Keeping Batteries Cooled and Heated: The Key to Alternative Transportation Longevity
As electric cars continue to become a prominent method of alternative transportation, companies are continuing to find new ways to make their vehicles more efficient and longer lasting. Recently, Ford has joined the ranks of other electric car manufacturers who are trying to tackle the issue of a loss of charging power in batteries when the temperature outside the car is either too high or too low. In order to combat this, a system has been developed to keep the temperature of the battery just right.
Anyone who has used a cell phone for any period of time or rechargeable batteries for any product will have an idea of what challenges electric car manufactures face when developing alternative transportation. Like any battery, after a period time wear on the system will result in the battery being incapable of holding as much charge as it once could for as long as it once did. Companies like Nissan have boasted that their electric cars would be able to maintain an 80% charge even after eight to ten years of service; Ford has decided that simply isn’t good enough. To this end, Ford has announced that they will be implementing a liquid cooling and heating system on the new 2011 Ford Focus Electric.
Research so far has shown that in order to maintain optimum charge, a lithium ion battery would need to be kept around 71 degrees. In order to maintain a temperature close to this, the Focus Electric battery will have liquid within the battery that will have to first be heated or cooled before the battery is actually allowed to charge. Ford believes that by first bringing the battery to the ideal temperature, based off the car’s reading of what the outside temperature is, the battery will maintain its maximum charge for much longer then a battery without a liquid system, meaning longer battery life and reduced safety concerns. According to Ford, the Focus Electric will be the first of their electric line to feature the liquid cooling and heating system, but customers should expect more of their models to be released featuring the system over the course of the next several years.
Tesla, another big name in electric cars and alternative transportation, has been using liquid cooling in their designs for the last several years. The Tesla Roadster, for example, features a liquid cooling system that is designed to always keep the battery below an average temperature of 95 degrees with the goal of keeping an average lifetime temperature of approximately 77 degrees. While Tesla’s system does not currently heat the battery, both Tesla and General Motors have announced that they will be pursuing similar systems as the Ford Focus Electric in future designs.
One of the keys to have an excellent form of alternative transportation is obviously longevity. Few consumers want to have a car that will need to have constant parts replacement or to end up needing to just purchase a new car altogether. Thankfully, with companies like Ford, Tesla, and General Motors pursuing ways to get more life out of their electric systems other companies may also catch on and soon it may just be an obvious design choice to include a method of heating and cooling the lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles.
Article by Richard Cooke, appearing courtesy Justmeans.
photo: Argonne National Laboratory.
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