German joint industry project develops safer EV traction batteries

September 11, 2012 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Over the next three years, 15 partners from German science and the automotive and supply industry will research how the safety of lithium ion batteries can be further improved for electric and hybrid vehicles. Focal points of the research program dubbed SafeBatt will be new materials, test methods and semiconductor sensors for use in lithium ion batteries. 

The SafeBatt partners will investigate among other things how the cell chemistry can be optimized to increase the (intrinsic) safety of lithium ion battery cells; in particular that of the cathode material and the electrolytes. In addition, research will be done into totally new semiconductor sensors made of material never previously used in this area, such as graphene, in order to record the relevant safety parameters of the battery cell.

This includes for example chemical processes, the increase in pressure and the temperature cycles inside the cell. 

Another objective of the research is a “digital battery pass”, which continuously records, evaluates and stores safety-related battery parameters during the battery's operational life. The SafeBatt team also wants to develop new safety models for battery cells, which ascertain the correct operating status of the battery and at the same time take into consideration all possible extreme situations. Such extreme situations include the complete discharge of the battery at low temperatures or excessive operating temperature at in the summer, for example when the battery temperature control fails. In addition, SafeBatt experts want to optimize and standardize the test procedure for the product approval of batteries, since the test procedure used at the moment does not cover all conceivable extreme situations. 

The SafeBatt project was launched past July and will be completed in June 2015. It has been selected by the German government as a "lighthouse project" within the German government's National Plan Electromobility (NPE). Also the project costs of some 36 million euros will be covered in part (about 60 %) by the German government.

SafeBatt project partners include chemical giant BASF, carmakers BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen, battery experts such as Deutsche ACCUmotive, Evonik Litarion and Li-Tec Battery, automotive supplier ElringKlinger, GmbH, and electronics design company SGS Germany as well as chipmaker Infineon.