For an electric vehicle (EV), the battery pack is the most important and costliest component, representing more than 45 % of the vehicle cost.
The battery needs constant monitoring for optimised total cost of ownership (TCO). Mumbai-based company Ion Energy is focussed on developing end-to-end solutions for EVs aimed at further propelling India’s journey towards greener mobility.
In simple terms, the battery management system (BMS) is the brain behind battery packs, managing the output, charging and discharging. It also provides critical safeguards from damage, and renders notifications on the status of the battery pack. The differentiation between two companies is often served by the BMS that controls and improves the behaviour of the battery without compromising on performance.
In an exclusive chat with Auto Tech Review, Akhil Aryan, Founder, Ion Energy, claimed that the BMS available in the EV market currently can be put to use in the battery pack hardware locally and is programmed with an assumption that such vehicles will possess similar usage patterns.
Ion Energy is currently operating under two business verticals – battery management systems and Edison Analytics, which is a cloud-based machine learning platform, wherein data received from the vehicle as well as the battery is further processed for inside trends for developing over-the-air updates to improve the performance and life cycle of the battery.
BATTERY DESIGN OPTIMISATION
Ion Energy leverages its expertise in the energy storage domain and adopts a modular approach towards designing and developing lithium-ion battery packs as per customer applications. The company, after understanding the application and requirements of the lithium-ion battery, works closely with customers to select appropriate cell chemistries and form factor to rollout effective concepts and materials that deliver high efficiency from battery packs. With thermal management of battery playing an important role for the long life of the battery, Ion Energy also designs custom thermal management solutions to always have the vehicle battery in the Goldilocks zone – a habitable zone, where the temperature is just right. The company also runs designs through various simulations at the part level as well as at the assembly level so as to ensure that the product designed meets the most stringent standards, observed Aryan.
The battery replacement process at the end of its life cycle is a costly affair, especially for commercial vehicles that are used continuously as well as shared mobility providers, where assets are mostly financed and wherein fleet owners need to maximise operating expenses without compromising on performance. For a country like India having diverse geographic conditions with different ambient temperatures as well as varied vehicle user profiles, Ion Energy also follows a strict procedure to develop products that meet requirements for various standards, including general certifications such as UN 38.3, IEC 62133 or application-specific certifications like ISO 12405, ISO 26262, IEC 62660 along with ARAI 048 and AIS 004.
Ion Energy is also bullish on the battery swapping model, as it fundamentally aligns with its own business model as well as removes the need to keep the vehicle stationary for charging purposes, thereby increasing vehicle uptime. However, the battery swapping models will require standardisation to flourish while aiming to offer battery charge availability, as different battery designs will only hamper the growth of such models, noted Aryan.
Ion Energy’s BMS, meanwhile, is a fully connected package placed locally in the battery and is continuously updated as it is directly connected to the cloud. The data that is captured is processed and used to update the vehicle systems based on State of Charge (SOC) and State of Health (SOH) estimations powered by advanced algorithms. According to the company, all the BMS today are equipped with a memory card, on which the entire data is stored till the time it gets connected to a network.
Ion Energy has developed a proprietary data compression algorithm, which can store data on a per second basis for up to 20 years. Aryan claims that even if the system is not connected to the cloud for 10 years, there will be no data loss and the data accumulated over the years will be transmitted as and when connectivity improves. As a back-up system, the Ion Energy’s BMS is also equipped with Bluetooth to ensure the data is uploaded on the cloud using the smartphone’s data network.
According to Aryan, most of the BMS existing in the EV market are equipped with one charging pattern algorithm inside. In the case of Ion Energy though, the company regularly updates how the charging can work for a particular user. The system is smart enough to understand user behaviour and adopt a charging pattern (fast charging in day, and super slow charging at night) for higher uptime and balanced battery life cycle as well. Additionally, the BMS also has been designed smartly to extract electric charge for the battery according to the user profile regardless of the charging method adopted – it informs the user in case he/she is continuously abusing the battery pack and simultaneously alerts the user to adopt a better charging style.
Edison Analytics that largely serves as the backbone of the system is powered by the machine learning platform and artificial intelligence. The algorithms of the system that are updated at regular intervals understand the usage patterns such as charging styles, usage types to customise OTA updates and enable the user to have an extended driving range. Edison Analytics can help improve the vehicle performance based on software algorithms, stated the Ion Energy founder.
It is important to avoid any vehicle abuse, especially with sophisticated EV technologies involved. Ion Energy has also developed three-level security layer to ensure the vehicle is used in an optimised way. This involves alerting the driver in the first place in case of any possible abuse; if such warnings are ignored. Secondly, Edison Analytics ensures prognostic and predictive analytics to recalibrate the trajectory of product failure based on the thresholds that have been set by the algorithms. The third level is diagnostics, which allows the company and the user to understand what actually caused the product failure. The Edison Analytics evaluates the vehicle on 127 parameters every second in real time and can quickly identify the actual issue. It can play a crucial role in the case of any vehicle warranty issues that may arise due to vehicle abuse, observed Aryan.
Overall, Ion Energy has at its disposal a team of 53 people from diverse backgrounds that includes hardware, software, firmware engineers, who not only manage the Edison system but also keep adding new features and capabilities. Among them, 20 are working dedicatedly for electronics development as a BMS requires a robust electronics hardware.
Fleet owners and other users under a subscription-based model, will be able to see their respective data and figure out any mismatch in the performance results they have posted and what they wish to deliver. In a battery, typically there is a depth of discharge as a reserve power, which is largely not available for the user. Such power can be released by the Edison Analytics but one must note that doing so would have a serious effect on the battery life cycle, cautioned Aryan.
Ion Energy also is undertaking ‘Project Zero’, where it will offer BMS to 50 electric motorcycles developed by Nepal-based Yatri Motorcycles. The high performance electric motorcycle has been developed using steel trellis frame, lithium-ion batteries, 30 kW electric motor and Ion Energy’s BMS, enabling the bike to offer a range of 230 km. The company has also been working with global OEMs across France, Poland, Austria, UK, South Africa, North America among others for setting up the BMS technology for their vehicles that can be scaled quickly.
Fundamentally, the shift to EVs is a serious business. EVs are poised to lead the automotive industry in the future, but the infrastructure continues to possess a challenge for everyone. Ironically, the country continues to rely heavily on Chinese components for EVs and the FAME II policy is a step in the right direction to develop more and more products locally. It is important for OEMs to take charge in developing the infrastructure, where the transition has been pretty slow for now, but interestingly this also offers an opportunity for a lot of start-ups to expand their horizons. The year 2021 will be the inflexion point for the industry as start-ups are now seriously focussing their efforts towards fleet owners and forging tie-ups with OEMs for seriously promoting EVs, concluded Aryan.
TEXT: Anirudh Raheja