Improving EV battery safety with new energy absorption design

Researchers improve the safety and performance of EVs through a new design that protects their batteries.

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FAMU-FSU College of Engineering doctoral candidate Farhad Farzaneh and Professor Sungmoon Jung are improving the safety and performance of electric vehicles through a new design that protects their batteries.

The impact loading of structures has received growing attention in recent years. It’s crucial that crash absorbers are designed to be both lightweight and reliable while still being able to absorb a significant amount of energy in the event of an accident.

The new design uses tubes filled with paraffin wax, a phase change material (PCM) commonly used to store and dissipate heat. This makes these materials useful for protecting a battery from overheating.

The researchers’ new method uses PCM-filled tubes in another way, exploring their application to protect electric vehicle batteries from overheating and impacts.

“We want to manage the risk of battery damage in a crash,” said Farhad Farzaneh, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the study’s lead investigator. “This is a significant concern in the overall safety and reliability of electric vehicles and will help advance their adoption in the automotive industry.”

The PCM-filled circular tubes – with caps and orifices on their end surfaces – soften the blow from impact and absorb heat, keeping nearby battery cells at a safe temperature and protecting against temperature rise that might lead to a fire.

In their research, the team examined thin-walled aluminum tubes with a range of diameters, thicknesses of exterior metal, and end cap designs. After carefully analyzing the parameters affecting their performance, they developed models to predict how they would perform based on those parameters and verified them through experiments.

Researchers discovered that tubes capped on their ends and tubes filled with PCM can absorb significantly more energy than unfilled tubes. They found that the capped tubes absorbed about 43% more energy, while the filled tubes absorbed a whopping 74% more energy.

“Impact loading on the battery module is a major risk in adopting electric vehicles,” said co-author Professor Sungmoon Jung. “Of course, every measure you adopt to protect a vehicle has trade-offs for things such as weight. Farhad’s research found an innovative way to combine two protective measures into one to improve the safety of electric vehicles.”

In addition to making batteries safer in the event of a crash, the research could indirectly improve battery life by minimizing potential damage from a less intense impact or thermal issues.

“By incorporating PCM-filled tubes in electric vehicle batteries, we hope to prevent catastrophic events and improve the overall reliability and durability of the battery system,” Farzaneh said.

Journal reference:

  1. Farhad Farzaneh, Sungmoon Jung. Experimental and numerical investigation on enhancing capped-end tube energy absorption capacity by orifice effect. Structures, 2023; DOI: 10.1016/j.istruc.2023.05.015
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