Keep batteries cool in extreme conditions


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How do you get the most power from an electric motor in twenty minutes, without setting the race car on fire? Peter Hinten, amateur racer and co-founder of Power Battery, came into contact with electric racing through the STORM project at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU / e). He noticed that mechanical improvements were needed to allow the engine to cope with a heavy battery.

Jan-Hein van Twist. Beeld: Development of Brainport

This is how Power Battery was born: a start-up from the Dutch city of Nuenen that develops battery packs for vehicles that rely on high power levels and where space and weight are limiting factors. .
“In addition to racing cars, we also manufacture batteries for airplanes, outboards and even upgraded classic Porsche and Mercedes retrofits,” Jan-Hein van Twist tells us. Together with Hinten, he founded Power Battery in 2018. The mission was clear: to develop a small, powerful battery that can be used in twenty minutes (longer than is not needed on a race track) without causing risk of damage. ‘fire. Van Twist: “This is how we designed a coolant for Li-Ion cells, a unique cooling system that protects the batteries, capable of delivering huge amounts of power and lasting longer. “

Overheated batteries

Lithium-ion cells are the most common cells for battery packs in mobile applications because they have the best charge capacity / power ratio. “If you’re building a touring motorcycle, range is an important factor. You don’t want to charge your motorcycle every twenty minutes. This requirement is abandoned on the racetrack, where range does not matter, as long as the drivers can go full throttle for twenty minutes. During this time, as much power as possible should be available.
It seems like a simple task, but as soon as a battery is heavily charged, it overheats. Van Twist explains that it can cause a fire, and it also degrades battery life. “The chemical composition of the battery changes when it overheats, and the capacity decreases because of it.”

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Innovative cooling system

At Power Battery, they found a solution to the risk of fire and reduced battery life. An aluminum pipe containing coolant runs through the battery modules, which are made up of eight to twelve cells. “It can be water, but in more extreme situations it can also be a more powerful coolant, like glycol.” To illustrate, a racing car requires 198 modules made up of twelve cells to be able to run for twenty minutes.

The power supply battery module. Image: Battery pack

The cooling system controls the temperature of the cells. “Even when the battery is completely discharged in twenty minutes, the exterior of the cell does not get hotter than 55 degrees Celsius. Normally, the temperature would rise to 90 degrees Celsius or more. Power Battery guarantees solid performance for a longer period of time and battery life is also preserved. For modules, Power Battery purchases grade A battery cells that can handle at least 500 cycles, that is, 250 times from 0 to 100%.

Once the race is over, the batteries can be connected to the charger immediately. Van Twist: “There are companies that make similar packs, but with these you have to wait at least an hour before you can recharge the batteries. Power Battery is the only company on the market that can cool a high quality, high performance Li-Ion battery so efficiently.

Application areas

Power Battery focuses on high-end partners in the racing and entertainment industry. “We have partnered with ERA Championship. The world’s first all-electric junior formula class. Our battery is the

main power unit for the powertrain of racing cars. In addition to this, we also convert retrofit cars, classic Porsches and Mercedes and pleasure boats. “

Besides the high-end industry, Power Battery also focuses on heavy equipment, such as cranes and port equipment. “” We actually wanted to offer our modules to pack builders. But it turned out that there were hardly any, or that they did not offer sufficient quality. So we started doing it internally. This is how we ended up with heavy equipment: port equipment, cranes, shovels. Our original technology is not really interesting for that, it’s too expensive. But we have gained a lot of knowledge and expertise in building safe and high quality battery packs, ”explains Van Twist.

For this sector, Power Battery builds battery packs based on Lithium Iron Phosphate technology which lasts up to a minimum of three thousand cycles. The packs have the same capacity as Li-ion technology, but are two to three times larger and heavier. “In heavy equipment, unlike the racing and leisure industries, space and weight are less important. Instead, it’s especially important that the packs are inexpensive and durable.

Battery modules in a racing car prototype. Image: Battery pack

Brainport region

The fact that Power Battery is located in the Brainport area is very valuable to them, says Van Twist. He sees that there are a lot of initiatives coming from Brainport aimed at gaining a leading position in the European market in batteries and battery production. “For example, there are a lot of companies looking at electric planes. This is also an area of ​​application where Power Battery has managed to stand out. After all, to fly is to be small and powerful.

Power Battery frequently works with other start-ups. “There are more and more parts that need clean powertrains. But because the market is relatively immature, many parties are still looking for funding, both internal and external, as well as how the electric powertrain is put together. Aligning the different components of a powertrain – controller, electric motor and battery – involves a lot of knowledge, Van Twist explains. “The selection and tuning of the various powertrain components has yet to become much more easily accessible to a larger group of medium and small businesses. A lot of companies are struggling with this. “

“The selection and tuning of the various powertrain components has yet to become much more easily accessible to a larger group of medium and small businesses. A lot of companies are struggling with this. “

Jan-Hein van Twist

The ecosystem

With the ecosystem in mind, Van Twist cites three things Power Battery would like to see. “First, more parts that understand or research motor-controller combinations. I imagine some kind of online store where you can find different, tried and tested combinations of motor controllers. It would also help if there were more electronics companies working on the control units, so that the drivelines could be better aligned with each other. “We are getting this knowledge from overseas at the moment. “

Finally, Van Twist would like to see more freedom in the regulation of electric flight experiments. “An expanse of airspace where all the rules don’t have to apply and where prototypes can be tested. I see the governments of other countries granting this freedom. Of course, the risk profile is higher, but you can gain a foothold in the market and accelerate product developments. In the Netherlands, we have all the components we need to build a solid reputation in the field of electric aviation. We, as the Power Battery, would really like to contribute to this.

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