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Battery management system (BMS) is technology dedicated to the oversight of a battery pack, which is an assembly of battery cells, electrically organized in a row x column matrix configuration to enable delivery of targeted range of voltage and current for a duration of time against expected load scenarios. The oversight that a BMS provides usually includes:
Monitoring the battery
Providing battery protection
Estimating the battery’s operational state
Continually optimizing battery performance
Reporting operational status to external devices
Here, the term "battery" implies the entire pack; however, the monitoring and control functions are specifically applied to individual cells, or groups of cells called modules in the overall battery pack assembly. Lithium-ion rechargeable cells have the highest energy density and are the standard choice for battery packs for many consumer products, from laptops to electric vehicles. While they perform superbly, they can be rather unforgiving if operated outside a generally tight safe operating area (SOA), with outcomes ranging from compromising the battery performance to outright dangerous consequences. The BMS certainly has a challenging job description, and its overall complexity and oversight outreach may span many disciplines such as electrical, digital, control, thermal, and hydraulic.
And how does a Lithium Ion Battery BMS work?
A Lithium Ion Battery is made up of an anode, cathode, separator, electrolyte, and two current collectors (positive and negative). The anode and cathode store the lithium. The electrolyte carries positively charged lithium ions from the anode to the cathode and vice versa through the separator. The movement of the lithium ions creates free electrons in the anode which creates a charge at the positive current collector. The electrical current then flows from the current collector through a device being powered (cell phone, computer, etc.) to the negative current collector. The separator blocks the flow of electrons inside the battery.
While the battery is discharging and providing an electric current, the anode releases lithium ions to the cathode, generating a flow of electrons from one side to the other. When plugging in the device, the opposite happens: Lithium ions are released by the cathode and received by the anode.
ENERGY DENSITY VS. POWER DENSITY
The two most common concepts associated with batteries are energy density and power density. Energy density is measured in watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg) and is the amount of energy the battery can store with respect to its mass. Power density is measured in watts per kilogram (W/kg) and is the amount of power that can be generated by the battery with respect to its mass. To draw a clearer picture, think of draining a pool. Energy density is similar to the size of the pool, while power density is comparable to draining the pool as quickly as possible.
The Vehicle Technologies Office works on increasing the energy density of batteries, while reducing the cost, and maintaining an acceptable power density.