DOT lab works with Hyundai to improve EV battery safety in high-speed crashes

Researchers at National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are working to make electric vehicles (EVs) safer by investigating ways to make high-voltage batteries more resistant to damage in high-speed crashes.

Through a collaboration with Hyundai, NREL said it hopes it can further strengthen the resilience of electric vehicle batteries by improving the amount of heat the battery is able to withstand in the event of damage.

NREL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that focuses on research and development in renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy system integration, and sustainable transportation.

“Our goal is to understand how mechanical damage leads to battery failure and internal shorting,” NREL researcher Anudeep Mallarapu said in a statement. “Damage at the cell level tends to cause a chain reaction within the battery. However, if we manage the heat generated, we can reduce the likelihood of thermal runaway and improve overall battery safety.

According to NREL, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have concluded that electric vehicles are at least as safe as conventional vehicles. “In the event of a collision, EV batteries automatically disconnect from the vehicle to reduce battery damage. In addition, current EV designs feature a lower center of gravity, provide improved stability, and reduce the likelihood of crashing. ‘a rollover accident,’ he said.

“The key to designing long-lasting, reliable and safe EV batteries is understanding the impact of damage to the battery module,” NREL said. “With battery data in hand, NREL researchers can also develop predictive models of battery abuse that easily integrate with existing vehicle crash simulations.”

NREL has developed new capabilities to assess battery performance in “high-velocity dynamic impacts”. Testing begins with lab-level tension and compression experiments at the component level; switch to high-speed recording of 10,000 to 40,000 frames per second when the cell is damaged, and conclude with a detailed analysis of the thermal and electrochemical reactions, determining how the gas and temperature distribution changes during cell failure. battery to show how designs can be improved.

“Most crashes don’t happen slowly, and battery research should reflect real-world scenarios,” Mallarapu said. “High-speed abuse testing is critical to our understanding of the safety and reliability of electric vehicle batteries.”

Hyundai and MREL are using the test results to create mathematical models and computer simulations that can “streamline” crash ratings for electric vehicle batteries. “By validating these impact models against laboratory experiments, researchers can more quickly analyze battery response to different types of mechanical damage,” MREL said.

YongHa Han, who heads Hyundai’s virtual technology innovation research lab, said the research could help improve the fire safety of electric vehicles.

“As concerns about the fire safety of high-voltage batteries increase with the growing adoption of electric vehicles, it is critical that we develop multiphysics simulation techniques that can predict this danger in advance,” Han said.

“Under these circumstances, collaboration with specialist research institutes such as NREL, which has extensive development experience and capabilities related to electric vehicle batteries, is essential. We hope that the core technologies needed by Hyundai Motor Group will be effectively developed by establishing a continuous joint research and cooperation system. »

The final phase of the collaboration calls for extending the research from battery modules to entire battery packs, to see how cells react when multiple modules are damaged. NREL expects future research to improve crash simulation technology and accelerate the evaluation of electric vehicle designs.


Feature Image: NREL materials scientist Anthony Donakowski prepares a battery impact test device for demonstration at a recent meeting with Hyundai officials. (Werner Slocum/NREL)

Mechanical engineering researcher Anudeep Mallarapu demonstrates NREL’s battery safety modeling and experimentation during a recent meeting with Hyundai officials. (Werner Slocum/NREL)

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