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Computer-Aided Design Aids Development Of Safe, Affordable And Efficient Batteries

Computer-aided simulation often offers a productive and affordable way to prototype an evolving technology.

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Computer-aided simulation aids in the development cycle for just about any technology, from robot-controlled manufacturing to landing a spacecraft on the surface of Mars. Computer-aided simulation often offers a productive and affordable way to prototype an evolving technology, including safe, affordable and efficient plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) batteries.

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Over the past seven years, the Energy Department’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) has sponsored the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), four other national laboratories, seven industry partners and four research institutions to develop battery simulation tools under the Computer-Aided Engineering for Electric-Drive Vehicle Batteries (CAEBAT) project. CAEBAT’s adaptable battery simulation models have been added to commercial software packages and are already in use by many battery developers and automakers.

Limited driving range and high costs are two of the key market challenges that have prevented more widespread adoption of PEVs. CAEBAT tools help improve the performance, driving range, safety and lifespan of PEV batteries, while reducing cost and the number of build-break-test cycles required for design improvement.

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, the industry standard due to their light weight and high storage capacity, are widely used in applications that range from everyday electronics to airplanes, spacecraft and PEVs. Yet as recent recalls of products such as hoverboard toys and cell phones show, Li-ion batteries can, on rare occasions, overheat and lead to safety hazards. Considering this and the complexity of significantly larger PEV batteries, understanding the interactions among electrochemical, thermal and mechanical physics across a range of length scales is crucial for better Li-ion batteries. That process, however, can be expensive – and predicting such interactions makes one of the most dynamic cases for accurate computer simulation. Project work under CAEBAT addresses these very issues.

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“The CAEBAT tools we’ve developed rely on a range of multi-physics engineering approaches to optimize battery electrical, chemical, thermal and mechanical response for the real world,” said Kandler Smith, CAEBAT task leader with NREL’s Transportation and Hydrogen Systems Center. “Models developed at NREL are being incorporated into research and industry software tools to help simplify and speed the design and validation process for batteries.”

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