testers would enable significant reductions in the time and expense involved in electric vehicle technology validation. Unfortunately, the instrumental precision required to reliably predict performance of batteries after thousands of charge and discharge cycles does not exist in today's commercial systems. Ford's design would dramatically improve the precision of electric vehicle battery testing equipment, which would reduce the time and expense required in the research, development, and qualification testing of new automotive and stationary batteries.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, Ford's ultra-precise battery tester would improve upon the precision of today's best electric vehicle battery testers, allowing for better predictive capacity of the battery's life.

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.

Innovation Update: 
(As of May 2016) 
The team led by Ford has developed a battery tester that is more precise than current state-of-the-art designs and completes testing in a quarter of the time.  As of fall 2015, partner Arbin Instruments, has taken this newly developed battery tester to market. The improved tester helps battery research by reducing the bottleneck associated with battery lifetime validation. The ability to rapidly predict and validate cell lifetime in use conditions will greatly benefit the design of new battery systems, and will aid in the selection and development of the correct cell technology for an intended application. These insights will enhance the development of emerging model-predictive control schemes to optimize the lifetime and performance of long-life energy storage devices being developed for both the transportation and electricity distribution markets. 
 
The Ford team sought to design and build a battery tester with the goal of an 8X improvement in voltage measurement precision and 4X improvement in current measurement precision over today’s leading testing technologies. To accomplish this, the team developed an innovative circuit design and thermal management approach. This system design was integrated with 24-bit conversion and achieved a dramatic improvement over the widely used 16-bit testers. Ultimately, the Ford team was able to reach the Columbic Efficiency (the ration of a cell’s output upon discharge to the input upon charge, a key parameter for battery aging studies) of 50 ppm (±0.005%), as compared to state-of-the-art testers, which can only reach 350 ppm precision (±0.035%). 
 
For a detailed assessment of the Ford team's project and impact, please click here.
 
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Patrick McGrath
Project Contact: 
Dr. Alvaro Masias
Partners
Arbin Instruments
Sandia National Laboratory
Release Date: 
8/12/2012