Saturday, July 20, 2024

Scaling Up Safety: Where Batteries Behave

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In the cold, cold US winter of 2019, there was a stutter and stammer, and in most cases, a complete absence of sound. Electric cars, especially the Model 3 from Tesla, gave a world of trouble to its owners as they refused to start in the freezing temperatures.

A storm raged on social media as the distressed, and unsurprisingly annoyed, owners expressed their displeasure in very clear terms. Elon Musk himself finally responded in a tweet saying over-the-air updates are being planned.

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The situation was quite dire.

The problem was not isolated to Model 3 from Tesla. The batteries of Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Bolt were also reported to have given in, sometimes stranding their owners in the middle of a snowstorm.

The winter’s tale ended with a summer’s warning from the American Automobile Association (AAA). Car owners were requested to be aware of the damage excess heat could do to their batteries. The AAA circulated a list of precautionary measures online to prevent a repetition of the woes of winter.

Lithium-ion batteries commonly come with the unsaid warning – in Tesla’s case, a written warning – that they may not be at their peak performance in extreme weather conditions. Their average lifespan, which is 3–5 years, is reduced further with the stress they endure in these conditions.

Electric vehicles (EVs) have a point to prove. In the age where they have been hailed as the messiahs of a cleaner future in transportation, they need to be able to deliver. With investment pouring into the industry from giants the likes of BMW and Mercedes, the future of EVs is now following a plan. And the crucial part of this plan is played by the most important part of an EV – its battery. And so we circle back to the importance of a battery that can endure, and doesn’t give in, in the cold or the heat.

A well-tested battery goes a long way in ensuring this. Environmental testing – for temperature and humidity – carries a lot of weight in this context and acts as the endurance test for batteries so that they perform per promise in every weather. It contributes to fewer emissions and makes the much-needed case for EVs and hybrids.

Quality Testing – The Push Towards Betterment

Proven and guaranteed testing methods, that combine quality and cost-effectiveness, are gold in this scenario. Ensuring reliability and safety also is highly important, eradicating all chances of an explosion. “With the goal of reducing automobile emissions and the push toward electric hybrid vehicles, the need for lithium-ion battery testing is even more critical,” says Praveen Crasta, CEO of CM Envirosystems (CME). CME is a leading provider of environmental test chambers, with over 4 decades of industry experience in designing and manufacturing temperature-humidity controlled products.

“Our proven experience provides the most cost-effective solutions,” continues Praveen. “Each test chamber is built according to specific test requirements and may be interfaced with battery cyclers, control & monitoring data acquisition systems and other test equipment for a complete integrated test solution.”

Apart from the obvious tests for temperature and pressure endurance, which fall under environmental testing, CME has also designed test equipment to test against impact and shock, among others. Electrical and mechanical tests like these ensure the safety of not just the battery or the vehicle but the passengers as well.

Lithium-ion batteries have long carried the curse of exploding and scaring off potential users. In July, there was an incident of a Hyundai Kona (its electric sports car that comes with a heavy price tag of $25 lakh in India) exploding in Montreal after charging. Quite recently, the Conception boat tragedy that claimed the lives of 34 passengers is rumoured to have started with exploding lithium batteries. Environmental testing will never be too important.

A Demanding Future

A report by the Boston Consulting Group predicts that the overall sales penetration achieved by hybrid and electric cars in 2020 will be 26%. The report also makes a forecast of 14 million hybrid and electric cars to be sold in China, Japan, the United States, and Western Europe in 2020. These regions will have a demand for car batteries worth $25 billion. Battery costs are predicted to fall in the face of this high production volume.

The demand, in a nutshell, is going to be high. This means that the industry’s expectation of perfectly functioning batteries will also rise. With the production going up, the pressure to provide quality products will also increase, creating a rush of competition. Here is where quality will become the supreme differentiator.

Adoption of EVs serves a higher purpose – preserving the environment – and in this age where the population is becoming increasingly aware of their carbon footprint, safety and quality will play a bigger role than we imagine.


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