i-CoBat project aims to develop new form of EV battery cooling technology

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As the automotive industry seeks to electrify its product ranges, the thermal management of high-capacity batteries used in electric vehicles (EV) is proving a monumental challenge for developers.

The performance and efficiency of battery cells can deteriorate – and their aging can be accelerated – if operating temperatures exceed the upper or lower limits of a comparatively narrow range. In extreme cases, exceeding upper operating limits can risk thermal runaway of cells, leading to catastrophic failure and potentially, fire.

Consumers seek fast recharging times, good performance and range, and competitive prices. During fast-charging, however, battery cells can produce up to three times more heat energy than in normal driving and charging operations; with heating of the cells being a dominant factor in battery aging and performance degradation. Using current battery cell technology, therefore, the requirement for thermal optimization of pack design and operation is a vitally important one.

Current EV battery packs tend to use air-cooling or cold-plate cooling using water/ethylene glycol or a refrigerant. The limitations of such thermal management systems act to restrict charging rates or the number of fast-charge cycles that can be carried out each day. One possible answer to range anxiety could be to increase pack size, but this would significantly increase costs.

Led by M&I Materials, the i-CoBat project is part of the government’s Faraday Battery Challenge and will test an immersion cooled battery pack concept using M&I Materials’ biodegradable dielectric cooling fluid, MIVOLT. The innovation promises improved power output and cell longevity, faster charging rates and lower costs, significantly addressing the key consumer issue of range anxiety.

James O’Brien, M&I Materials product group director, said, “We are very proud to be working with such distinguished companies. Ricardo will bring its extensive knowledge of EV battery pack and battery management system design and thermal management to the project, while WMG will lend its impressive research capabilities to address the move from research and development to commercialization.”

Ricardo chief technology and innovation officer, Neville Jackson, said, “Power, performance, fast charging times and price are key determinants in persuading consumers to opt for an EV rather than a liquid-fueled vehicle when they next change their car. With current cell technologies, thermal management is a crucial enabler for improvements in these areas in order to reduce or eliminate range anxiety, and promote consumer acceptance of electric cars. Ricardo is pleased to be participating in this very promising project together with M&I Materials and WMG.”

David Greenwood, professor of Advanced Propulsion Systems at WMG, the University of Warwick, UK, added, “As we seek to extract the maximum possible energy and durability from a battery, and to replenish it as quickly as possible, thermal management becomes critical. It’s no longer just a matter of keeping the battery cool – it’s about optimizing the temperature for any given operation. There are many cooling mechanisms used by different manufacturers, and this project allows us to investigate a close-coupled cooling mechanism with a biodegradable coolant.”

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Rachel's career in journalism began around five years ago when she started working for UKi Media & Events, having recently graduated from Coventry University where she studied the subject. Her favourite aspect of the job is interviewing industry experts, including researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians, and learning more about the groundbreaking technologies and innovations that are shaping the future of the automotive and tire industries.

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