Ricardo announces Battery Systems Development Center in Detroit

There is much more to building complete battery packs for electric cars and hybrids than most people think about. Sure, cells are available - they are powering the laptop that this story is being written on. Just ask Tesla about taking a few thousand of those batteries and turning them into a unit capable of powering an electric car. To help turn those loose cells into usable battery packs, power-train engineering consultant Ricardo has created a new Battery Systems Development Center in Detroit. This group of 32 people will work to create turn-key battery packs and their related necessary equipment to be offered for use in battery-powered vehicles. This development work falls under Ricardo's Total Vehicle Fuel Economy work that we've reported on in the past. Of course, battery cost is another hurdle to overcome, but Ricardo's been working on that one too.
[Source: Ricardo] Press Release:

Ricardo establishes centre for development of battery systems for hybrid and electric vehicles

Ricardo, Inc., has announced the establishment of the Battery Systems Development centre at the Ricardo Detroit Technology Campus. The new centre will offer turnkey engineering and development of complete high-voltage battery-pack systems for hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and electric vehicles (EV)

The facility will feature three lithium-ion (Li-Ion)-capable development chambers, large HEV/EV-capable battery cyclers and equipment to facilitate the development of battery systems in simulated vehicle environments. The Battery Systems Development centre will be used to validate Ricardo's design, analysis and simulation of advanced high-power battery packs. This, combined with the company's pack/vehicle integration, hybrid transmission development and vehicle development capabilities, puts Ricardo in a unique position of being able to provide turnkey vehicle battery systems development.

Ricardo, Inc., president, Dean Harlow, said:

"Electrification of the vehicle is a critical element of automakers' strategies for reaching 35-mile-per-gallon CAFE regulations. Up to half the development cost of a battery system can be the robust integration of battery cells into packs. As a leader in advanced vehicle technology, Ricardo is applying its Total Vehicle Fuel Economy™ (TVFE) capabilities to this important new technology to help our customers accelerate the volume production of electric vehicle technologies into the market. Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicles are fast becoming a crucial part of the technology mix, and we have the experience of more than 30 hybrid vehicle and battery systems projects to draw upon to bring even more value to our customers."

The Battery Systems Development centre, projected to grow to a staff of 32, will focus on engineering complete Li-ion and nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) battery-pack systems (as opposed to the development of battery cells, which is the domain of cell manufacturers).

Wayne Thelen, Ricardo, Inc., chief engineer for advanced technology, explains:

"There are critical items to address such as control algorithm robustness, accurate state-of-charge estimation, fault-tolerance design, thermal management optimisation, shock and vibration robustness and cost management. Ricardo has the engineering expertise to meet these challenges. Our TVFE simulation, control, and optimisation capabilities are extremely accurate in setting the parameters for battery-pack design. The development chambers will validate these designs in real-world tests, assuring maximum performance and efficiency in this important new technology."

Prototype pack systems will undergo exhaustive development in three specially built development chambers equipped with robust safety and filtration systems. Each will feature high-capacity EV/HEV-capable battery cyclers, high-voltage instrumentation, hardware-in-the-loop systems and other equipment to enable the development of battery systems in simulated vehicle environments. Once a battery pack design is verified in a safe, simulated environment, the battery system can be integrated into and further developed on a vehicle in Ricardo's adjoining garage facility. The first chamber is scheduled to be commissioned by mid-summer 2008.

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