Ultra-thin sensors could extend electric vehicle ranges

Researchers from GE, Ford Motor and the University of Michigan are collecting data to help optimize performance and minimize range anxiety.

GE, Ford and the University of Michigan want to prevent electric vehicle owners from having range-anxiety attacks.

Together, they are researching new sensor technologies that could help optimize battery management, giving drivers far more control over how far vehicles could be driven. The R&D effort is the subject of a three-year long, $3.1 million project that has received funding under the ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy) program. 

Sensors are already used for this purpose today, but the new technology would allow them to be placed in locations that were previously inaccessible, providing more information about temperature, voltage and currents than was previously possible.

GE is providing the sensor technology, which will be used by University of Michigan researchers to create data that can be used to predict future behavior.

"Ensuring a battery's health over many cycles requires taking frequent snapshots of its condition as it ages," said Charles Monroe, a chemical engineering professor on the R&D team. "Control systems on cars have to be able to use this vast amount of data quickly and efficiently. Information provided by advanced sensors will allow us to create and verify finely resolved physical models to underpin battery management schemes."

Ford vehicles will be used to validate and verify the management algorithms being collected by the sensors. "Ultimately, through this collaboration, we anticipate being able to deliver more cost-effective and durable battery system solutions to our customers," said Tony Philips, senior technical leader of vehicle controls, research and engineering for Ford.



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