The Crucial Link: Hardware-Software Interaction in Battery Management

Effective battery management has become crucial to safely extracting more usable energy from a given battery size, and therefore key to achieving the driving range that electric vehicle customers demand. This link between the two, the interaction between hardware and software, is only set to become more important as the vehicle architectures of the future begin to find their way on to the market. 

The Hybrid Approach: Blending Edge and Cloud Processing in Battery Management

“While the industry initially followed two distinct approaches to battery management, the trend towards adopting a hybrid approach – a mix of processing some information on the edge and some in the cloud – is continuing to find favour,” explains Dr Umut Genc, co-founder and CEO of Eatron. “This allows the best of both worlds, with less complex processing taking place in a simplified, more cost-effective device on the edge, leaving the cloud to perform the more computationally-intensive heavy lifting where it is more efficient.” 

To support this, silicon manufacturers are now introducing specialised SOCs (systems on a chip) that make the integration of the crucial software layer easier, without the high costs of a full-blown AI chipset. 

Advancements in Battery Monitoring: Towards More Accurate Assessments

In parallel with this work, new techniques such as electro-impedance spectroscopy (EIS) stand to offer more accurate capture of the dynamics of each individual cell within a battery, and the industry is working towards a standard chipset that can be easily integrated within a BMS solution. That will ultimately lead to even more accurate assessments of SoX (state of everything) and Remaining Useful Life (RUL). 

“Of course, the battery itself remains the subject of intense development, and there are strong trends towards LFP and LMFP chemistries which, although less energy-dense, offer benefits in terms of safety and longevity thanks to their longer life cycles. Sodium-ion, too, promises to bring cost benefits that could lead to cheaper EVs.” 

Reducing Complexity and Cost: Innovations in BMS Architectures

Whichever formulation a vehicle manufacturer settles on, the cost and complexity of its integration is becoming an increasingly important consideration. Wireless BMS architectures, for example, offer the prospect of reduced pack complexity and lower manufacturing costs by allowing each slave battery module to communicate with the master unit without the need for intricate and expensive wiring. 

In addition, onboard chargers and DC-DC converters are now being integrated into a single unit along with the BMS to help reduce integration costs further. Even the battery structure itself has become the focus of alternative architectures, with cell-to-pack and cell-to-vehicle concepts investigating the possibility of eliminating module cases and reducing the number of interconnects, thereby reducing engineering effort, simplifying production, and saving weight. 

With so many electrical systems within a modern vehicle, managing current levels is now much more of a concern, both in terms of the traditional 12V system and also within the battery. Higher voltages lead to reduced current and simplified cabling, and some discussions are now even mentioning voltages as high as 1200V. 

Reinventing Vehicle Architecture towards Centralization and Simplification

In fact, the architecture of the vehicle itself is now ripe for reinvention. “Cars carry potentially close to one hundred of ECUs distributed around the vehicle, each responsible for a specific task. The integration of these units has grown into a highly complex process, one that – thanks to over-the-air software updates – continues long after the vehicle has left the showroom.” 

In an effort to simplify much of this, the industry is moving to a more centralised architecture, one that combines related duties into fewer domain or zone controllers that preside over a particular area, such as the chassis or safety equipment. While this simplifies the physical integration effort required, it does place unique demands on the software. 

“All the signs point to cars becoming increasingly defined by their software and as we’ve seen, some manufacturers have struggled in the initial stages of this transition. For our part, Eatron has worked hard to develop solutions such as our intelligent software layer (for BMS) that can be deployed easily, and we continue to optimise our platforms to make the most of the opportunities presented by these future trends,” Dr Genc concludes. 

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