13 September 2018: Battery makers and OEMs met on the eve of the European Lead Battery Conference in Vienna last week to discuss, among other things, the need to standardize auxiliary car batteries to reduce the risk of their being replaced entirely by lithium batteries.
All auxiliary batteries — which operate the electrical systems in cars — are lead, but this is an area the lithium battery industry could well move into.
Geoffrey May (pictured), of Focus Consulting and consultant to the Consortium for Battery Innovation, CBI (formerly ALABC), chaired the workshop and said the threat that lithium batteries could replace lead batteries was a real one.
“We want to make sure that in the future, auxiliary batteries used in various forms of hybrid or electric vehicle are always lead,” he said. “For us to ensure this they have to become standardized across the industry, at a lower cost and much higher reliability.”
The workshop, which followed discussions held by OEMs and battery manufacturers in Spain earlier this year and in Germany in 2017 through the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (Cenelec), also discussed better testing and functional safety for lead batteries.
Improvements are vital now that stop-start batteries have become the norm in new European cars and are becoming more widely used in North America.
As more electric functions are added to new vehicles, batteries needed to be better and better, said May, and this included their functional safety.
“They have to be totally reliable over time,” said May. “As the number of functions increases the level of reliability needed goes up. The battery will become the responsibility of the car manufacturer, and they will have to know that the battery supporting these safety systems is completely reliable.”
May said that accurate testing was an issue that needs to be addressed across the industry.
On the question of higher water loss in EFBs, May said: “We have discovered that the present high temperature tests do not accurately reflect what happens in actual service. The tests provide the basis for comparing different technologies, designs and battery suppliers but real-world conditions and testing are needed to strengthen – and validate – the role of lead-acid batteries in the automotive industry.”
Trials have been carried out in Las Vegas, he said, where it has been discovered that water loss rates are lower in practice than in the laboratory. “We need new methods of testing to create a measure of battery durability,” said May.
EFBs are used for smaller, high-volume cars and AGM batteries for larger vehicles with more complex electrical systems.
Li-ion batteries offer high dynamic charge acceptance – another issue the workshop reiterated was in urgent need of improvement in lead batteries.
Lithium batteries are improving in terms of low temperature performance, but still have limitations with operating temperature and a significant cost premium.
Also on the panel were Eckhard Karden, technical expert with the Ford Research and Innovation Centre in Germany; Torsten Hildebrandt, who sits on the Cenelec; and Joern Albers, technical leader requirements and standards with Johnson Controls.
Immediately after the workshop, Karden demonstrated a prototype eGAS electronic gas analysis system by measX for the first time.
The system allows online, in-situ measurement and analysis of gas flows emitted by lead batteries. It is being developed under contract to CBI (formerly ALABC).