16th December - Valencia.
According to a recent report in The Engineer, ‘Strategic UK opportunities in passenger car electrification’ it states that with passenger cars requiring some form of electrification by 2030, the technology to achieve this will be crucial to the UK economy post COVID-19. The report highlights market growth opportunities of £12bn for batteries, £10bn for power electronics and £2bn for electric machines (i.e. electric motors) but claims that delivering on these opportunities will require suppliers to ramp up their capacity to 10 times current levels.
Elsewhere the emergence and exponential growth of breakthrough low-power IoT, wearable, hearable and edge devices has led to new system and IC design challenges where portable embedded computing systems require energy autonomy. This is achieved by batteries serving as a dedicated energy source. The requirement of portability places severe restrictions on size and weight, which in turn limits the amount of energy that is continuously available to maintain system operability. For these reasons, efficient energy utilization has become one of the key challenges to the designer of battery-powered embedded computing systems.
In addition, the transition towards a climate-neutral Europe requires a fundamental change in the way we generate and use energy. If batteries can be made simultaneously more sustainable, safe, ultra-high performing, and affordable, they will be true enablers.
Batteries are a key technology for battling carbon dioxide emissions from the transport, power, and industry sectors. However, to reach sustainability goals, batteries must exhibit ultra-high performance beyond their capabilities today.
While smartphones, smart homes and even smart wearables are growing ever more advanced, they're still limited by power. The battery hasn't advanced in decades.
Limitations of Battery technology
Batteries accounted for almost 90% of all patenting activity related to electricity storage, attributable to advances in Li-ion batteries used in consumer electronics and electric vehicles (EV). Li-ion technology has driven most battery innovation since 2005, accounting for 45% of all patenting activity related to battery cells in 2018, compared to 7% for cells hinged on other chemistries. Electric mobility in particular is fostering the development of new lithium-ion chemistries aimed at improving power output, durability, charge/discharge speed and recyclability.
However ‘Big technology’ and car companies are all too aware of the limitations of lithium-ion batteries. While chips and operating systems are becoming more efficient to save power we're still only looking at a day or two of use on a smartphone before having to recharge. However developments are on the way to help revolutionise the way new products are powered through battery innovations.
New Developments are making a breakthrough for advanced applications
New initiatives in battery performance and connectivity are paving the way for increased efficiency and space savings, particularly In Electric Vehicle production. Companies such as Analog Devices have developed a wireless battery management system (wBMS) which saves up to 90% of the wiring and 15% of battery pack volume. It includes all integrated circuits, hardware and software for power, battery management, RF communication, and system functions in a single system-level product. The system enables maximum energy use per cell required for best vehicle range and supports safe and sustainable zero-cobalt battery chemistries, such as lithium iron phosphate (LFP).
Researchers have developed a new battery material that could enable long-range electric vehicles that can drive for hundreds of miles on a single charge, and electric planes called eVTOLs for fast, environmentally friendly commutes.
The adoption of wearable electronics has so far been limited by their need to derive power from bulky, rigid batteries that reduce comfort and may present safety hazards due to chemical leakage or combustion. A soft and stretchable battery has now been developed that relies on a special type of plastic to store power more safely than the flammable formulations used in conventional batteries today. In lab tests the experimental battery maintained a constant power output even when squeezed, folded and stretched to nearly twice its original length. The paper-like battery can fold and is waterproof meaning it can be integrated into clothing and wearables.
In more advanced Appliance Engineering, battery pack manufacturers are confronted with increasing product complexity and an emerging workforce with non-traditional development roles. Battery packs have become extremely complex, with hundreds or thousands of cells, electronics, high-voltage wires, fans, coolant pumps, and other components. Pack suppliers look to further integrate additional power electronics components in the same housing of the battery pack to more effectively utilize volume and also to innovate novel thermal management schemes. To address these pack engineering issues, engineers need to account for CAD complexities for pack enclosure design and integration strategies.
Need for new types of engineers
As a result of the new designs necessary to incorporate new battery systems, the requirement for highly skilled electronics engineers has never been more acute. Whilst over $90 billion is due to be invested for the development of electric vehicles and associated battery tech by the world’s top auto manufacturers, much of that investment will be for more engineers involved in design, development, and test of electronic components and systems for these vehicles.
Wearable technology is also an emerging trend that integrates cutting-edge technology into everyday activities. It can be worn on a small part of the body and focuses on tracking and improving health, physical activity and well-being. The most common consumer uses are Smart Wearables technologies where ever advanced electronics and battery technology become more efficient and miniaturised.
The complex nature of these sectors will mean that more diverse types of electronics engineers will be needed to design and help driving these technologies forward. However finding the right engineers can be difficult. It requires expertise and experience to find the right skills in a market where there are global shortages.
CIS are experts and have a proven success in finding the right mix of skills and experience for contracting in EV and Wearables markets. Having cut its teeth in providing high quality electronic engineers for wBMS applications, they have continued to build a strong track record to provide the right skills for many ground-breaking technologies.