NI, Elektro-Automatik Join Forces for EV Battery Testing

Article By : Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

NI is working with EA Elektro-Automatik to provide bi-directional power supplies for EV battery cycling and power level testing.

Elektro-Automatik (EA) and NI (the former National Instruments) are collaborating to provide bi-directional power supplies for electric vehicle battery cycling and power level testing.

When incorporated into the toolchain using NI’s software, EA’s power supply is designed to expedite battery testing procedures. In an interview, Mahmoud Wahby, NI’s global business development group manager for electrification, highlighted the company’s efforts to improve battery safety while extending battery life. Tests such as charge and discharge, shock and vibration are the main requirements.
R&D teams spend several months running charge and discharge cycles, then even more time characterizing battery specifications. Parameters at the cell and module level include characterizing internal resistance, battery integrity and running power loss tests.

Scaling

With global temperatures reaching critical levels over the next 20 years, the auto industry is shifting to all-electric drive trains as one way of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. NI stressed in a statement that EV battery validation remains essential for technology scaling. That scaling is critical since batteries account for about 70 percent of EV development costs. As data volumes grow, analytics tools will offer an extra degree of battery optimization. Meanwhile, OEMs are establishing dedicated test stations to assess the battery recycling applications.

The rise of EVs is expected to create significant demand for grid charging while expanding energy storage via vehicle-to-grid (V2G) power applications. The advent of distributed and renewable energy sources will help speed this transition, leading to increased grid complexity with numerous testing challenges within EV supply equipment and grid-edge charging applications.

 Mahmoud Wahby

Battery technology, power management and propulsion remain key performance considerations in EV design. Design parameters include power level, conversion efficiency, operating temperature in the powertrain, thermal energy dissipation capacity and system packaging.

Battery manufacturing

The cell is the first step in the battery manufacturing process. To produce large quantities of cells for electric cars, high-volume production is required. After cells have been produced, tested, and graded, they can be assembled to make a battery. Thousands of cells may be required, depending on voltage and power requirements.

Power electronics are essential for EV battery testing in order to meet safety standards and performance expectations without compromising rapid innovation. The emerging EV industry requires modularity that allows technologies to be be mixed and matched depending on different battery configurations.

“Reaching the limits of the internal combustion engine paves the way toward electrification as the light at the end of the tunnel to offer zero-emission systems,” NI’s Wahby said. “Both the hardware and software flexibility are equally important to the design of the electric powertrain. However, it doesn’t stop there, the flexibility of the supply chain, design processes and data analytics on top of the test hardware and software are equally important and will play a role in enabling new electrified technologies faster.”

Battery Test System Toolkit Demo (Click on image to enlarge.)

The combination of EA devices to NI’s toolchain allows EV test engineers and lab managers to create more flexible battery cycle configurations for testing as well as shorter turnaround times for new power level testing needs. Given the exponential expansion of the EV sector, the partnership also aims to reduce time-to-market for those systems.

“The acceleration to electrification is a given,” said Wahby. “We’ve begun working with automotive OEMs and Tier-One suppliers to deliver zero-emission vehicles. And a key part of that zero-emission mission is the electric battery.”

With various industry forecasts projecting robust growth for battery EVs and fuel-cell electric vehicles with zero-emission vehicles, “Every OEM wants to prove that they have the battery pack or the electric powertrain that provides the highest safety,” he added. “So safety and compliance with different certifications in different countries but with long life” is required.

“Range anxiety” remains a challenge, Wahby said. “What we’re doing with this collaboration is making sure that we offer best-in-class test automation software to design the batteries.”

Whether it’s the powertrain, autonomous driving, or in-vehicle networks, the problems faced EV makers and their suppliers vary depending on the area of interest. For example, test and measurement engineers are working to improve crucial EV powertrain components.

For instance, the power converter/variable frequency drive could be addressed by power conversion engineers. Each is essential for EV safety, efficiency and durability. When cell temperature, input voltage or current are beyond a cell’s designated range, the battery must be deactivated to protect the entire system. Ultimately, those testing steps must be assessed against industry standards.

This article was originally published on EE Times.

Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio holds a Ph.D. in Physics and is a telecommunication engineer and journalist. He has worked on various international projects in the field of gravitational wave research. He collaborates with research institutions to design data acquisition and control systems for space applications. He is the author of several books published by Springer, as well as numerous scientific and technical publications on electronics design.

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