According to Bob Curley, Sales Manager–Americas, Horiba, there are only three barriers to vehicle electrification: battery life, battery life, and battery life. “Once we clear that hurdle, then we’ll have electric vehicles,” he said.
While battery manufacturers are beginning to understand the unique needs of vehicle manufacturers, some OEMs, such as General Motors, have taken matters into their own hands and begun doing their own battery development manufacturing.
“A lot of the times, the OEs look for the tiered suppliers to be a little faster in developing those new technologies, but I think right now what they’re finding is those battery suppliers still aren’t understanding the needs of the automotive customer,” Curley said.
Horiba is doing its part to assist with the electrification initiative, recently introducing the Virtual Battery solution that offers advanced battery simulation for the development and validation of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, hybrid-electric vehicles, and extended-range electric vehicles.
While typical simulation solutions offer standard charge and discharge testing schedules using a steady power stream, Virtual Battery’s advanced emulation approach offers vehicle, drivetrain, and battery developers the ability to truly replicate in-vehicle conditions including stress, battery age, battery pack parameters, and driving cycles as well as the environmental conditions necessary to predict actual battery behavior.
“Typically when the industry has talked about battery simulation to this point, it’s basically been simulating a battery being fully charged or being completely empty or some variation thereof,” Curley said. “State of charge really is the key to these strategies of the vehicle developers. What the Horiba Virtual Battery allows folks to do is truly replicate the performance of a complete battery and understand how it will behave over various driving cycles that manufacturers can input into the development strategy.”
Virtual Battery features five customizable battery models—lithium-ion, lithium iron phosphate, nickel metal hydride, lead acid, and ultra capacitor—each specifically calibrated for vehicle applications. “We’ve created models that take it down to a single cell and then allow you to input parameters that would basically allow you to identify what the battery pack would consist of and then be able to model how that battery would perform,” Curley said.
Virtual Battery’s Model Generator feature provides flexibility for the creation of unique battery profiles.
“Battery chemistry allows us to very accurately reflect what is known technology, but as the manufacturers go forward with their own individual strategies they try to keep that stuff very close to the vest,” Curley said. “We give them the flexibility without locking them into any one particular strategy to develop.”
Test facilities with existing battery cycling systems can add Virtual Battery on top of their existing hardware and software; however, hybrid-, electric-vehicle, and battery developers seeking a comprehensive approach can purchase Virtual Battery as a complete solution with optimal hardware, software, and safety features.
Launched in February of this year, interest in the system has been very strong, according to Curley, and has crossed industry and national borders.
“We’ve got conversations going on around the globe,” Curley said. “It’s not just the light-duty vehicle manufacturers. We’re talking with heavy-duty, on-highway, off-highway. Really there are benefits to the electric motor and hybrid capabilities across the breadth of moving vehicles.”
The Virtual Battery solution will be on display in booth 442 at the SAE 2010 World Congress.