Electric cars might get cheaper thanks to fiberoptic sensors Salon com

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Electric cars might get thanks to fiber-optic sensors

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ARPA-E says better and controls could allow to cut battery size by 20 to 50 percent.

sensor: Small fiber-optic like the one shown here, at PARC, could help of electric cars get the most out of the batteries.

Electric-vehicle battery could shrink 20 to 30 percent, and electric vehicles more if new sensors were developed to the cells in a pack, according to the government’s Advanced Research Agency for Energy (ARPA-E). The says such sensors have an even greater on hybrid gas-electric vehicle causing them to shrink by

Better sensors could what’s happening inside of the hundreds of cells that up an electric vehicle’s battery allowing automakers to safely more energy in them. A $30 ARPA-E program that’s underway for about a year is to develop the necessary technology.

new battery chemistries can take a or more, so increasing the capabilities of ones could be a faster way to the cost of batteries, one of the main holding back the adoption of cars (see “How Is Driving Electric Car Innovation ” and Improved Batteries Will Electric Vehicles Competitive ”).

Automakers currently don’t their batteries to be charged all the which helps avoid the voltage levels that can battery materials or in some cause fires. They keep some capacity in in case overheating or other reduce the performance of the battery. build in these safeguards they don’t know what’s going on inside cell—the temperature, chemical mechanical strain, voltages at electrode, and so on.

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“We asked, ‘what if we those blinders’? How much could you get out of a battery system if you knew what was happening the cells?” says Ilan a program manager at ARPA-E.

Based on computer simulations, the believes that better with improved battery software and computer models of make it possible to safely cells right up to their Since automakers could get out of each battery cell, could make their packs smaller without performance.

A project at the Palo Research Center, one of 14 that up the ARPA-E program, is developing battery sensors that, they’re not electrically conductive, can be embedded within battery without interfering with performance. The sensor system add about 5 percent to the cost of a pack, says Ajay who leads the project. But he says the would be paid for by an up to 25 percent in the size and cost of the battery.

Another ARPA-E project, at Oak National Laboratory, is not only sensors for individual cells, but technology that could and heat a cell from keeping the cell at the optimal and extending its lifetime.

Also as of the ARPA-E program, Ford is an extremely precise battery that can detect when amounts of unwanted chemical are taking place within a The near-term goal is to use the tester to the development of new battery chemistries. one of the dreams is to have miniaturized on board cars,” says Masias. a battery researcher at That could allow a to control how much energy is depending on the battery performance and how the car is driven. “If we could customize the way we the battery, rather than on generic rules for everyone, customer can get all they can out of the battery,” he

Not everyone agrees that can reduce battery size as as ARPA-E hopes it can. Wallace. director of the battery engineering group at GM, says developing better sensors is but reducing battery size by 20 to 50 might not be possible. “That’s a big he says. It would require all the improvements that are theoretically he says, something that is practical. “But that’s not a not to be working on it,” he adds—GM, not part of the ARPA-E project, is working on battery sensors.

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