Electric cars are cleaner to run and kinder to the environment than their petrol or diesel-powered counterparts, making them a research and development priority for car manufacturers the world over. But developing and testing electric vehicles (EVs) comes with new risks. This is because they are powered by lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, which can catch fire or explode if they become compromised. Specialist solutions are required to minimise the operational risk associated with Li-ion batteries and enable safe EV production.
One European car manufacturer with a reputation for being at the forefront of the development of EVs recognised the limitations this risk was imposing on EV production. Specifically, it needed solutions for the safe storage of multiple types of Li-ion batteries, in all manner of different conditions, to reduce that risk and maintain its market-leading position.
Emtez was the only manufacturer on the market capable of developing safe Li-ion battery storage solutions that met its specific requirements.
A solution for every battery
Li-ion batteries come in all shapes and sizes, with each battery type imposing its own level of risk on operations. Due to the large volume of battery tests carried out by this manufacturer, and the wide range of different Li-ion batteries it used, a one-size-fits-all solution would not provide the security it needed to safely develop its EVs and hybrid vehicles.
It is also important that the manufacturer could differentiate between the different storage needs of, for example, new Li-ion batteries or batteries in good condition, uncharged batteries and, above all, damaged or quarantined batteries. Li-ion batteries are at their most dangerous when they have been made unstable, either through physical damage, a manufacturing fault, or exposure to high temperatures. In this state, a fire or explosion as a result of the battery undergoing a chemical process called thermal runaway is much higher.
Yet when the manufacturer approached us, it wasn’t clear on how the different conditions impacted the risk levels surrounding the batteries or their specific storage requirements.
A collaborative approach to problem-solving
To reach a design that took into account all possible aspects of practicality, safety, and ease of manufacture raised by our engineers and the customer, we followed a three-step process:
1. Car manufacturer’s team raises the needs
2. A meeting is held to define the necessary model and its needs
3. A first design is made for review by the customer
This level of collaboration was key to capturing the precise needs of the customer and creating a design that reflected those needs in a way that was efficient to manufacture.
We repeated the process four times, leading to the development of four specialist storage units. However, by manufacturing several independent cabinets within each container, their storage capabilities were significantly improved without detracting from their security; each of the storage compartments is an element contained from the rest, with its own safety means.
With each container developed, we evolved the safety capabilities included in line with the risk level of the batteries they would store. This included increasing the structural integrity of the containers and adding prevention and extinguishing systems.
Accordingly, the last container developed included the highest level of safety features. This is because it was designed for EV batteries in critical condition. It is the first Li-ion battery storage container designed with its own extinguishing system, and it works by acting in the early stages of a thermal event to both put out the fire and prevent reignition. It achieves this through an innovative system based on immersion of the battery in a cooling liquid capable of controlling the temperature of the battery. This is key to mitigate the thermal escalation that usually occurs during an Li-ion battery fire, preventing it from spreading to the rest of the cells of the battery itself and the rest of the batteries stored in the same container.
Where safety meets innovation
As a leader in the Li-ion battery safety space, our partnership with this car manufacturer has been instrumental in securing the safety of its personnel, its facilities, and its overall control of safety measures across all its EV operations. This would not have been possible without the commitment and the collaboration of the manufacturer’s own vehicle specialists, whose involvement has ensured our solutions mapped to the precise needs of its EV production.
Being pioneers in the industry, the car manufacturer in question has shown foresight in adopting these elements before problems arise. Working with the team there has been a positive experience for both parties, allowing us to enhance our products by designing specific containers tailored to their needs.
This collaboration has resulted in the creation of the first Li-ion battery storage model that addresses problems at the early stages of a thermal event. We are grateful to the customer for its trust in us and for providing us with the opportunity to work alongside a pioneering automotive manufacturer. Our collaboration continues as we strive to develop new products to meet the manufacturer’s evolving needs across its EV operations.
For more information about this project or to enquire about a custom EV storage solution for your site, click the image below to get in touch.