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1.

Comparing the Battery with other Power Sources

Efficiency
The battery is highly efficient. Below 70 percent charge, the charge efficiency is close to 100
percent and the discharge losses are only a few percent. In comparison, the energy efficiency
of the fuel cell is 20 to 60 percent, and the thermal engines is 25 to 30 percent. (At optimal air
intake speed and temperature, the GE90-115 on the Boeing 777 jetliner is 37 percent
efficient.)
Installation
The sealed battery operates in any position and offers good shock and vibration tolerance.
This benefit does not transfer to the flooded batteries that must be installed in the upright
position. Most IC engines must also be positioned in the upright position and mounted on
shock- absorbing dampers to reduce vibration. Thermal engines also need air and an exhaust.
Operating cost
Lithium- and nickel-based batteries are best suited for portable devices; lead acid batteries are
economical for wheeled mobility and stationary applications. Cost and weight make batteries
impractical for electric powertrains in larger vehicles. The price of a 1,000-watt battery (1kW)
is roughly $1,000 and it has a life span of about 2,500 hours. Adding the replacement cost of
$0.40/h and an average of $0.10/kWh for charging, the cost per kWh comes to about $0.50.
The IC engine costs less to build per watt and lasts for about 4,000 hours. This brings the cost
per 1kWh to about $0.34. [BU-1101, Battery Against Fossil Fuel]
Maintenance
With the exception of watering of flooded lead batteries and discharging NiCds to prevent
memory, rechargeable batteries require low maintenance. Service includes cleaning of
corrosion buildup on the outside terminals and applying periodic performance checks.
Service life
The rechargeable battery has a relatively short service life and ages even if not in use. In
consumer products, the 3- to 5-year lifespan is satisfactory. This is not acceptable for larger
batteries in industry, and makers of the hybrid and electric vehicles guarantee their batteries
for 8 to 10 years. The fuel cell delivers 2,000 to 5,000 hours of service and, depending on
temperature, large stationary batteries are good for 5 to 20 years.
Temperature extremes
Like molasses, cold temperatures slow the electrochemical reaction and batteries do not
perform well below freezing. The fuel cell shares the same problem, but the internal
combustion engine does well once warmed up. Charging must always be done above freezing.
Operating at a high temperature provides a performance boost but this causes rapid aging due
to added stress. [BU0502, Discharging at High and Low Temperatures]
Charge time
Here, the battery has an undisputed disadvantage. Lithium- and nickel-based systems take 1 to
3 hours to charge; lead acid typically takes 14 hours. In comparison, filling up a vehicle only
takes a few minutes. Although some electric vehicles can be charged to 80 percent in less than
one hour on a high-power outlet, users of electric vehicles will need to make adjustments.
Disposal
Nickel-cadmium and lead acid batteries contain hazardous material and cannot be disposed of
in landfills. Nickel-metal-hydrate and lithium systems are environmentally friendly and can
be disposed of with regular household items in small quantities. Authorities recommend that
all batteries be recycled.
Select between maximum runtime, long service life, small size and low cost.
Rechargeable batteries play an important role in our lives and many daily chores would be
unthinkable without the ability to recharge an empty battery. As the battery improves, an
increasing number of devices are fitted with rechargeable batteries. The points of interest are
good runtimes, economical price, long life, large loading capabilities, safe operation, ease of

storage and disposal.


The most common rechargeable batteries are Lead acid, NiCd, NiMH and Li-ion.
Lead Acid This is the oldest rechargeable battery system. Lead acid is rugged,
forgiving if abused and is economically priced; but it has a low specific energy and
limited cycle life. Lead acid is used for wheelchairs, golf cars, personnel carriers,
emergency lighting and uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Lead is toxic and cannot
be disposed in landfills.

Nickel-cadmium Mature and well understood, NiCd is used where long service life,
high discharge current and extreme temperatures are required. NiCd is one of the most
rugged and enduring batteries; it is the only chemistry that allows ultra-fast charging
with minimal stress. Main applications are power tools, medical devices, aircraft
batteries and UPS. Due to environmental concerns, NiCd is being replaced with other
chemistries. Cadmium is toxic.

Nickel-metal-hydride A practical replacement for NiCd, NiMH has only mild toxic
metals and provides higher specific energy. NiMH is used for medical instruments,
hybrid cars and industrial applications. NiMH is also available in AA and AAA cells
for consumer use.

Lithium-ion Most promising battery chemistry, Li-ion is replacing many applications


that were previously served by lead and nickel-based batteries. More delicate than
most other chemistries, Li-ion needs a protection circuit for safety. Li-ion is more
expensive than most other batteries but high cycle count and low maintenance reduce
the cost per cycle over many other chemistries.

Battery research gravitates towards lead- and lithium-based batteries. AGM (Absorbent Glass
Mat) is a major battery type in the lead acid family and lead acid with carbon additives are
making progress by allowing faster charge and increasing cycle life. (See BU-202: New Lead
Acid Systems). Lead acid is estimated to grow in market share, but the bulk of battery growth
is with Li-ion. (See BU-204: How do Lithium Batteries Work?)
Table 1 compares the characteristics of the four commonly used rechargeable battery systems
showing average performance ratings at time of publication. Li-ion is divided into many
different types, each is described in more detail in BU-205: Types of Lithium-ion. The
batteries are so named by their active materials that in most cases are the cathode. The
traditional Li-ion systems are cobalt, manganese and phosphate.
Missing in the list is the popular lithium-ion-polymer. This battery gets its name from the
unique separator and electrolyte system that energizes the battery. Once fully developed and
refined, the polymer architecture has a large potential.
Also missing is the rechargeable lithium-metal. This battery is subject to more development in
controlling dendrite growth, which can compromise safety. Once resolved, Li-metal has the
prospect of becoming an alternative battery choice with extraordinary high specific energy
and good specific power. Other promising lithium-based batteries are making advancements,
albeit very incremental. These are described under BU-211: Alternative Battery
Systems and BU-212: Experimental Rechargeable Batteries.
Unique packaging has made Li-ion available and affordable. The most common format is the
18650, a cell that measures 18mm in diameter and is 65mm long. This format offers the
largest variety, highest specific energy, lowest cost per Wh and perhaps also provides the most
reliable service. Over 2.5 billion 18650 cells have been produced in 2013. (See BU-301: A
look at Old and New Battery Packaging.)
Three unique categories of Li-ion have emerged, each addressing different applications.
Available in 18650 (and other formats) these categories are the Energy Cell energy with high
capacity, the Power Cell with high loading capabilities and the Hybrid Cells that satisfies both

requirements at compromised performance levels. Other cells are made for extended
temperature range and extremely long cycle counts.

Table 1: Characteristics of commonly used rechargeable batteries. The figures are based
on average ratings of commercial batteries at time of publication. Specialty batteries with
above-average ratings are excluded.
1. Combining cobalt, nickel, manganese and aluminum raises energy density up to
250Wh/kg.
2. Cycle life is based on the depth of discharge (DoD). Shallow DoD prolongs cycle life.
3. Cycle life is based on battery receiving regular maintenance to prevent memory.
4. Ultra-fast charge batteries are specially made (See BU-401a: Fast and Ultra-fast
Chargers)

5. Self-discharge is highest immediately after charge. NiCd loses 10% in the first 24
hours, then declines to 10% every 30 days. High temperature and age increase selfdischarge.
6. 1.25V is traditional; 1.20V is more commonly. (See BU-303: Confusion with
Voltages).
7. Manufacturers may rate voltage higher because of low internal resistance (marketing).
8. Capable of high current pulses; needs time to recuperate.
9. Do not charge Li-ion below freezing. See BU-410: Charging at High and Low
Temperatures.
10. Maintenance may be in the form of equalizing or topping charge to prevent sulfation.
11. Protection circuit cuts off below about 2.20V and above 4.30V on most Li-ion;
different voltage settings apply for lithium-iron-phosphate.
12. Li-ion may have lower cost-per-cycle than lead acid.

2. Types of Lithium-ion
Lithium-ion is named after their active material, written in full or specified by their chemical
symbols. A series of letters and numbers strung together can be hard to pronounce and
remember and battery chemistries are also given in abbreviated letters.
For example, lithium cobalt oxide, one of the most common Li-ion, has the chemical symbols
of LiCoO2 and abbreviation LCO. For reason of simplicity, a short form as been assigned to a
chemistry which for this battery is Li-cobalt. Cobalt is the main active material that gives this
battery character.
This section summarizes six of the most common Li-ion: Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LiCoO2),
LithiumManganese Oxide (LiMn2O4), Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt
Oxide (LiNiMnCoO2 or NMC), LithiumIron Phosphate (LiFePO4), Lithium Nickel Cobalt
Aluminum Oxide (LiNiCoAlO2), and Lithium Titanate. (Li4Ti5O12). All readings are average
estimates at time of writing.
Lithium Cobalt Oxide(LiCoO2)
Its high specific energy makes Li-cobalt the popular choice for cell phones, laptops and digital
cameras. The battery consists of a cobalt oxide cathode and a graphite carbon anode. The
cathode has a layered structure and during discharge, lithium ions move from the anode to the
cathode. The flow reverses on charge. The drawback of Li-cobalt is a relatively short life
span, low thermal stability and limited load capabilities (specific power). Figure 1 illustrates
the structure.

Figure 1: Li-cobalt
structure
The cathode has a layered
structure. During discharge
the lithium ions move from
the anode to the cathode; on
charge the flow is from
cathode to anode.
Courtesy of Cadex

Li-cobalt cannot be charged and discharged at a current higher than its rating. This means that
an 18650 cell with 2,400mAh can only be charged and discharged at 2,400mA. Forcing a fast
charge or applying a load higher than 2,400mA causes overheating and undue stress. For
optimal fast charge, the manufacturer recommends a C-rate of 0.8C or 1920mA. See BU-402:
What is C-rate). The mandatory battery protection circuit limits the charge and discharge rate
to a safe level of about 1C.
The hexagonal spider graphic (Figure 2) summarizes the performance of Li-cobalt in terms of
specific energy or capacity that relates to runtime; specific power or the ability to deliver high
current; safety; performance at hot and cold temperatures; life span reflecting cycle life and
longevity; and cost. Other characteristics of interest not shown in the spider webs are toxicity,
fast-charge capabilities, self-discharge and shelf life.

Figure 2: Snapshot of an average


Li-cobalt battery
Li-cobalt excels on high specific
energy but offers only moderate
performance specific power, safety
and life span.
Courtesy of Cadex

Summary Table
Lithium Cobalt Oxide: LiCoO2 cathode (~60% Co), graphite anode
Short form: LCO or Li-cobalt.
1991

Since

Voltage, nominal

3.60V

150200Wh/kg. Specialty cells provide up to


Specific energy (capacity)
240Wh/kg.

0.71C, charges to 4.20V (most cells); 3h charge


Charge (C-rate)

typical. Charge current above 1C shortens battery


life.

1C; 2.50V cut off. Discharge current above 1C


Discharge (C-rate)
shortens battery life.

5001000, related to depth of discharge, load,


Cycle life
temperature

150C (302F). Full charge promotes thermal


Thermal runaway
runaway

Applications

Mobile phones, tablets, laptops, cameras

Very high specific energy, limited specific power.


Comments

Cobalt is expensive. Serves as Energy Cell. Market


share has stabilized.

Table 3: Characteristics of Lithium Cobalt Oxide


Lithium Manganese Oxide (LiMn2O4)
Li-ion with manganese spinel was first published in the Materials Research Bulletin in 1983.
In 1996, Moli Energy commercialized a Li-ion cell with lithium manganese oxide as cathode
material. The architecture forms a three-dimensional spinel structure that improves ion flow
on the electrode, which results in lower internal resistance and improved current handling. A
further advantage of spinel is high thermal stability and enhanced safety, but the cycle and
calendar life are limited.
Low internal cell resistance promotes fast charging and high-current discharging. In an 18650
package, Li-manganese can be discharged at currents of 2030A with moderate heat buildup.
It is also possible to apply one-second load pulses of up to 50A. A continuous high load at this
current would cause heat buildup and the cell temperature cannot exceed 80C (176F). Limanganese is used for power tools, medical instruments, as well as hybrid and electric
vehicles.

Figure 4 shows the crystalline formation of the cathode in a three-dimensional framework.


This spinel structure, which is usually composed of diamond shapes connected into a lattice,
appears after initial formation.
Figure 4: Li-manganese
structure
The cathode crystalline
formation of
lithiummanganese oxide has a
three-dimensional framework
structure that appears after
initial formation. Spinel
provides low resistance but has
a more moderate specific
energy than cobalt.
Courtesy of Cadex

Li-manganese has a capacity that is roughly one-third lower than Li-cobalt. Design flexibility
allows engineers to maximize the battery for either optimal longevity (life span), maximum
load current (specific power) or high capacity (specific energy). For example, the long-life
version in the 18650 cell has a moderate capacity of 1,100mAh; the high-capacity version is
1,500mAh.
Figure 5 shows the spider web of a typical Li-manganese battery. The characteristics appear
marginal but newer designs have improved in terms of specific power, safety and life span.
Figure 5: Snapshot of a pure Limanganese battery
Most modern manganese-based
Li-ion systems include a blend of
nickel and cobalt. Typical
designations are LMO/NMC for
lithium manages oxide/nickelmanganese-cobalt.
Courtesy of BCG research

Most Li-manganese batteries partner with Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC)
to improve the specific energy and prolong the life span. This combination brings out the best
in each system and the so-called LMO (NMC) is chosen for most electric vehicles, such as the
Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt and BMW i3. The LMO part of the battery, which is about 30
percent on the Chevy Volt, provides high current boost on acceleration, the NMC part gives
the long driving range.

Summary Table
Lithium Manganese Oxide: LiMn2O4 cathode. graphite anode
Short form: LMO or Li-manganese (spinel structure)

Since

1996

Voltage, nominal

3.70V (some may be rated 3.80V)

Specific energy (capacity)

100150Wh/kg

0.71C typical, 3C maximum, charges to 4.20V


Charge (C-rate)
(most cells)

1C; 10C possible with some cells, 30C pulse


Discharge (C-rate)
(5s), 2.50V cut-off

300700 (related to depth of discharge,


Cycle life
temperature)

250C (482F) typical. High charge promotes


Thermal runaway
thermal runaway

Power tools, medical devices, electric


Applications
powertrains

High power but less capacity; safer than LiComments

cobalt; commonly mixed with NMC to improve


performance.

Table 6: Characteristics of Lithium Manganese Oxide


Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (LiNiMnCoO2 or NMC)
Leading battery manufacturers focus on a cathode combination of nickel-manganese-cobalt
(NMC). Similar to Li-manganese, these systems can be tailored to serve as Energy Cells or
Power Cells. For example, NMC in an 18650 cell for moderate load condition has a capacity
of about 2,800mAh and can deliver 45A; NMC in the same cell optimized for specific power
has a capacity of only about 2,000mWh but delivers a continuous discharge current of 20A. A
silicon-based anode will go to 4,000mAh but at reduced loading capability and shorter cycle
life.

The secret of NMC lies in combining nickel and manganese. An analogy of this is table salt in
which the main ingredients sodium and chloride are toxic on their own but mixing them
serves as seasoning salt and food preserver. Nickel is known for its high specific energy but
poor stability; manganese has the benefit of forming a spinel structure to achieve low internal
resistance but offers a low specific energy. Combining the metals enhances each other
strengths.
NMC is the battery of choice for power tools, e-bikes and other electric powertrains. The
cathode combination is typically one-third nickel, one-third manganese and one-third cobalt.
This offers a unique blend that also lowers the raw material cost due to reduced cobalt
content. Other combinations, such as NCM, CMN, CNM, MNC and MCN are also offered in
which the metal content of the cathode deviates from the 1/3-1/3-1/3 formula. Manufacturers
keep the ratio a well-guarded secret. Figure 7 demonstrates the characteristics of the NMC.
Figure 7: Snapshot of NMC
NMC has good overall
performance and excels on
specific energy. This battery is the
preferred candidate for the electric
vehicle and has the lowest selfheating rate.
Courtesy of BCG research

Summary Table
Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide: LiNiMnCoO2. cathode, graphite anode

Since 2008

Short form: NMC (NCM, CMN, CNM, MNC, MCN similar with different metal combinations)

Voltage, nominal

3.60V, 3.70V

Specific energy (capacity)

150220Wh/kg

0.71C, charges to 4.20V, some go to 4.30V; 3h charge typical.


Charge (C-rate)
Charge current above 1C shortens battery life.

Discharge (C-rate)

1C; 2C possible on some cells; 2.50V cut-off

Cycle life

10002000 (related to depth of discharge, temperature)

Thermal runaway

210C (410F) typical. High charge promotes thermal runaway

Applications

E-bikes, medical devices, EVs, industrial

Provides high capacity and high power. Serves as Hybrid Cell.


Comments
Favorite chemistry for many uses; market share is increasing.

Table 8: Characteristics of Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC)


Lithium Iron Phosphate(LiFePO4)
In 1996, the University of Texas (and other contributors) discovered phosphate as cathode
material for rechargeable lithium batteries. Li-phosphate offers good electrochemical
performance with low resistance. This is made possible with nano-scale phosphate cathode
material. The key benefits are high current rating and long cycle life, besides good thermal
stability, enhanced safety and tolerance if abused.
Li-phosphate is more tolerant to full charge conditions and is less stressed than other lithiumion systems if kept at high voltage for a pronged time. (See BU-808: How to Prolong
Lithium-based Batteries). As trade-off, the lower voltage of 3.2V/cell reduces the specific
energy to less than Li-manganese. As with most batteries, cold temperature reduces
performance and elevated storage temperature shortens the service life, and Li-phosphate is
no exception. Li-phosphate has a higher self-discharge than other Li-ion batteries, which can
cause balancing issues with aging. Figure 9 summarizes the attributes of Li-phosphate.
Li-phosphate is often used to replace the lead acid starter battery. Four cells in series produce
12.80V, a similar voltage to six 2V lead acid cells in series. Vehicles charge lead acid to
14.40V (2.40V/cell). With four Li-phosphate cells in series, each tops at 3.60V, which is the
correct full-charge voltage. At this point, the charge should be disconnected but Li-phosphate
is tolerant to some overcharge, however keeping the voltage at 14.40V for a prolonged time,
as most vehicle do on a long drive, could stress Li-phosphate. Cold temperature operation
could also be an issue with Li-phosphate as starter battery.
Figure 9: Snapshot of a typical
Li-phosphate battery
Li-phosphate has excellent safety
and long life span but moderate
specific energy and a lower
voltage than other lithium-based
batteries. LFP also has higher self-

discharge compared to other


lithium-ion systems.
Courtesy of Cadex

Summary Table
Lithium Iron Phosphate: LiFePO4 cathode, graphite anode
Short form: LFP or Li-phosphate
Since 1996

Voltage, nominal

3.20V, 3.30V

Specific energy (capacity)

90120Wh/kg

Charge (C-rate)

1C typical, charges to 3.65V; 3h charge time typical

Discharge (C-rate)

1C, 25C on some cells; 40A pulse (2s); 2.50V cut-off


(lower that 2V causes damage)

Cycle life

10002000 (related to depth of discharge,


temperature)

Thermal runaway

270C (518F) Very safe battery even if fully charged

Portable and stationary needing high load currents


Applications
and endurance

Very flat voltage discharge curve but low capacity.


Comments

One of safest
Li-Ions. Used for special markets. Elevated selfdischarge.

Table 10: Characteristics of Lithium Iron Phosphate


Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide (LiNiCoAlO2)
Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide battery, or NCA, has been around since 1999 for
special application and shares similarity with NMC by offering high specific energy and
reasonably good specific power and a long life span. These attribute made Elon Musk choose
NCA for the Tesla EVs. Less flattering are safety and cost. Figure 11 summarizes the six key
characteristics. NCA is a further development of lithium nickel oxide; adding aluminum gives
the chemistry greater stability.
Figure 11: Snapshot of NCA
High energy and power densities,
as well as good life span, make the
NCA a candidate for EV
powertrains. High cost and
marginal safety are negatives.
Courtesy of Cadex

Summary Table
Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide: LiNiCoAlO2 cathode (~9% Co), graphite anode
Short form: NCA or Li-aluminum.

Since 1999

Voltage, nominal

3.60V

Specific energy (capacity)

200-260Wh/kg; 300Wh/kg predictable

0.7C, charges to 4.20V (most cells), 3h charge typical, fast


Charge (C-rate)
charge possible with some cells

1C typical; 3.00V cut-off; high discharge rate shortens battery


Discharge (C-rate)
life

Cycle life

500 (related to depth of discharge, temperature)

Thermal runaway

150C (302F) typical, High charge promotes thermal

runaway

Applications

Medical devices, industrial, electric powertrain (Tesla)

Comments

Shares similarities with Li-cobalt. Serves as Energy Cell.

Table 12: Characteristics of Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide


Lithium Titanate (Li4Ti5O12)
Batteries with lithium titanate anodes have been known since the 1980s. Li-titanate replaces
the graphite in the anode of a typical lithium-ion battery and the material forms into a spinel
structure. The cathode is graphite and resembles the architecture of a typical lithium-metal
battery. Li-titanate has a nominal cell voltage of 2.40V, can be fast-charged and delivers a
high discharge current of 10C, or 10 times the rated capacity. The cycle count is said to be
higher than that of a regular Li-ion. Li-titanate is safe, has excellent low-temperature
discharge characteristics and obtains a capacity of 80 percent at 30C (22F). However, the
battery is expensive and at 65Wh/kg the specific energy is low, rivalling that of NiCd. Lititanate charges to 2.80V/cell, and the end of discharge is 1.80V/cell. Figure 13 illustrates the
characteristics of the Li-titanate battery. Typical uses are electric powertrains and UPS.
Figure 13: Snapshot of Lititanate
Li-titanate excels in safety, lowtemperature performance and life
span. Efforts are being made to
improve the specific energy and
lower cost.
Courtesy of BCG research

Summary Table
Lithium Titanate: Graphite cathode; Li4Ti5O12 (titanate) anode
Short form: LTO or Li-titanate
Since 2008

Voltage, nominal

2.40V

Specific energy (capacity)

7080Wh/kg

Charge (C-rate)

1C typical; 5C maximum, charges to 2.85V

Discharge (C-rate)

10C possible, 30C 5s pulse; 1.80V cut-off on LCO/LTO

Cycle life

3,0007,000

Thermal runaway

One of safest Li-ion batteries

Applications

UPS, electric powertrain (Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Honda Fit EV)

Long life, fast charge, wide temperature range but low specific
Comments
energy and expensive. Among safest Li-ion batteries.

Table 14: Characteristics of Lithium Titanate


Figure 15 compares the specific energy of lead, nickel- and lithium-based systems. While
NCA is the clear winner by storing more capacity than other systems, this only applies to
specific energy. In terms of specific power and thermal stability, Li-manganese and Liphosphate are superior. Li-titanate may have low capacity but this chemistry outlives most
other secondary batteries in terms of life span. It has also the best cold temperature
performance. As we move towards electric powertrains, safety and cycle life are becoming
more important than capacity alone.

Figure 15: Typical specific energy of lead, nickel- and lithium-based batteries
NCA enjoys the highest specific energy; however, manganese and phosphate are superior in
terms of specific power and thermal stability. Li-titanate has the best life span.

3.

Finding the Optimal Runtime and Power Ratio of Li-ion

Optimizing the selection of a Li-ion system that includes specific energy, specific power
and runtime.
Batteries can be made to perform as an Energy Cell that stores a large amount of energy, or a
Power Cell that is capable to deliver high load currents. An analogy is a water flask that is
designed to hold a large volume of liquid while offering a wide opening to permit quick
pouring.
The physical dimensions of a battery are specified by volume in liter (l) and kilogram (kg).
Adding dimension and weight provides specific energy in Wh/kg, power density in Wh/l and
specific power in W/kg. Most batteries are rated in Wh/kg, revealing how much energy a
given weight can generate. Wh/l denotes watt/hours per liter. See Battery Definition and what
they mean.)
The relationship between energy and power of a battery can best be represented in a Ragone
plot. This plot places energy in Wh on the horizontal x-axis and power in W on the vertical yaxis. The diagonal lines across the field disclose the time the battery cells can deliver energy
at various loading conditions. The derived power curve provides a clear demarcation line of
what level of power a battery can deliver. The Ragone plot is logarithmic to display
performance profiles of very high and low values.
Figure 1 illustrates the Ragone plot reflecting the discharge energy and power of four classic
lithium-ion systems packaged in 18650 cells. The battery chemistries featured are the most
common power-based lithium-ion systems, which include lithium-iron phosphate (LFP),
lithium-manganese oxide (LMO), and nickel manganese cobalt (NMC).

Figure 1: Ragone plot reflects Li-ion 18650 cells.


Four Li-ion systems are compared for discharge power and energy as a function of time.
Courtesy of Exponent

Legend: The A123 APR18650M1 is a lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) with 1,100mAh and
a continuous discharge current of 30A. The Sony US18650VT and Sanyo UR18650W are
manganesebased Li-ion cells of 1500mAh each with a continuous discharge current of 20A.
The Sanyo UR18650F is a 2,600mAh cell for a moderate 5A.discharge. This cell provides the
highest discharge energy but has the lowest discharge power.
The Sanyo UR18650F [4] has the highest specific energy and can power a laptop or e-bike for
many hours at a moderate load. The Sanyo UR18650W [3], in comparison, has a lower
specific energy but can supply a current of 20A. The A123 [1] has the lowest specific energy
but offers the highest power capability by delivering 30A of continuous current.
The Ragone plot helps choosing the best Li-ion system to satisfy optimal discharge power and
energy as a function of discharge time. If an application calls for very high discharge current,
the 3.3 minute diagonal line on the chart points to the A123 (Battery 1) as a good pick; it can
deliver up to 40 Watts of power for 3.3 minutes. The Sanyo F (Battery 4) is slightly lower and
delivers about 36 Watts. Focusing on discharge time and following the 33 minute discharge

line further down, Battery 1 (A123) only delivers 5.8 Watts for 33 minutes before the energy
is depleted whereas the higher capacity Battery 4 (Sanyo F) can provide roughly 17 Watts for
the same time; its limitation is lower power.
For best results, battery manufacturers take the Ragone snapshot on new cells, a condition that
is only valid for a short time. When calculating power and energy thresholds, design engineers
must include battery fade that will develop as part of cycling and aging. A battery operated
systems should still provide full function with a battery that has faded to 70 or 80 percent. A
further consideration is temperature as a battery loses power when cold. The Ragone plot does
not include these discrepancies.
It should be noted that loading a battery to its full power capability increases stress and
shortens life. When a high current draw is needed continuously, the battery pack should be
made larger. Tesla does this with their Model S cars by doubling and tripling the battery. An
analogy is a heavy truck fitted with a large diesel engine that provides long and durable
service as opposed to installing a souped-up engine of sports car with similar horsepower.
The Ragone plot also calculates power requirements of other energy sources and storage
devices, such as capacitors, flywheels, flow batteries and fuel cells. As fuel cells and internal
combustion engines draw fuel from a tank, a conflict develops because energy-delivery can be
made continuous. The Ragone plot may also be deployed to establish the optimal
energy/power ratio and loading condition of a renewable power source, such as solar cells and
wind turbines.

Cycling Performance
Learn about the rugged old NiCd and compare with NiMH and Li-ion
To compare older and newer battery systems, Cadex tested a large volume of nickel-cadmium,
nickel-metal-hydride and lithium ion batteries used in portable for communication devices.
Preparations included an initial charge, followed by a regime of full discharge/charge cycles
at 1C. The tables show the capacity in percent, DC resistance measurement and self-discharge
obtained from time to time by reading the capacity loss incurred during a 48-hour rest period.
The tests were carried out on the Cadex 7000 Series battery analyzers.
Nickel-cadmium
In terms of life cycling, nickel-cadmium is the most enduring battery. Figure 1 illustrates the
capacity, internal resistance and self-discharge of a 7.2V, 900mA pack with standard NiCd
cells. Due to time constraints, the test was terminated after 2,300 cycles. The capacity
remained steady; the internal resistance stayed low at 75mWand the self-discharge was stable.
This battery receives a grade A rating for almost perfect performance.

Figure 1: Performance of standard NiCd (7.2V, 900mAh)


This battery receives an A rating for a stable capacity, low internal resistance and moderate
self-discharge over many cycles.
Courtesy of Cadex

The ultra-high-capacity nickel-cadmium offers up to 60 percent higher specific energy


compared to the standard version, however, this comes at the expense of reduced cycle life. In
Figure 2 we observe a steady drop of capacity during 2,000 cycles, a slight increase in internal
resistance and a rise in self-discharge after 1,000 cycles.

Figure 2: Performance of ultra-high-capacity NiCd (6V, 700mAh)


This battery offers higher specific energy than the standard version at the expense of
reducedcycle life.
Courtesy of Cadex
Nickel-metal-hydride
Figure 3 examines NiMH, a battery that offers high specific energy but loses capacity after the
300-cycle mark. There is also a rapid increase in internal resistance after cycle count 700 and

rise in self-discharge after 1000 cycles. The test was done on an older generation NiMH.

Figure 3: Performance of NiMH (6V, 950mAh).


This battery offers good performance at first but past 300 cycles, the capacity, internal
resistance and self-discharge start to increase rapidly. Newer NiMH has better results.
Courtesy of Cadex
Lithium-ion
Figure 4 examines the capacity fade of a modern Li-ion Power Cell at a 2A, 10A 15A and
20A discharge. Stresses increase with higher load currents, and this also applies to rapid and
ultra-fast charging. (SeeBU-401a: Ultra-fast charging of Li-ion.)
Li-ion manufacturers often do not specify the rise of internal resistance and self-discharge as a
function of cycling. Advancements have been made with electrolyte additives to keep the
resistance low through most of the battery life. The self-discharge of Li-ion is low and is in
par with lead acid.

Figure 4: Cycle characteristics of IHR18650C by E-One Moli. (3.6V, 2,000mA). 18650


Power Cell was charged with 2A and discharged at 2, 10, 15 and 20A. The internal resistance
and self-discharge are N/A.
Courtesy of E-One Moli Energy

Batteries tested in a laboratory tend to provide better results than in the field. Elements of
stress in everyday use do not always transfer well into test laboratory. Aging plays a minimal
role in a lab because the batteries are cycled over a period of a few months rather than the
expected service life of several years. The temperature is often moderate and the batteries are
charged under controlled charging condition and with approved chargers.
The load signature also plays a role, and the nickel-based batteries were discharged with a DC
load. All batteries deliver a slightly lower cycle life if discharged with pulses. (See BU-501:
Basics About Discharging.) If a battery must repeatedly be loaded to peak currents, it is
advised to install a pack with higher Ah rating.

Types of Battery Cells


Compare the pros and cons of the cylindrical cell, button cell, prismatic cell and pouch
As batteries were beginning to be mass-produced, the jar design changed to the cylindrical
format. The large F cell for lanterns was introduced in 1896 and the D cell followed in 1898.
With the need for smaller cells, the C cell followed in 1900, and the popular AA was
introduced in 1907. See BU-301: Standardizing Batteries into Norms.
Cylindrical Cell
The cylindrical cell continues to be one of the most widely used packaging styles for primary
and secondary batteries. The advantages are ease of manufacture and good mechanical
stability. The tubular cylinder can withstand high internal pressures without deforming.

Most lithium and nickel-based cylindrical cells include a positive thermal coefficient (PTC)
switch. When exposed to excessive current, the normally conductive polymer heats up and
becomes resistive, acting as short circuit protection. Once the short is removed, the PTC cools
down and returns to conductive state.
Most cylindrical cells also feature a pressure relief mechanism and the most simplistic design
utilizes a membrane seal that ruptures under high pressure. Leakage and dry-out may occur
after the membrane breaks. Re-sealable vents with a spring-loaded valve are the preferred
design. Some Li-ion cells connect the pressure relief valve to an electrical fuse that opens the
cell if an unsafe pressure builds up. Figure 1 shows a cross section of a cylindrical cell.
Typical applications for the cylindrical cell are power tools, medical instruments, laptops and
e-bikes. To allow variations within a given size, manufacturers use fractural cell length, such
as half and three-quarter formats.

Figure 1: C
lithium-ion
The cylindr
ability, offer
economical
packaging d
Courtesy of Sanyo

Nickel-cadmium provided the largest variety of cell choices and some spilled over to nickelmetal-hydride, but not to lithium-ion as this chemistry established its own formats. The 18650
illustrated in Figure 2 remains one of the most popular cell packages. Typical applications are
power tools, medical devices, laptops and e-bikes.

Figure 2: Popular 18650 li


The metallic cylinder measu
and 65mm the length. The la
measures 26mm in diameter
Courtesy of Cadex

In 2013, 2.55 billion 18650 cells were produced; earlier with 2.2Ah and now mostly with a
capacity of 2.8Ah. Some newer 18650 Energy Cells are 3.1Ah and the capacity will grow to
3.4Ah by 2017. Cell manufacturers prepare for the 3.9Ah 18650, a format that they hope will
be made available at the same cost as the lower capacity versions.
The 18650 is the most optimized cell and offers the lowest cost per Wh. As consumers move
to the flat designs, the 18650 is peaking and there is over-production. Batteries may
eventually be made with flat cells but experts say that the 18650 will continue to lead the
market. Figure 3 shows the over-supply situation that has been corrected thanks to the demand
of the Tesla electric vehicles.

Figure

3:

Demand

and

The demand for the 18650 would have


Tesla. The switch to a flat-design in con
for the electric powertrain will e
Courtesy Avicenne Energy

The larger 26650 cell with a diameter of 26mm instead of 18mm did not gain the same
popularity as the 18650. The 26650 is commonly used in load-leveling systems with Li iron
phosphate.
Some lead acid systems also borrow the cylindrical design. Known as the Hawker Cyclone,
this cell offers improved cell stability, higher discharge currents and better temperature
stability compared to the conventional prismatic design. The Hawker Cyclone has its own
format.
Even though the cylindrical cell does not fully utilize the space by creating air cavities on
side-by-side placement, the 18650 has a higher energy density than a prismatic/pouch Li-ion
cell. The 3Ah 18650 delivers 248Wh/kg, whereas a modern pouch cell has only 143Ah/kg.
The higher energy density of thecylindrical cell compensates for its less ideal stacking
characteristics. The empty space can be used for cooling to improve thermal management.
Cell disintegration cannot always be prevented but propagation can. Cylindrical cells are often
spaced apart to stop propagation should one cell take off. Spacing also helps in the cooling. In
addition, a cylindrical design does not change size. A 5mm prismatic cell, in comparison, can
expand to 8mm with use and allowances must be made.
Button Cell
The button cell, also known as coin cell, enabled compact design in portable devices of the
1980s. Higher voltages were achieved by stacking the cells into a tube. Cordless telephones,
medical devices and security wands at airports used these batteries.
Although small and inexpensive to build, the stacked button cell fell out of favor and gave
way to more conventional battery formats. A drawback of the button cell is swelling if
charged too rapidly. Button cellshave no safety vent and can only be charged at a 10- to 16hour charge; however, newer designs claim rapid charge capability.
Most button cells in use today are non-rechargeable and are found in medical implants,
watches, hearing aids, car keys and memory backup. Figure 4 illustrates the button cells with
accompanying cross section.

CAUTION

Keep button cells to out of reach of children. Swallowing a cell can cause serious heal
Concerns with Batteries.

Figure 4: Button cells


Button cells, also known as coin cells, offer small size and ease of stacking but do not allow
fast charging. Most commercial button cells are non-rechargeable.
Courtesy of Sanyo and Panasonic

Prismatic Cell
Introduced in the early 1990s, the modern prismatic cell satisfies the demand for thinner sizes.
Wrapped in elegant packages resembling a box of chewing gum or a small chocolate bar,
prismatic cells make optimal use of space by using the layered approach. Others designs are
wound and flattened into a pseudo-prismatic jelly roll. These cells are predominantly found in
mobile phones, tablets and low-profile laptops and range from 800mAh to 4,000mAh. No
universal format exists and each manufacturer designs its own.
Prismatic cells are also available in large formats. Packaged in welded aluminum housings,
the cells deliver capacities of 20 to 30Ah and are primarily used for electric powertrains in
hybrid and electric vehicles. Figure 5 shows the prismatic cell.

Figure 5: Cr
of a prismat
The prismatic
allows flexib
expensive to
management
cylindrical de

Courtesy of Polystor C

The prismatic cell requires a slightly thicker wall to compensate for decreased mechanical
stability compared to the cylindrical design. Some swelling due to gas buildup is normal.
Discontinue using the battery if the distortion presses against the battery compartment.
Bulging batteries compromise safety and can damage equipment.
Pouch Cell
In 1995 the pouch cell surprised the battery world with a radical new design. Rather than
using a metallic cylinder and glass-to-metal electrical feed-through, conductive foil-tabs are
welded to the electrodes and brought to the outside in a fully sealed way. Figure 6 illustrates
a pouch cell.

Figure 6: The pou


The pouch cell offe
solution to battery d
and hot temperature
Courtesy of Cadex

The pouch cell makes the most efficient use of space and achieves a 9095 percent packaging
efficiency, the highest among battery packs. Eliminating the metal enclosure reduces weight
but the cell needs some support in the battery compartment. The pouch pack finds
applications in consumer, military and automotive applications. No standardized pouch
cells exist; each manufacturer designs its own.
Pouch packs are commonly Li-polymer and serve well as Power Cells by delivery high
current. The capacity is lower than Li-ion in the cylindrical package and the flat-cell may be

less durable. Expect 810 percent swelling over 500 cycles and make provision in the battery
compartment for expansion. It is best not to stack pouch cells on top of each other but to lay
them flat side by side. Prevent sharp edges that can stress the pouch cells as they expand.
Extreme swelling is a concern. Users of pouch packs have reported up to three percent
swelling incidents on a poor batch run. The pressure created can crack the battery cover and in
some cases break the display and electronic circuit boards. Discontinue using an inflated
battery and do not puncture the bloating cell in close proximity to heat or fire. The escaping
gases can ignite. Figure 7 shows a swollenpouch cell.

Figure 7: Swelling pouc


Swelling can occur as pa
manufacturers are at odd
battery in a hard shell can
foil package.
Courtesy of Cadex

Pouch cells are manufactured by adding a temporary gasbag on the side. During the first
charge, gases escape into the gasbag, the gasbag is cut off and the pack is resealed as part of
the finishing process. Subsequent charges should no longer produce gases. Ballooning
indicates that the manufacturing process may have been flawed.
The prismatic and pouch cells have the potential for greater energy than the cylindrical format
but the technology to produce large formats is not yet mature. The cost per kWh in the
prismatic/pouch cell format is still higher than with the 18650 cell. As a comparison, the cost
for the Nissan Leaf with Pouch/ Prismatic cells is $455/kWh; best practice (DoE/AABC) with
this format is $350/kWh. The lowest price per kWh is the Tesla EV with the 18650 cells.
Greenwich Strategy estimates the cost of the Tesla Gen III battery at $290/kWh.
Summary
Rechargeable batteries are either flooded with the electrodes awash in electrolyte as in the
lead acid, or cylindrical as in NiCd, NiMH and Li-ion. Along came the pouch cell, a format
that is similar to packaging perishable food. Intended to be cheaper to manufacture and more
flexible in form factor, refinements are needed to bring this amazing cell concept to the same
performance level of the cylindrical version. In summary:

Cylindrical cell has superior performance, good mechanical stability and lends itself to
automated manufacturing. The cell cycles well, offers a long calendar life, is low cost,
but is heavy and has a low packaging density.

Prismatic cell are encased in aluminum or steel for stability. Jelly-rolled or stacked, the
cell is space-efficient but costlier to manufacture, less consistent in performance,
harder to manage thermally and may have a shorter cycle life than the cylindrical cell.

Pouch cell uses laminated architecture in a bag. It is light and cost-effective but
exposure to humidity and high temperature can shorten life. A swelling factor of 8 to
10 percent over 500 cycles is normal.

Figure 8 compares the price in $US/Wh of the cylindrical, prismatic and pouch cell, also
known as the laminated. While the cylindrical cell has been most economical to manufacture,
flat-cell designs are getting competitive and battery experts predict a shift towards these cell
formats, especially if the performance criteria of the cylindrical cell can be met.

Learn how to arrange batteries to increase voltage or gain higher load currents.

Battery packs achieve the desired operating voltage by connecting several cells in series; each
cell adds its voltage to the total terminal voltage. Parallel connection attains higher capacity
for increased current handling; each cell adds to the ampere/hour (Ah) count.

Some packs may consist of a combination of serial and parallel connections. Laptop batteries
commonly have four 3.6V Li-ion cells in series to achieve 14.4V and two in parallel to boost
the capacity from 2,400mAh to 4,800mAh. Such a configuration is called 4S2P, meaning four
cells in series and two in parallel. Insulating foil between the cells prevents the conductive
metallic skin from causing an electrical short.

Most battery chemistries lend themselves to serial and parallel connection. It is important to
use the same battery type with equal voltage and capacity (Ah) and never mix different makes
and sizes. A weaker cell would cause an imbalance. This is especially critical in a serial
configuration because a battery is only as strong as the weakest link in a chain. An analogy is
a chain in which the links represent the cells of a battery connected in series (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Comparing a battery with a chain

Chain links represent cells in series to increase voltage, doubling a lin


boost current loading.
A weak cell may not quit immediately but will get exhausted more quickly than the strong
ones when in continued use. On charge, the low cell fills up before the strong ones because
there is less to fill and remains in over-charge longer than the others. On discharge, the weak
cell is empty first and gets hammered by the stronger brothers. Cells in multi-packs must be
matched, especially when used for demanding industrial applications. (See BU-803a: Cell
Mismatch, Balancing).

Single Cell Applications


The single-cell configuration is the most simplistic battery pack; the cell does not need
matching and the protection circuit on a small Li-ion cell can be kept simple. Typical
examples are mobile phones and tablets with one 3.60V Li-ion cell. Other uses of a single cell
are wall clocks, which typically use a 1.5V alkaline cell, wristwatches and memory backup,
most of which are very low power applications.

The nominal cell voltage for a nickel-based battery is 1.20V, alkaline 1.50V; silver-oxide
1.60V and lead acid 2.00V. Primary lithium batteries range between 3.00V and 3.90V. Li-ion
is 3.60V; Li-phosphate 3.20V and Li-titanate 2.40V.
Li-manganese and other lithium-based systems often use voltages of 3.70V and higher. This
has less to do with chemistry than marketing. For operational purposes they serve as 3.60V

cells. Low internal resistance keeps the voltage high under load and this advantage is utilized
to increase the voltage and watt-hour (Wh). (See BU-303 Confusion with Voltages)
Serial Connection
Portable equipment needing higher voltages use battery packs with two or more cells
connected in series. Figure 2 shows a battery pack with four 1.20V nickel-based cells in series
to produce 4.8V. In comparison, a six-cell lead acid string with 2V/cell will generate 12V, and
four Li-ion with 3.60V/cell will give 14.40V.

Figure 2: Serial connection of four cells (4S)


Adding cells in a string increases the voltage; the current remains the same.
Courtesy of Cadex

If you need an odd voltage of, say, 9.50 volts, connect five lead acid, eight NiMH or NiCd, or
three Li-ion in series. The end battery voltage does not need to be exact as long as it is higher
than what the device specifies. A 12V supply might work in lieu of 9.50V; most batteryoperated devices can tolerate some over-voltage but quit on low voltage. Higher voltage
applications often have less tolerance, however.

Portable devices using higher voltages have the advantage of keeping the conductor size
down. Consumer cordless power tools run on 12V and 18V batteries; high-end models use
24V and 36V. Most e-bikes come with 36V Li-ion, some are 48V.

The car industry wanted to increase the starter battery from 12V (14V) to 36V, better known
as 42V, by placing 18 lead acid cells in series. Logistics of changing electrical components
and arcing problems on mechanical switches derailed the move. Mild hybrid cars experiment

with 48V Li-ion and use DC-DC conversion to 12V to feed the electrical system. Early hybrid
cars run on a 148V battery; electric vehicles have packs with 450500V. Such a battery needs
more than 100 Li-ion cells in series.

High-voltage batteries require careful cell matching, especially when drawing heavy loads or
when operating at cold temperatures. With multiple cells connected in a string, the possibility
of one cell failing is real and this would break the circuit. A solid state switch that bypasses
the failing cell would continue current flow, albeit at a lower sting voltage. Such a bypass is
seldom used because of cost.

Cell matching is a challenge when replacing a faulty cell in an aging pack. A new cell has a
higher capacity than the others, causing an imbalance. Welded construction adds to the
complexity of the repair and this gives reason why battery packs are replaced as a unit. Highvoltage batteries in electric vehicles, in which a full replacement would be prohibitive, divide
the pack into blocks, each consisting of a specific number of cells. If one cell fails, the
affected block is replaced. A slight imbalance will also occur here.

Figure 3 illustrates a battery pack in which cell 3 produces only 0.6V instead of the full
1.20V. With depressed operating voltage, this battery reaches the end-of-discharge point
sooner than a normal pack. The voltage collapses and the device turns off with Low Battery
message.

Figure 3: Serial connection with a faulty cell


Faulty cell 3 lowers the voltage and cuts the equipment off prematurely.
Courtesy of Cadex

Parallel Connection
If higher currents are needed and larger cells are not available or do not fit the design
constraint, one or more cells can be connected in parallel. Most battery chemistries allow
parallel configurations with little side effect. Figure 4 illustrates four cells connected in
parallel. The voltage of the illustrated pack remains at 1.20V, but the current handling and
runtime are increased fourfold.

Figure 4:
(4P)

With paral

runtime in
same.

Courtesy of Cade

A cell that develops a high-resistance or opens is less critical in a parallel circuit than in serial
configuration but this will reduce the total load capability. Its like an engine only firing on
three cylinders instead of all four. An electrical short, on the other hand, is more serious as the
faulty cell drains energy from the other cells, causing a fire hazard. Most so-called electrical
shorts are mild and manifest themselves as elevated self-discharge.

A total short can occur and this happens when a cell receives reverse polarization. Large packs
often include a fuse that disconnects the failing cell from the parallel circuit if it were to short.
Figure 5 illustrates a parallel configuration with one faulty cell.

Figure 5: Para
cell

A weak cell wi

provide a low r

handling. A sho

heat and becom


Courtesy of Cadex

Serial/Parallel Connection
The serial/parallel configuration shown in Figure 6 enables design flexibility and achieves the
desired voltage and current ratings with a standard cell size. The total power is the product of
voltage-times-current; four 1.20V cells multiplied with 1000mAh produce 4.8Wh. High
energy-dense Li-ion has an advantage as four 18650 cells with 3,000mAh produce 12Wh.

Figure 6: Serial
(2S2P)

This configuratio
flexibility.

Courtesy of Cadex

Li-ion lends well to serial/parallel configurations but the cells need monitoring to stay within
voltage and current limits. Integrated circuits (ICs) for various cell combinations are available
to supervise up to 13 Li-ion cells. Larger packs need custom circuits, and this also applies to
the Tesla Model 85 that devours over 7000 18650 cells to make up the 85kWh pack.
Simple Guidelines for Using Household Primary Batteries

Keep the battery contacts clean. A four-cell configuration has eight contacts and each
contact adds resistance (cell to holder and holder to next cell).

Never mix batteries; replace all cells when weak. The overall performance is only as
good as the weakest link in the chain.

Observe polarity. A reversed cell subtracts rather than adds to the cell voltage.

Remove batteries from the equipment when no longer in use to prevent leakage and
corrosion. This is especially important with carbon-zinc.

Do not store loose cells in a metal box. Place individual cells in small plastic bags to
prevent an electrical short. Do not carry loose cells in your pockets.

Keep batteries away from small children. In addition to a choking hazard, the currentflow of the battery can ulcerate the stomach wall if swallowed. The battery can also
rupture and cause poisoning.

Do not recharge non-rechargeable batteries; hydrogen buildup can lead to an


explosion. Perform experimental charging only under supervision.

Simple Guidelines for Using Household Secondary Batteries

Observe polarity when charging a secondary cell. Reversed polarity can cause an
electrical short, leading to a hazardous condition.

Remove fully charged batteries from the charger. A consumer charger may not apply
the optimal trickle charge when fully charged and the cell could overheat.

Battery Management Systems (BMS)

BMS means different things to different people. To some it is simply Battery Monitoring,
keeping a check on the key operational parameters during charging and discharging such as
voltages and currents and the battery internal and ambient temperature. The monitoring
circuits would normally provide inputs to protection devices which would generate alarms or
disconnect the battery from the load or charger should any of the parameters become out of
limits.

For the power or plant engineer responsible for standby power who's battery is the last line of
defence against a power blackout or a telecommunications network outage BMS means
Battery Management Systems. Such systems encompass not only the monitoring and
protection of the battery but also methods for keeping it ready to deliver full power when
called upon and methods for prolonging its life. This includes everything from controlling the
charging regime to planned maintenance.
For the automotive engineer the Battery Management System is a component of a much more
complex fast acting Energy Management System and must interface with other on board
systems such as engine management, climate controls, communications and safety systems.
There are thus many varieties of BMS.
Designing a BMS
In order to control battery performance and safety it is necessary to understand what needs to
be controlled and why it needs controlling. This requires an in depth understanding of the
fundamental cell chemistries, performance characteristics and battery failure
modes particularly Lithium battery failures. The battery can not simply be treated as a black
box.

BMS Building Blocks


There are three main objectives common to all Battery Management Systems

Protect the cells or the battery from damage

Prolong the life of the battery

Maintain the battery in a state in which it can fulfil the functional requirements of the
application for which it was specified.

To achieve these objectives the BMS may incorporate one or more of the following functions.
(Follow the links to see how these functions are implemented.)
Cell Protection Protecting the battery from out of tolerance operating conditions is
fundamental to all BMS applications. In practice the BMS must provide full cell protection to
cover almost any eventuality. Operating a battery outside of its specified design limits will
inevitably lead to failure of the battery. Apart from the inconvenience, the cost of replacing
the battery can be prohibitive. This is particularly true for high voltage and high power
automotive batteries which must operate in hostile environments and which at the same time
are subject to abuse by the user.

Charge control This is an essential feature of BMS. More batteries are damaged by
inappropriate charging than by any other cause.

Demand Management While not directly related to the operation of the battery itself,
demand management refers to the application in which the battery is used. Its
objective is to minimise the current drain on the battery by designing power saving

techniques into the applications circuitry and thus prolong the time between battery
charges.

SOC Determination Many applications require a knowledge of the State of Charge


(SOC) of the battery or of the individual cells in the battery chain. This may simply be
for providing the user with an indication of the capacity left in the battery, or it could
be needed in a control circuit to ensure optimum control of the charging process.

SOH Determination The State of Health (SOH) is a measure of a battery's capability


to deliver its specified output. This is vital for assessing the readiness of emergency
power equipment and is an indicator of whether maintenance actions are needed.

Cell Balancing In multi-cell battery chains small differences between cells due to
production tolerances or operating conditions tend to be magnified with each charge /
discharge cycle. Weaker cells become overstressed during charging causing them to
become even weaker, until they eventually fail causing premature failure of the
battery. Cell balancing is a way of compensating for weaker cells by equalising the
charge on all the cells in the chain and thus extending battery life.

History - (Log Book Function) Monitoring and storing the battery's history is another
possible function of the BMS. This is needed in order to estimate the State of Health
of the battery, but also to determine whether it has been subject to abuse. Parameters
such as number of cycles, maximum and minimum voltages and temperatures and
maximum charging and discharging currents can be recorded for subsequent
evaluation. This can be an important tool in assessing warranty claims.

Authentication and Identification The BMS also allows the possibility to record
information about the cell such as the manufacturer's type designation and the cell
chemistry which can facilitate automatic testing and the batch or serial number and the
date of manufacture which enables traceability in case of cell failures.

Communications Most BMS systems incorporate some form of communications


between the battery and the charger or test equipment. Some have links to other
systems interfacing with the battery for monitoring its condition or its history.
Communications interfaces are also needed to allow the user access to the battery for
modifying the BMS control parameters or for diagnostics and test.

The following examples illustrate three very different applications of BMS in action.
Intelligent Batteries
The life of rechargeable NiCad and Nickel Metal Hydride batteries such as those used in
power tools can be extended by the use of an intelligent charging system which facilitates
communications between the battery and the charger. The battery provides information about
its specification, its current condition and its usage history which is used by the charger to
determine the optimum charging profile or, by the application in which it is used, to control its
usage.
The prime objective of the charger/battery combination is to permit the incorporation of a
wider range of Protection Circuits which prevent overcharging of, or damage to, the battery

and thus extend its life. Charge control can be in either the battery or the charger. The
objective of the application/battery combination is to prevent overloads and to conserve the
battery. Similar to the charger combination, discharge control can be in either the application
or in the battery.
Although some special cells incorporating intelligence have been developed, the intelligence
is more likely to be implemented in a battery pack.
The system works as follows:
The Intelligent Battery, or Smart Battery, provides outputs from sensors which give the actual
status of voltages, currents and temperatures within the battery as well as the state of charge.
It can also provide alarm functions indicating out of tolerance conditions.
The Intelligent Battery also contains a memory chip which is programmed by the
manufacturer with information about the battery specification such as:

Manufacturing data (Name, date, serial number etc)

Cell chemistry

Cell capacity

Mechanical outline code

Upper and lower voltage limits

Maximum current limits

Temperature limits

Once the battery is placed into use, the memory may also record :

How many times the battery has been charged and discharged.

Elapsed time

The internal impedance of the battery

The temperature profile to which it has been subjected

The operation of any forced cooling circuits

Any instances when limits have been exceeded.

The system also requires devices which may be in either the battery or the charger or both
which can interrupt or modify the charging according to a set of rules. Similarly, battery
discharge can be controlled by the battery or demand management circuits in the application.

The Intelligent Battery also needs an Intelligent Charger it can talk to and a language they can
speak.
The charger is programmed to respond to inputs from the battery, to optimise the charging
profile, charging at the maximum rate until a preset temperature is reached, then slowing
down or stopping the charge and or switching on a cooling fan so as not to exceed the
temperature limit and thus avoid permanent damage to the battery. If a deterioration in the
battery internal impedance indicates that reconditioning is necessary the charger can also be
programmed to reform the battery by subjecting it to several deep charge, discharge cycles.
Because the battery contains information about its specification which can be read by the
charger, it is possible to build Universal Chargers which can automatically adapt the charging
profile to a range of battery chemistries and capacities, so long as they comply with an agreed
message protocol.
A separate communications channel is needed to facilitate interactions between the battery
and the charger. One example used for simple applications is the System Management Bus
( SMBus) which forms part of the Smart Battery System which is used mainly in low power
applications. Batteries which comply with the SBS standard are called Smart Batteries.
Intelligent batteries are however not limited to the SMS scheme and many manufacturers have
implemented their own proprietary schemes which may be simpler or more complex,
depending on the requirements of the application.
A 50% increase in battery life has been claimed by using such techniques.
Automatic Control System
This is an example of an Automatic Control System in which the battery provides information
about its actual condition to the charger which compares the actual condition with the desired
condition and generates an error signal which is used to initiate control actions to bring the
actual condition into line with the desired condition. The control signals form part of a
Feedback Loop which provides automatic compensation to keep the battery within its desired
operating parameters. It does not require any user intervention. Some form of automatic
control system is an essential part of all BMS
Battery Monitoring
As well as talking to the charger, the Intelligent Battery can also talk to the user or to other
systems of which the battery may be a part. The signals it provides can be used to turn on
warning lights or to inform the user about the condition of the battery and how much charge it
has left.
Monitoring the battery condition is an essential part of all Battery Management Systems. In
the first of the following two examples, the control actions are manual, - the power plant
maintenance engineer fixes any deficiencies. In the second example the battery is part of an
Automatic Control System made up from several interlinked feedback loops controlling the
battery itself and its role as part of the overall vehicle energy management system.
Power Plant BMS
The battery management requirements are quite different for standby and emergency power
installations. Batteries may be inactive for long periods topped up by a trickle charge from

time to time, or as in telecommunications installations they may be kept on float charge to


keep them fully charged at all times. By their nature, such installations must be available for
use at all times. An essential responsibility of managing such installations is to know the
status of the battery and whether it can be relied upon to support its load during an outage. For
this it is vital to know the SOH and the SOC of the battery. In the case of lead acid batteries
the SOC of individual cells can be determined by using a hydrometer to measure the specific
gravity of the electrolyte in the cells. Traditionally, the only way of determining the SOH was
by discharge testing, that is, by completely discharging the battery and measuring its output.
Such testing is very inconvenient. For a large installation it could take eight hours to discharge
the battery and another three days to recharge it. During this time the installation would be
without emergency power unless a back up battery was provided.
The modern way to measure the SOH of a battery is by impedance testing or by conductance
testing . It has been found that a cell's impedance has an inverse correlation with the SOC and
the conductance being the reciprocal of the impedance has a direct correlation with the SOH
of the cell. Both of these tests can be carried out without discharging the battery, but better
still the monitoring device can remain in place providing a permanent on line measurement.
This allows the plant engineer to have an up to date assessment of the battery condition so that
any deterioration in cell performance can be detected and appropriate maintenance actions can
be planned.
Automotive BMS
Automotive battery management is much more demanding than the previous two examples. It
has to interface with a number of other on board systems, it has to work in real time in rapidly
changing charging and discharging conditions
as the vehicle accelerates and brakes, and it has to work in a harsh and uncontrolled
environment. This example describes a complex system as an illustration of what is possible,
however not all applications will require all the functions shown here.
The functions of a BMS suitable for a hybrid electric vehicle are as follows:

Monitoring the conditions of individual cells which make up the battery

Maintaining all the cells within their operating limits

Protecting the cells from out of tolerance conditions

Providing a "Fail Safe" mechanism in case of uncontrolled conditions, loss of


communications or abuse

Isolating the battery in cases of emergency

Compensating for any imbalances in cell parameters within the battery chain

Setting the battery operating point to allow regenerative braking charges to be


absorbed without overcharging the battery.

Providing information on the State of Charge (SOC) of the battery. This function is
often referred to as the "Fuel Gauge" or "Gas Gauge "

Providing information on the State of Health (SOH) of the battery. This measurement
gives an indication of the condition of a used battery relative to a new battery.

Providing information for driver displays and alarms

Predicting the range possible with the remaining charge in the battery (Only EVs
require this)

Accepting and implementing control instructions from related vehicle systems

Providing the optimum charging algorithm for charging the cells

Providing pre-charging to allow load impedance testing before switch on and two
stage charging to limit inrush currents

Providing means of access for charging individual cells

Responding to changes in the vehicle operating mode

Recording battery usage and abuse. (The frequency, magnitude and duration of out of
tolerance conditions) Known as theLOG BOOK function

Emergency "Limp Home Mode" in case of cell failure.

In practical systems the BMS can thus incorporate more vehicle functions than simply
managing the battery. It can determine the vehicle's desired operating mode, whether it is
accelerating, braking, idling or stopped, and implement the associated electrical power
management actions.
Cell Protection
One of the prime functions of the Battery Management System is to provide the necessary
monitoring and control to protect the cells from out of tolerance ambient or operating
conditions. This is of particular importance in automotive applications because of the harsh
working environment. As well as individual cell protection the automotive system must be
designed to respond to external fault conditions by isolating the battery as well as addressing
the cause of the fault. For example cooling fans can be turned on if the battery overheats. If
the overheating becomes excessive then the battery can be disconnected.
Protection methods are discussed in detail in the section on Protection.
Battery State of Charge (SOC)
Determining the State of Charge (SOC) of the battery is the second major function of the
BMS. The SOC is needed not just for providing the Fuel Gauge indication. The BMS
monitors and calculates the SOC of each individual cell in the battery to check for uniform
charge in all of the cells in order to verify that individual cells do not become overstressed.

The SOC indication is also used to determine the end of the charging and discharging cycles.
Over-charging and over-discharging are two of the prime causes of battery failure and the
BMS must maintain the cells within the desired DOD operating limits.
Hybrid vehicle batteries require both high power charge capabilities for regenerative braking
and high power discharge capabilities for launch assist or boost. For this reason, their batteries
must be maintained at a SOC that can discharge the required power but still have enough
headroom to accept the necessary regenerative power without risking overcharging the cells.
To fully charge the HEV battery for cell balancing (See below) would diminish charge
acceptance capability for regenerative braking and hence braking efficiency. The lower limit
is set to optimise fuel economy and also to prevent over discharge which could shorten the
life of the battery. Accurate SOC information is therefore needed for HEVs to keep the battery
operating within the required, safe limits.
HEV Battery Operating Range

Methods of determining the SOC are described in the section on State of Charge.
The Battery Management System
The diagram below is a conceptual representation of the primary BMS functions. It
shows the three main BMS building blocks, the Battery Monitoring Unit (BMU), the Battery
Control Unit (BCU) and the CAN bus vehicle communications network and how they
interface with the rest of the vehicle energy management systems. Other configurations are
possible with distributed BMS embedded in the battery cell to cell interconnections.

In practice the BMS may also be coupled to other vehicle systems which communicate with
the BMS via the CAN bus (see below) such as the Thermal Management System or to anti
theft devices which disable the battery. There may also be requirements for system monitoring
and programming, and data logging using an RS232 serial bus.

Battery Monitoring Unit


The Battery Monitoring Unit is a microprocessor based unit incorporating three functions or
sub-modules. These sub-modules are not necessarily separate physical units but are shown
separately here for clarity.
Battery Model
The Battery Model characterises in a software algorithm, the behaviour of the battery in
response to various external and internal conditions. The model can then use these inputs to
estimate the status of the battery at any instant in time.
An essential function of the battery model is to calculate the SOC of the battery for the
functions noted above.
The SOC is determined essentially by integrating the current flow over time, modified to take
account of the many factors which affect the performance of the cells, then subtracting the
result from the known capacity of the fully charged battery. This is described in detail in the
section on SOC.

The battery model can be used to log past history for maintenance purposes or to predict how
many miles the vehicle may run before the battery needs recharging. The remaining range,
based on recent driving or usage patterns, is calculated from the current SOC and the energy
consumed and the miles covered since the previous charge (or alternatively from a previous
long term average). The distance travelled is derived from data provided by other sensors on
the CAN bus (see below).
The accuracy of the range calculation is more important for EVs whose only source of power
is the battery. HEVs and bicycles have an alternative "Get you home" source of power should
the battery become completely discharged.
The problem of losing all power when a single cell fails can be mitigated at the cost of adding
four more expensive contactors which effectively split the battery into two separate units. If a
cell should fail, the contactors can isolate and bypass the half of the battery containing the
failed cell allowing the vehicle to limp home at half power using the other (good) half of the
battery.
Outputs from the model are sent to the vehicle displays also using the CAN bus.
Multiplexing
To reduce costs, instead of monitoring each cell in parallel, the Battery Monitoring Unit
incorporates a multiplexing architecture which switches the voltage from each cell (input
pairs) in turn to a single analogue or digital output line (see below). Cost savings can be
realized by reducing the number of analogue control and/or digital sampling circuits and
hence the component count to a minimum. The drawbacks are that only one cell voltage can
be monitored at a time. A high speed switching mechanism is required to switch the output
line to each cell so that all cells can be monitored sequentially.

The BMU also provides the inputs for estimating the SOH of the battery, however since the
SOH changes only gradually over the lifetime of the battery, less frequent samples are needed.
Depending on the method used to determine the SOH, sampling intervals may be as low as
once per day. Impedance measurements for example could even be taken only in periods
when the vehicle is not in use. Cycle counting of course can only occur when the vehicle is
operational.
Demand or Personality Module
The Demand Module is similar in some respects to the Battery Model in that it contains a
reference model with all the tolerances and limits relevant to the various parameters
monitored by the Battery Model. The Demand Module also takes instructions from the
communications bus such as commands from the BMS to accept a regenerative braking
charge or from other vehicle sensors such as safety devices or directly from the vehicle
operator. This unit is also used to set and to monitor the vehicle operating mode parameters.
This module is sometimes called the Personality Module since includes provision for
programming into the system, all the custom requirements which may be specific to the
customer's application. For example, the cell maker will recommend a temperature limit at
which for safety reasons the battery must be automatically disconnected. However the car
manufacturer may set two lower limits, one at which forced cooling may be switched on and
another which lights up a warning light on the driver's instrument panel.
For HEV applications, the Personality Module interfaces with the engine Electronic Control
Unit (ECU) via the CAN bus. Provision is made in this module for setting the desired system
SOC operating range and the parameters for controlling the power sharing between the
electric drive and the internal combustion engine .
The Demand Module also contains a memory block for holding all the reference data and for
accumulating the historical data used for monitoring the battery SOH. Data to display the
SOH or switch on warning lights can be provided to the vehicle instrumentation module via
the CAN bus.
The outputs from the Demand Module provide the reference points for setting the operating
conditions of the battery or triggering the action of protection circuits.
Test access to the BMS for monitoring or setting system parameters and for downloading the
battery history is provided through a standard RS 232 or RS485 serial bus.
Decision Logic Module
The Decision Logic module compares the status of the measured or calculated battery
parameters from the Battery Model with the desired or reference result from the Demand
Module. Logic circuits then provide error messages to initiate cell protection actions or to be
used in the various BMS feedback loops which drive the system to its desired operating point
or isolate the battery in the case of unsafe conditions. These error messages provide the input
signals for the Battery Control Unit.
System Communications

The BMS needs a communications channel for passing signals between its various internal
functional circuit blocks. It must also interface with several external vehicle systems for
monitoring or controlling remote sensors, actuators, displays, safety interlocks and other
functions.
Automotive BMS therefore uses the CAN bus which was designed for this purpose as its main
communications channel.
Battery Control Unit
The Battery Control Unit contains all the BMS power electronics circuitry. It takes control
signals from the Battery Monitoring Unit to control the battery charging process and to switch
the power connections to individual cells.
Some of the possible functions of this unit are:

Controlling the voltage and current profile of the charger output during the charging
process.

Providing top up charge to individual cells to equalise the charge on all cells in the
battery chain.

Isolating the battery during fault or alarm conditions

Switching the regenerative braking charge into the battery as required

Dumping excessive regenerative braking charges when the battery is fully charged

Responding to changes in the vehicle operating mode

To provide these functions, each cell in the battery may require expensive high current
switches capable of switching 200 Amps or more to provide the necessary interconnections.

Binary Control and Progressive Control


In its simplest form, the BMS privides a "binary" ON/OFF resonse to a fault or an out
of tolerance condition such as an overload, merely isolating the battery completely by
opening the main contactors. Progressive or variable control can however be provided
in the case of an overload by utilising the CAN Bus to call for a reduced the demand
on the battery.

Cell Balancing
This is another essential function of the automotive BMS. As noted above it is required to
compensate for weaknesses in individual cells which could eventually cause the failure of the
complete battery. The reasons for cell balancing and how this is implemented are explained on
the Cell Balancing page.
Limp Home Mode

Although batteries are designed to be trouble free for 3 or more years, there is always the
possibility that the battery could be disabled by the failure of a single cell. If a cell goes open
circuit, the battery is essentially dead. However the BMS is designed to monitor the status of
every cell and so the location of the faulty cell will automatically be identified. It is not
difficult to split the battery into two sections in series, each of which can be independently
bypassed by disconnecting the section of the battery containing the faulty cell and switching a
conducting link in its place. This will allow the vehicle to get to home or to the nearest refuge
on half power using the good section of the battery. As well as the links the system will need
two more expensive high power contactors to implement this function, but this investment
may be well justified when the alternative could be a costly and dangerous breakdown on the
motorway.
System Enhancements
Automotive BMSs may also be required to provide various functions which are not
necessarily essential to managing the battery. These may include remote monitoring of the
battery from the fleet headquarters and this may also include the GPS location of the vehicle.
The driver could thus be warned if the vehicle was getting low on charge or if he was straying
too far from a charging station.
Fortunately not all BMS applications are as complex as this one.
Practical BMS Implementation
There are many ways of implementing the battery management system and two different
examples for a 256 Volt battery made up from 80 Lithium Iron Phosphate cells are shown
below.
Master and Slaves
The master and slaves, star topolgy, organises the cells into blocks or modules with one slave
managing each module. In the example shown, 16 X 3.2 volt cells are arranged in modules
each with an output voltage of 51.2 Volts but other module sizes and voltages are possible.

The Slaves - Each cell has a temperature sensor as well as connections to measure the
voltage, all of which are connected to the slave which monitors the condition of the
cell and implements the cell balancing.

The Master - Multiple slaves can be connected to the master which monitors the
current and integrates it over time to calculate the net Coulomb flow and this is
modified using voltage and temperature data from the slaves to calculate the battery
SOC. The master controls the main battery isolation contactor(s) initiating battery
protection in response to data from the main current sensor or voltage and temperature
data from the slaves.The master also provides the system communications.

BMS Master and Slaves (Star Topology)

This configuration has the advantages that it does not need printed circuit boards connected to
individual cells and high voltage batteries can be accommodated by adding more modules and
since the main battery current does not pass through slaves, it can also be used for high
current batteries. Signal processing is shared between the master and the slaves simplifying
the management of the information processing load.
Disadvantages are that the communications between the sensors and the slaves are in
analogue form, and thus susceptible to noise, and the very large number of sensor wires, four
per cell, which are required. Opto-isolated connections between the slaves and the master are
also required since the votages on the slaves would otherwise be progressively higher, up to
the full battery voltage, as connections are taken from further up the cell chain.
BMS Daisy Chain
The daisy chain, ring topology, uses a small simple slave printed circuit board connected to
each cell to accommodate the voltage and temperature sensors with an A to D converter, as
well as a current bypass switch to enable cell balancing by charge shunting and an
communications transceiver with built in capacitive isolation for receiving and transmitting
data in digital form. The slave takes its power from the cell it is monitoring and a single RS
485 three wire data bus connects the nodes from all the slaves to the master which polls each
node in turn and requests an update of its cell conditions. The slave does not carry out any
signal processing, apart from the A to D conversion, as this is all carried out by the master

along with all the monitoring, protection and communications functions as in the example
above.
BMS Daisy Chain (Ring Topology)

The main advantages of this topology are its simpler design and construction and its potential
for higher reliability in an automotive environment.
The disadvantages are the large number of mini-slave printed circuit boards which are needed
and the difficulty of mounting them on some cell types. In addition the master has a higher
processing load.