“When working with a technology area under development you need to be careful not to make mandatory requirements limiting for the technology, and locking technology into existing solutions.”
Annika Tidblad at Volvo Cars is the battery specialist who has become one of Sweden’s leading technical experts on standardization and legal requirements for electric vehicles. Within Swedish Electromobility Centre, she contributes both with her competencies and her networks. In September, a meeting for the United Nations electric vehicle safety group will be hosted by the Centre.
Annika, tell us about your special competence and your way here?
“I am foremost an expert in battery technology and its use in various types of applications; from cell chemistry and materials to application requirements and usage perspectives. I work on standardization work within the SIS and various ISO groups, but even more with regulatory issues.”
“The road here has been quite long but determined. After 10 years as a researcher in applied electrochemistry and corrosion theory at KTH, I started working for a company in Järfalla, who was then the world leader in independent battery testing and battery usage guidance. It was eventually sold to Intertek. I was there for 11 years and worked partly with testing issues – standardized tests, but also developing tailor-made testing programs for different applications that lacked standards for a wide range of applications: portable electronics, medical technology, different types of vehicles, telecom, and so on. In order to understand how and what is interesting to test, I had to get into what different applications required in terms of electrical performance, climate and environmental resistance, maintenance and cost perspective, and more. The more I learned, the more obvious it became just how much test methodology and requirements control the product development and the direction of the resulting technical solutions.”
“In parallel, I worked as a quality manager for the company’s accredited battery testing and as a technical assessor of corrosion labs for SWEDAC, which meant that I spent more and more time interpreting and understanding the background to different standards and systematic working methods. Thereafter, the step was not far to slip into the area of legal requirements, which is both about asking relevant requirements for different characteristics, but also for establishing fair methods for verifying compliance with the requirements. When working with a technology area under development you need to be careful not to make mandatory requirements limiting for the technology, and locking technology into existing solutions. This requires long-term consistency thinking and ability to explain and defend complex technical connections for non-experts and government agencies with several different agendas. I like the challenge because it forces me to use many different skills besides the purely technical factual skills, such as pedagogy, rhetoric, psychology, politics…”
“I’m probably quite unique in my career, not only in Sweden, because there are not so many “tech nerds” dealing with legal requirements and lobbying, and I feel that my knowledge is highly valued by both the international automotive industry and several agencies around in the world.”
What are the major issues and challenges?
“For electric vehicles, there is a lot of focus on electrical and battery safety as well as electrical performance characteristics. The absolute biggest challenge is to secure a sensible development atmosphere for battery technology and associated systems for electric vehicles. There is a high risk of locking the technology at the existing level, therefore obstructing or preventing further development of battery technology with higher energy density than today.”
Where do you see the need for more research?
“I think the research done today needs to be complemented with more systematic issues, for example, to demonstrate that battery technology is safe and that incidents can be detected and prevented in time, before catastrophic accidents with high potential damage occur.”
“In addition, I would like to see a broader approach to the “State of Health” in order to prevent unnecessary aging and wear of battery systems, with better diagnostics and understanding of what drives different types of degenerative processes.”
Annika Tidblad discusses with participants in a workshop on battery safety with Swedish Electromobility Centre at KTH in May 2018.
How is Sweden doing in an international perspective?
“My feeling is that we are good at both research and product development. We have a long tradition of conscious, systematic work with safety and quality. There is also great openness for different types of solutions, not least at the technical systems level, which I think is absolutely crucial in order to enable development towards increasingly more energy and power dense battery systems.”
In September, the Swedish Electromobility Center will host a “UN meeting”. What is it about – and how come the meeting ended up here?
“It is a working group meeting within the framework of the UN vehicle regulatory body. I have been active in the informal working group for Electric Vehicle Safety for many years now, and leads certain issues on behalf of the industry. At the moment, especially those relating to thermal runaway and propagation. I was previously appointed spokesperson for the heavy (vehicle) side of the working group. The meetings circulate between different participating countries. Given that we from Sweden have a strong presence and great impact in the working group for our knowledge and experience, it was great to invite the group to Sweden. I contacted the Swedish Energy Agency about three years ago, and thanks to their support it has become possible.”
Which questions will be discussed?
“Legal requirements for electrical vehicle safety: electrical safety and battery safety. This is phase 2 of the development of the Global Technical Regulations (GTR), which then provides the basis for harmonization of legal requirements among member states and regions. The result will be noted in the UN ECE R100 et al, but also in other related legal requirements. Already a revision of R100-02 is underway with regard to new requirements developed in Phase 1, which are documented in GTR 20, published this year.”
What do you hope to achieve?
“We want balanced and fair requirements and associated verification methods, and that they are harmonized in all major international markets. Particularly important at the moment is vibration resistance, thermal runaway and propagation, water resistance, and requirements on the interface between charger and battery. New technology is often perceived as much more dangerous than existing, and it can easily lead to over-regulation, thereby discriminating new technologies. We hope to prevent this.”
“Electric vehicles: Shifting gear or changing direction?” is a case study by the EU agency Eurofound within their project Future of Manufacturing in Europe. The study is focused on the impact of electric vehicles for the European vehicle manufacturing industry.
Swedish Electromobility Centre played a key role in the execution of the study by offering knowledge about, and contacts to, the Swedish vehicle industry. The Centre hosted a workshop at Chalmers with representatives from the west Sweden vehicle cluster, which contributed to the findings. The participants were Michael Östberg, Alelion, Hans Fogelberg, Region Västra Götaland, Hans-Olof Dahlberg, Swedish Energy Agency, Pontus Andreasson, Volvo, JC Persson from ETC Battery and FuelCells, and the Swedish Electromobility Centre’s Director Elna Holmberg and electric vehicle expert Magnus Karlström.
The study concludes that the production of the electric drivetrain and the batteries of electric vehicles will lead to changes both in the production line and in the value chain. The transition to electric vehicles and changes in the value chain will influence tasks and jobs and the demand for skills. Manufacturing of electric vehicles requires a wide range of engineers, for example power electronics. The required new skills are often related to using new materials, producing and developing the batteries, increased use of IT, and designing and operating the production process itself, for example process engineering. In addition, skills are required to integrate new technology into vehicles. Multidisciplinary skill sets such as mechatronics are going to be an asset.
Production and uptake of electric vehicles will also lead to new occupations outside the manufacturing industry. The establishment of charging infrastructures creates new jobs in energy, construction and service sectors.
The study also concludes that public and public-private actions and strategies for promoting the transition to Electric vehicles require collaboration between the industry and higher education institutions to ensure that the high-qualified skills needed will be distributed.
Future of Manufacturing in Europe, FOME is a pilot project proposed by the European Parliament and delegated to Eurofound by the European Commission.The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) is a tripartite European Union Agency, whose role is to provide knowledge in the area of social, employment and workrelated policies.
How do we know where electric bus chargers should be built? And how big batteries do the buses really need? A new analysis tool makes it easier to decide where chargers are to be placed and the size of the batteries. Several Swedish cities have already been using the tool in the procurement of electric bus traffic.
The analysis tool has been developed within the project Energy transfer solutions for electrified bus systems (EAEB), financed by the Swedish Energy Agency. The project has looked at technology and costs for electric buses running within large areas and with different types of bus lines.
From Swedish Electromobility Center, Electric vehicle specialist Anders Grauers at Chalmers University of Technology has participated in the project.
Summary of the project
Electric buses are in many cases a cost-effective alternative to gas buses in city traffic. They also represent a realistic alternative to diesel-powered city buses run on HVO, especially if access to HVO in the long run will be scarce. What kind of electric bus system is most cost-effective depends on several factors and requires careful analysis. There is no universal, simple solution.
In the project, a method has been developed to analyze single lines as well as more complex traffic areas with a number of lines, more or less intertwined. A tool has been developed that, among other things, simulates charging and energy consumption, visualizes vehicle schedules and calculates the total cost in a simple way. The tool makes it possible to compare different ways of designing an electric bus system by understanding how the respective systems are affected by, for example, bus frequencies and stop times, vehicle parameters, and the location of charging infrastructure and depot. The tool is particularly suitable for regional public transport authorities in order to create the right conditions for and make the right demands in procurement of electric bus systems.
On May 16, 2018, Swedish Electromobility Centre and its theme Electrical Machines and Drives invited to Theme Conference, a meeting point for researchers and engineers from both industry and academia to discuss the latest technical developments in their field.
The event was held at the historical and beautiful Kulturen in Lund. In a sunny and warm summer setting, the attendees learned from an exciting technical program configured around three different topics: modelling and testing of electric drives, unconventional machine designs and system concepts and analysis.
The event was smoothly guided by Thematic Area Researcher Francisco Márquez, and we caught up with him to ask about the concept and outcome of the day.
Fran, what was the purpose of the Theme conference?
“To gather as many researchers from Theme Electrical Machines and Drives as possible in order to discuss the technical details of some of the projects funded by the Centre – the available time does not allow to discuss all of them! Organising a full-day event also allows for more in-depth discussions, both during the presentation and question time, and while mingling at lunch and coffee breaks.”
What was your impression of the day?
“It was a very productive day! Not only did we get to know the details from some projects that hadn’t been shared yet, but there also were new faces – both from the Centre and outside – and a fantastic guest presentation from AVL Germany about novel techniques for e-motor emulation.”
Other highlights from the presentations?
“All the presentations were really interesting, with a strong technical detail focus rather than just general overview. From a personal perspective, I really liked the presentations focusing on testing of both electrical machines – dynamic testing and loss characterization – and power converters, with the e-motor emulator. On the other hand, the presentation about the effect of AC current on battery ageing was also excellent and brings up an interesting topic for joint research with Theme Energy Storage!”
What feedback did you receive from the attendees afterwards?
“Everyone seems very happy with the outcome! Most attendees appreciated the quality of the presentations, the fact that they were technically focused rather than commercial or of a more general scope. Moreover, they also expressed that it was nice to have a full day to “forget” about the office job and focus on interesting technical discussions, having direct access to those performing the research.”
How will you continue from this conference?
“We are now planning the activities to come in the autumn. As usual, we will try to focus on those aspects that are regarded interesting by our partners in the Centre, both industrial and academics. In addition, we will surely participate in the Roads to the Future conference – the Centre’s general scope conference. Stay tuned!”
The life-span of lithium-ion batteries is a limiting factor for the electrified cars of today. Researchers from Chalmers now have succeeded in developing models to avoid premature aging of batteries, models which can also provide the car with higher performance in terms of shorter charging time, longer mileage and faster acceleration. The research has been rewarded the Volvo Cars Technology Award.
The researchers in the project were awarded the Volvo Cars Technology Award 2017. The awardees are, from the left in the picture, Doctoral student Anton Klintberg, Professor Torsten Wik, Hannes Kuusisto from Volvo Cars and Industrial doctoral student Björn Fridholm. They were all honoured with flowers and diplomas by representatives from Volvo Cars, with CEO Håkan Samuelsson in the lead.
An increasing number of car owners consider replacing their fossil-fueled cars with vehicles that are powered entirely or partly by electricity. However, the batteries used in electric vehicles are still comparatively expensive, and there is still a lack of knowledge concerning how the battery life-span can be kept as long as possible.
”If you charge lithium-ion batteries correctly and use them in a smart way, you can avoid premature aging of the batteries,” says Torsten Wik, Professor and research group leader in automatic control at Chalmers. “It may sound simple but there are many factors to consider, and it is important to understand how battery life and function are affected.”
More precise and adaptive calculations
One of the difficulties is that it is not possible to measure the condition of the battery, it must be calculated. Also, the factors are constantly changing, depending on the temperature, current and cell voltage, as well as the age of the battery. This means that the algorithms must be adaptive in order to constantly adjust to the changing conditions.
“The novelty is that the algorithms we have developed constantly depend on the behaviour of the individual battery cells, instead of having to assess the condition of the battery in advance,” says Torsten Wik. “This makes our calculations much more accurate. The capacity of the battery is thus being used more efficiently, and you can avoid putting a strain on the battery that causes it to age prematurely.”
Tests show that the battery thus can deliver an additional 10 percent in peak power and that the actual maximum power can be estimated at an accuracy of 2 percent.
Lithium-ion batteries are central components in electric cars and have major impact on performance and costs for the future development of electrified vehicles.
The automotive industry shows great interest
Research has been ongoing since 2012 and is financed by the Swedish Energy Agency. Volvo Cars is participating as a partner, and Björn Fridholm, industrial doctoral student, has an active role in the project.
“The battery is the most expensive component in an electric car,” says Björn Fridholm. “If we can use the batteries more efficiently, it would be of great economic significance and a strategically important driving force for the continued development of electric vehicles. The cooperation with Chalmers has built up important knowledge, that we at Volvo Cars now are implementing in our products.”
Recently, the researchers in the project have been awarded the Volvo Cars Technology Award in the category Research. The project has so far resulted in three patent applications.
“It’s great that the results of the research have come to use so quickly,” Torsten Wik says. “Now we proceed to refine our calculation models even more. In the next step, we will focus on what is physically happening in the battery cells. This will require a large extent of computational power in the vehicle, but in return it is likely to provide additional potential of cost reductions and improved performance.