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Waldemar Linares Rodriguez, Manager, Advanced Simulation Technologies – AVL
One of the key components of electrification is the battery...the development of the battery. Developing the battery is by no means an easy task and requires a great deal of care and focus due to the hazard in handling this great amount of energy. There is always a risk something bad will happen working with batteries, even if just a 0.01% chance, something might fail. Of course, you want to minimize the risk, but you cannot completely eliminate the risk. So, how can we develop batteries in a safe manner, in a safe way? To find our answer, let’s explore how engineering teams harness the power of simulation during the battery development process.
Pitfalls of Physical Testing
When conducting a physical test on a battery, there is always a possibility that a negative event will leave you with a smoldering pile of something in which you cannot test, and you cannot evaluate what happened or where it originated. This drives costs and consumes valuable time—especially when testing several variants and batteries.
As engineers, how do we mitigate these challenges? We do so by defining the measures and countermeasures for when that happens. Doing this in the traditional way of testing, evaluating, testing, evaluating, going back to the drawing board, testing, and so on, is not practical anymore because of the cost and time associated with that method.
Leveraging the Digital Twin
Today, we are examining how you can do this type of testing in the virtual environment. We can take a digital twin—a computerized replica of a physical battery—and destroy the battery in a virtual space. Now, we can see all the details of what happened to the battery from that point of failure. In physical battery testing, a negative event typically ends with a pile of ashes and soot. You cannot trace back the source of the failure. This is such an important revelation when it comes to developing batteries and, really, the essence of electrification—not only for vehicles, but for anything that has a battery.
"Simulation is one of the tools that must be utilized in battery development, and it is also a key enabler in developing fleets of electric vehicles."
Simulation during the development process allows engineering teams to apply real-world conditions to a unit under test in a virtual environment. When it comes to battery testing, this enables these same teams to evaluate active and passive safety features in a safe, controlled environment. The beauty of that is that you can destroy thousands and thousands of batteries in a virtual environment which costs a fraction of doing the same with prototype batteries in the real world. And it takes a fraction of the time. Simulation is one of the tools that must be utilized in battery development, and it is also a key enabler in developing fleets of electric vehicles.
Optimizing the battery for safer driver experience
To reiterate, you need to mitigate the risk to the minimum, to almost zero, have redundancies in your systems, and check conditions that may not typically be considered in physical testing. Virtualization and simulation allow you to test those conditions that may be thought of as outside of reality but can be just another simple test case in the virtual environment. There is certainly a level of certification that must be done with physical testing, but you will just test what is necessary for your application. Simulation enables you to optimize the testing of your battery (necessary or “unnecessary”) to develop the most safe and efficient design.
Furthermore, the increasing complexity of battery technology and, at the same time, pressure from battery markets in a “Go Fast World”, makes it critical to produce a design that has been thoroughly tested and modeled. When you experience a failure in an ICE engine, you may just end up stranded on the side of the road. However, failure in an electric vehicle—typically meaning a failure of the battery—can result in a catastrophic event. Unfortunately, it is contradictory in that you want to develop something that is more secure, higher quality, and more mature in the market, but you need it faster. The only way to do this is by combining those necessary physical battery tests with a full array of testing in the virtual environment.