The Battery Power Struggle

Vehicle was on display at The Battery Show and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo, Novi, Mich. Sept. 11, 2019.

Cutaway of LHP Engineering electric concept vehicle.

Ed Garsten

Managing, venting, charging, light weighting, protecting, producing—all hot topics surrounding perhaps the hottest topic in the automotive advanced technology world right now—no, not engines, but batteries to power electric motors. 

As evidence of how hot batteries are running, this week hundreds of tech companies from around the world set up shop in a convention center barely an hour outside the Motor City in Novi, Michigan, attracting several thousand industry attendees to the side-by-side displays of engine-less prowess called The Battery Show and Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo. Not a HEMI or diesel in sight as the industry locks in on what it is banking billions on an eventual move away from internal combustion engines towards vehicles you fill up with kilowatts rather than fossil fuels. 

Indeed, the deeper the industry dives into an EV world, the more it seeks ways to improve and protect that basic box called a battery—a fact discovered by strolling the aisles of the co-located trade shows.

W.L. Gore and Associates is probably best known for that material that keeps you warm and dry, Gore-Tex. It turns out the basis for that stuff, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), is perfect for venting, a vital function in protecting a battery pack, prolonging its life and even saving precious weight. 

Gore’s innovation is called the Low Pressure Evacuation Vent (LPEV)for battery packs which consists of membranes made of PTFE along with other features addressing issues inherent in lithium-ion batteries such as pressure build-up and contamination from things like water, automotive fluids and dust.

“This membrane is a flexible membrane,” explained Ignacio Morera, Gore product specialist. “This membrane is going to open up and create a bypass, and through this bypass big amounts of air are going to exit this battery pack. Through this feature, you can reduce the inside pressure of the battery and allow low inside pressure in the battery. Through this low inside pressure and low opening pressure you can build battery packs with lower amount of material, thinner walls, lighter, more cost efficient.”

Mark Weier, Market Growth Leader at Gore goes on to explain that the LPEV’s ability to release excess pressure that might build up inside a battery pack, manufacturers can reduce the weight and thickness of aluminum lids covering the batteries by as much as 25%. “So you’re talking about a 75% mass savings in a six-foot by three-foot piece of aluminum,” said Weier. “You could save anywhere from 35-45 pounds. If you eliminate 40 pounds out of the battery pack, you’re talking about at least five miles additional range. Range anxiety still exists.” 

A few rows over from Gore’s booth is Solid Power.

The company’s display is simple, which, along with its name, personifies how the Colorado company has simplified batteries by developing an entirely solid state battery, eliminating the liquid electrolyte in normal lithium-ion batteries with a solid element. Flush with investments from Ford Motor Co. and BMW AG, Solid Power opened a pilot plant last month in Louisville, near Denver.

“Cell design can get simpler, module design can get simpler and your pack design can get a lot simpler,” said Solid Power CEO Doug Campbell in an interview. “The second benefit is safety. You eliminate volatile flammable electrolyte so that the cell won’t fail under abuse conditions like penetration, crush. It doesn’t explode and become just a dead brick.” 

Simpler and safer are nice-to-haves, but a battery is all about power, and Campbell is quick to note solid state batteries have that covered to, explaining they provide a “50% to 100% improvement in the energy both on a per unit mass and per unit volume basis.”

Batteries, like other components need to be monitored and managed remotely in order to keep track of their charge and to head off any issues.

That’s a key focus for Renesas Electronics America, based in Milpitas, Calif. The company has come up with what it calls the 14-Cell Lithium-Ion Battery Management IC. It’s a mouthful, but it has a big job.


“Batteries tend to be a little bit chaotic,” said Tom Harvey, Principal Automotive Application Engineer at Renesas. “This part monitors 14 individual cells and it has the best lifetime accuracy in the industry. It’s all about keeping the battery within its most optimal operating area and when done properly you can add a large percentage of useful range a large percentage of life to the battery and give the customer the overall best experience with it.” 


Niall Lynne, Renesas Senior Director adds, “if you balance the cells really tightly and really well you’ve got a really efficient battery pack. you can add, I’ve heard numbers like 13% and 15% range. If you treat the cells well balanced over the life you can get another two years out of a cell pack.”

Senior marketing manager JonPaul Jandu says Renesas is attracting a lot of business—so much he remarks “we’re working across all geographies,” with a special emphasis on China explaining “it’s a huge market. We’re playing very strongly there.” 

A key relationship for Renesas is with Indian automaker Mahindra’s Formula E racing team as its official technology partner.

Our last stop on the sprawling show floor was in the rear of the hall where DuPont camped out promoting a multi-faceted approach to managing electrification through its program called AHEAD, an acronym for Accelerating Hybrid-Electric Autonomous Driving.  

The program covers a number of what DuPont calls “solutions” that include lightweighting, battery pack components and assembly, electric motors, and components for automated driving.

It’s a collaborative approach,” said Eugenio Toccalino, Global Vice President of Marketing at DuPont in a phone interview. “What we want to do is keep a seamless experience to the customer to make it simpler for the customer to work with us.” 

Toccalino notes DuPont has partnered with Renault Motorsports Formula 1 team, calling it a “great opportunity to develop technology faster then bringing it faster in to mass production.” The company also worked with Audi in developing its electric e-Tron vehicle with adhesive technology for bonding a battery to the floor of the car, lightweighting materials and reducing noise, vibration and harshness, as well as with Hyundai on an electric vehicle with technology that“enables motor to be smaller, lighter and higher performance,” said Toccalino. 

JC Malerbi, DuPont Global Marketing Manager, Powertrain Electrification and Advanced Safety, demonstrated some of the innovations on the actual battery in the DuPont booth.

Just a competition was fierce on the show floor to grab the attention of potential industry customers, it’s exponentially tougher as automakers look for partners with the best and newest innovations in all aspects of battery technology—especially as they work toward that nirvana of totally automated, driverless vehicles.

After all, said Solid Power CEO Doug Campbell, autonomy takes a lot of juice, warning, “As autonomy comes on line, it’s basically putting more and more power demands on the onboard battery. As automakers put more power demands on the battery, ideally the battery improves.” 

">

Managing, venting, charging, light weighting, protecting, producing—all hot topics surrounding perhaps the hottest topic in the automotive advanced technology world right now—no, not engines, but batteries to power electric motors. 

As evidence of how hot batteries are running, this week hundreds of tech companies from around the world set up shop in a convention center barely an hour outside the Motor City in Novi, Michigan, attracting several thousand industry attendees to the side-by-side displays of engine-less prowess called The Battery Show and Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo. Not a HEMI or diesel in sight as the industry locks in on what it is banking billions on an eventual move away from internal combustion engines towards vehicles you fill up with kilowatts rather than fossil fuels. 

Indeed, the deeper the industry dives into an EV world, the more it seeks ways to improve and protect that basic box called a battery—a fact discovered by strolling the aisles of the co-located trade shows.

W.L. Gore and Associates is probably best known for that material that keeps you warm and dry, Gore-Tex. It turns out the basis for that stuff, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), is perfect for venting, a vital function in protecting a battery pack, prolonging its life and even saving precious weight. 

Gore’s innovation is called the Low Pressure Evacuation Vent (LPEV)for battery packs which consists of membranes made of PTFE along with other features addressing issues inherent in lithium-ion batteries such as pressure build-up and contamination from things like water, automotive fluids and dust.

“This membrane is a flexible membrane,” explained Ignacio Morera, Gore product specialist. “This membrane is going to open up and create a bypass, and through this bypass big amounts of air are going to exit this battery pack. Through this feature, you can reduce the inside pressure of the battery and allow low inside pressure in the battery. Through this low inside pressure and low opening pressure you can build battery packs with lower amount of material, thinner walls, lighter, more cost efficient.”

Mark Weier, Market Growth Leader at Gore goes on to explain that the LPEV’s ability to release excess pressure that might build up inside a battery pack, manufacturers can reduce the weight and thickness of aluminum lids covering the batteries by as much as 25%. “So you’re talking about a 75% mass savings in a six-foot by three-foot piece of aluminum,” said Weier. “You could save anywhere from 35-45 pounds. If you eliminate 40 pounds out of the battery pack, you’re talking about at least five miles additional range. Range anxiety still exists.” 

A few rows over from Gore’s booth is Solid Power.

The company’s display is simple, which, along with its name, personifies how the Colorado company has simplified batteries by developing an entirely solid state battery, eliminating the liquid electrolyte in normal lithium-ion batteries with a solid element. Flush with investments from Ford Motor Co. and BMW AG, Solid Power opened a pilot plant last month in Louisville, near Denver.

“Cell design can get simpler, module design can get simpler and your pack design can get a lot simpler,” said Solid Power CEO Doug Campbell in an interview. “The second benefit is safety. You eliminate volatile flammable electrolyte so that the cell won’t fail under abuse conditions like penetration, crush. It doesn’t explode and become just a dead brick.” 

Simpler and safer are nice-to-haves, but a battery is all about power, and Campbell is quick to note solid state batteries have that covered to, explaining they provide a “50% to 100% improvement in the energy both on a per unit mass and per unit volume basis.”

Batteries, like other components need to be monitored and managed remotely in order to keep track of their charge and to head off any issues.

That’s a key focus for Renesas Electronics America, based in Milpitas, Calif. The company has come up with what it calls the 14-Cell Lithium-Ion Battery Management IC. It’s a mouthful, but it has a big job.


“Batteries tend to be a little bit chaotic,” said Tom Harvey, Principal Automotive Application Engineer at Renesas. “This part monitors 14 individual cells and it has the best lifetime accuracy in the industry. It’s all about keeping the battery within its most optimal operating area and when done properly you can add a large percentage of useful range a large percentage of life to the battery and give the customer the overall best experience with it.” 


Niall Lynne, Renesas Senior Director adds, “if you balance the cells really tightly and really well you’ve got a really efficient battery pack. you can add, I’ve heard numbers like 13% and 15% range. If you treat the cells well balanced over the life you can get another two years out of a cell pack.”

Senior marketing manager JonPaul Jandu says Renesas is attracting a lot of business—so much he remarks “we’re working across all geographies,” with a special emphasis on China explaining “it’s a huge market. We’re playing very strongly there.” 

A key relationship for Renesas is with Indian automaker Mahindra’s Formula E racing team as its official technology partner.

Our last stop on the sprawling show floor was in the rear of the hall where DuPont camped out promoting a multi-faceted approach to managing electrification through its program called AHEAD, an acronym for Accelerating Hybrid-Electric Autonomous Driving.  

The program covers a number of what DuPont calls “solutions” that include lightweighting, battery pack components and assembly, electric motors, and components for automated driving.

It’s a collaborative approach,” said Eugenio Toccalino, Global Vice President of Marketing at DuPont in a phone interview. “What we want to do is keep a seamless experience to the customer to make it simpler for the customer to work with us.” 

Toccalino notes DuPont has partnered with Renault Motorsports Formula 1 team, calling it a “great opportunity to develop technology faster then bringing it faster in to mass production.” The company also worked with Audi in developing its electric e-Tron vehicle with adhesive technology for bonding a battery to the floor of the car, lightweighting materials and reducing noise, vibration and harshness, as well as with Hyundai on an electric vehicle with technology that“enables motor to be smaller, lighter and higher performance,” said Toccalino. 

JC Malerbi, DuPont Global Marketing Manager, Powertrain Electrification and Advanced Safety, demonstrated some of the innovations on the actual battery in the DuPont booth.

Just a competition was fierce on the show floor to grab the attention of potential industry customers, it’s exponentially tougher as automakers look for partners with the best and newest innovations in all aspects of battery technology—especially as they work toward that nirvana of totally automated, driverless vehicles.

After all, said Solid Power CEO Doug Campbell, autonomy takes a lot of juice, warning, “As autonomy comes on line, it’s basically putting more and more power demands on the onboard battery. As automakers put more power demands on the battery, ideally the battery improves.” 

Follow me on Twitter.

I’ve been covering the auto industry since 1989, first as CNN Detroit Bureau Chief, then as the National Auto Writer for the Associated Press, General Motors beat write

...