The design of battery packs – the specific configuration of battery cells within a device or electric vehicle to deliver voltage, capacity, or power density – has been understudied but has a surprisingly large influence on the life and performance of devices powered by Li-ion batteries – from portable computers to vacuum cleaners, hand tools to industrial robots, and garden tools to electric vehicles.
Poor pack design can affect heat management and can lead to a battery that has significantly reduced performance than the battery materials and cell design would otherwise suggest, resulting in the battery reaching the end of its life prematurely. Regular replacement of batteries, for example in power tools, also dramatically increases operating costs for consumers as well as increasing waste.
In the development and design of high performing batteries a method is needed to accurately test cells under thermal conditions similar to those that they would experience in packs. However, battery researchers typically test cells in thermal chambers that have been adapted from biological research that hold the ambient air at the correct temperature, but don’t cool the cells effectively.
The Faraday Institution Multi-Scale Modelling project has provided insights and tools to enable a more optimal battery pack design process, a critical component of which is accurate cell testing. Cognition Energy Ltd was founded in October 2018 by Tom Cleaver, Greg Offer (who leads the modelling project) and two other academics from Imperial to test cells more accurately and thus develop better batteries. Based on Cognition’s original battery development activities, which were supported by the Faraday Institution Entrepreneurial Fellowship and the Innovate UK Advanced Cell Test (ACT) study, the organisation has developed both a cell testing service and a novel cell testing product, CellPods.
|By the numbers|
|>100||Number of specialist cell test channels available for customer use at Cognition facilities|
|>200||Cell test channels available by end 2021, with plans to scale up further in 2022|
|Q4 2021||First CellPods will go into production|
|1||Patent filed, related to novel battery electrical design that will reduce cost and increase recyclability|
|80%||Battery lifetime cost saving, with improved recyclability, demonstrated by applying Cognition thermal management expertise to a prototype battery pack for a customer in 2020|
Using its expertise, Cognition offers external organisations with a high-quality cell testing service. A large number of cell test channels are available at the organisation’s premises that replicate the thermal conditions that cells would experience in a pack. Cognition already has one major UK based customer for its testing service and is in discussions with others that recognise Cognition’s expertise in thermal management as an enabler to accelerate their battery development and extend battery life and reduce ownership costs.
The new cell testing product developed by Cognition, CellPods, are individual cell thermal chambers that mimic the surface cooled conditions inside a pack to give accurate and more representative test results. They have been designed for use on multiple cell types, with quick and easy changeovers that require no tools. Customers also benefit from an easy-to-use graphical interface.
Cognition has been using CellPods for its own internal developments since its founding and is in the last stages of commercialising the design for sale. There is significant interest in the product from industry and academia, both in the UK and Europe. Its design means it could be used by major pack manufacturers targeting all sectors. The company plans to launch the product before the end of 2021 and begin deliveries to customers by early 2022.
Tom Cleaver, Cogitation Energy describing CellPods.
The UK is already leading in battery system design. By taking a best practice engineering approach to pack design based on knowledge discovered in our research programme Cognition will accelerate the development of lower cost, more sustainable, better performing batteries.”
Ian Ellerington, Head of Technology Transfer – The Faraday Institution
Success story updated October 2021.