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Battery Life Improvement

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted August 7, 2012

Batteries are about to get a whole lot smarter.

General Electric (NYSE: GE) researchers, in collaboration with Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and a University of Michigan team, are seeking to devise a ‘smart’ sensing system that can ‘predict’ battery behavior, paving the way for a smarter battery management system and longer lasting batteries.

From GE’s press release:

“The car battery remains the greatest barrier and most promising opportunity to bringing EVs mainstream.” said Aaron Knobloch, principal investigator and mechanical engineer at GE Global Research. “Improvements in the range, cost and life of the battery will all be needed for EVs to be competitive. With better sensors and new battery analytics, we think we can make substantial progress at increasing battery life. This, in turn, could help bring down its overall cost and the cost entitlement of buying an electric car.”

Let’s get into some tech-talk. In order to create and optimize a smarter battery system, GE proposes mixing together a newly-developed ultrathin battery sensor system and highly precise cell behavior modeling. This system would take new measurements of operations within the battery.

These measurements would be in contrast to existing battery management systems which inspect certain physical markers like ambient temperature, voltage, and current to evaluate the status of batteries.

GE’s development will create a much smaller sensory system, which would allow it to reside in parts of batteries that cannot currently be reached. This might enable us to obtain far more precise and comprehensive overviews.

At this point, the U. Michigan team steps in. Their role in this project is to use the GE-generated data to develop schemes that can process real-time battery sensor data to predict, with reasonable accuracy, overall battery-cell and pack behavior, the press release states.

To test it out, Ford will install the fully-developed system into one of their vehicles.

The total project runs through three years at an expected cost of $3.1 million.

Needless to point out, in our ultra-wired era, a fast and responsive system like this could see phenomenal applications combining Internet databases with consumer assistance and predictive diagnoses.

GE has taken proactive steps toward such ends; just recently, they unveiled their global software HQ in San Ramon, Calif., which will employ around 400 software experts to manage GE’s software and big data research.

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