Thursday, July 29, 2010

A New Cell Cycler

Recharge your electric car in less than 10 minutes! This has been the dream of many current and future electric vehicle owners. But imagine the batteries in your car could only handle this rapid recharging maybe 400 times - about the lifetime of a laptop battery, charging at a normal pace. Let's do some math: 100 miles (the range of the Porsche 914 BEV) x 400 cycles = 40,000 miles per car. Who would want a car with a battery pack that only lasted three years? [1] Not EVT! We wanted top of the line batteries that could handle our abusive rapid recharging and put up a fight for an acceptable number of cycles. Just in time, we came across A123, one of the industry's leaders in battery technology.

A hundred battery boxes later, we were ready to put our A123 cells to the rapid recharge challenge. In order to test our new batteries, Lennon Rodgers set up a station to rapidly cycle - charge and discharge - an A123 cylindrical 26650 battery, pictured here. After cycling the cell repeatedly, he hoped that even with the deteriorating effect of rapid charging on any type of batteries, the cell wouldn't lose much of its original capacity. His results are shown in the graph below.

Excitingly, after almost 1500 cycles, the cell barely degraded. So, 1500 cycles corresponds to 150,000 miles which is nearly the average lifetime of a car. [2] This is much more reasonable for a commercially marketable battery pack. Though this result is exciting for the possibility of rapid recharge technology, only one cell was tested which does not constitute a statistically significant sample size. Therefore I have spent the last few weeks setting up a new cell cycler. This cycler will rapidly cycle the same type of battery, a cylindrical 26650 battery and hopefully support the results from the first test.

Here are some technical details of the circuit. The cycler has two parts connected
to the battery through a set of relay switches: 1) a power source used for constant current charging at 10Amps and 2) a .25Ω resistor through which the battery can discharge. During the entire cycle, the battery temperature, voltage and current as well as the temperature of the resistor are monitored and constantly checked for dangerously high or low values. The data is sent through an Arduino-controlled circuit to a wireless ioBridge module which allows us to remotely upload data to monitor the status of the battery and keep a running chart of its capacity.

After a brief setback in which I killed a cell (thank you to Shane Colton for his assistance in soldering a new replacement cell), the cycler is up and running. In the time since it was turned on last Friday, July 30th, it has undergone over 300 cycles. It will take about a month to complete the goal of 1500 cycles, but the cycler is well underway and showing promising results. Stay tuned for the results on the second cycler test as a step on our way to rapid recharge technology.



  1. Well Done! I think the idea of green cars is brilliant. I wonder why nobody is making a more replaceable battery. It’d be much easier to pull into a station and swap an empty battery with a full one.
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  2. Good going, Even if we are using the battery cells to run the car which is doesn't make a 100% green car,and also when we need to consider the waste battery pollution which is likely to increase in near future.
    So instead of working on existing models of batteries, we need to step up and try to create an Green battery which can dispose in the nature without producing the any type of pollution.

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