Thermal Modeling Poised to Improve EV Battery Range

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【Summary】Temperature sensitive lithium-ion batteries benefit from thermal modeling during the design process. The result is batteries that perform better and have a greater range.

Original   Mia Bevacqua  ·  Oct 03, 2017 3:28 PM PT

The lithium ion batteries found in electric vehicles are extremely sensitive to heat. Keeping a battery near its target temperature increases battery life and performance. For this reason, thermal modeling has become increasingly important for EV engineering. 

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Thermal management improves EV battery design

One of the biggest fears consumers have of EVs is driving range. According to Walden (Wally) Rhines, President and CEO of Mentor, this can be addressed with thermal management and electro-thermal modeling. Thermal modeling helps produce batteries that perform better and have a greater range. 

In the past, thermal analysis was conducted by thermal engineering specialists. This meant that a potential thermal problem might not be discovered until late in the design process. As a result, the entire project might have to be reformed.

As Rhines puts it, "If you flunk the ‘thermal gate' in the design, you go back and re-do the electrical design."

To correct this problem, thermal management is now being considered by design engineers. According to Rhines, considering thermal-electrical tradeoffs early on saves both time and money. 

Proper thermal modeling and design can yield big results. Rhines notes that a 10º C difference in battery temperature can extend battery life by up to three years. Improved thermal efficiency can also improve battery performance by as much as 20%. In addition to improving EV performance, a well-designed battery can lower overall vehicle cost. This is because the battery is one of the most expensive parts of an EV. 

Of course, Mentor offers thermal simulation software. The company offers its FloTHERM XT integrated mechanical design automation (MDA). Is also provides electronic design automation (EDA) electronics cooling software with advanced thermal management capabilities.

Thermal simulation is important for several reasons, as noted by SAE. Most importantly, it helps determine how much power is getting to the drive wheels and how much is wasted as heat. Simulation tools can also help improve the power and efficiency of the battery, making the overall vehicle more efficient. 

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More EVs means a greater need for thermal simulation 

The focus of thermal management use to be on internal combustion engines. But now, manufacturers are transitioning towards EVs, bringing electro-thermal modeling to the forefront. 

Rhines believes simulation tools will determine which manufactures have successful system designs. He also believes the proliferation of electric vehicles will increase the need for thermal modeling. 

Genevieve Cullen, President of the Electric Drive Transportation Assoc., agrees. She points out that cost of a Li-ion battery was about $1000 per kW·h in 2010, and now market analysts put it south of $300 per kW·h. This cost reduction has led to far more EVs on the road. In fact, there are around 40 EV models in the U.S. market today. Cullen predicts this model will triple by 2020.

EVs are the future of transportation. Keeping batteries cool is the key to making them great.


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