Lithium Ion Heat Management

The Tesla Roadster is the first all-electric car to rely on lithium ion batteries. But these batteries, which have the highest energy density of any battery available, are also prone to overheating. How has Tesla addressed this potential problem?

According to the Tesla website’s “how it works” page, “The system addresses thermal balancing with a liquid cooling circuit. Multiple passive and active safety devices ensure safe operation over the wide range of driving environments and scenarios. An array of sensors and a dozen microcontrollers communicate with the vehicle to allow efficient use and management of the battery pack. Finally, the entire assembly is housed in a rugged enclosure, which protects the system from the harsh road environment while supporting the internal components.”

It’s interesting that advancements in battery technology that are leading us towards all-electric battery powered cars have come as much from the laptop computer industry as from the hybrid automobile industry. The computer press is a good place to turn for more about the lithium ion battery. A good article on the website ZD Net Asia “Can Anything Tame the Battery Flames?” offers several insights. They boil down to this “…manufacturers have continued to increase the energy density–or the amount of energy the battery can hold–of lithium ion batteries by thinning out separators (which keep the electrodes apart) and changing other components. These changes lead to longer run times–something consumers are demanding–but also raise the potential that something can go wrong.”

You can find discussions on the Tesla Roadster at Future Pundit, or Washington Monthly. From these posts many good points emerge, including the following two:

Nickel Metal Hydride battery heat management and load management is highly evolved and, at least right now, hybrid batteries using NMH technology are safe and cost effective. With some hybrid taxis now having logged over 200,000 miles, to-date not one hybrid battery pack has been replaced due to battery degradation. And the replacements that have been made, because of damage from accidents, only cost about $3,000.

Lithium Ion batteries are still a risky technology to use in automobiles, and Tesla evidently is banking on rapid advancements in their longevity and their safety. Currently the Tesla battery pack is only rated for 500 charge/discharge cycles, which isn’t nearly enough. The nickel metal hydride battery packs in hybrid cars can easily turn in 5,000 cycles.

Tesla Motors has done one thing very well, they have put to rest the common misconception that electric vehicles are anemic, oversized golf carts. And Tesla is just the most recent and visible embodiment of a gathering momentum both politically and technologically towards cars that use renewable energy and don’t pollute. Greener cars are coming.

3 Responses to “Lithium Ion Heat Management”
  1. ticked off says:

    ChOAC! Is NOTHING GOOD ENOUGH????????? You’ve got to pick at everything. You’re a FAKE greenie. Take no step until it’s perfect, means never change anything. You are one dumb SOB.

  2. Ed Ring says:

    Our support for the battery-powered electric car is long-standing and well documented. Read “Ford Delivers Electric Vehicles to the Post Office,” which dates back to 4-27-01.

    While we think 100% battery-powered cars are great, another longer-range battery powered car we’ve been promoting is the serial hybrid where an onboard diesel generator charges a battery pack but isn’t itself connected to the drive-train, read Battery Powered Cars, 10-15-05.

    We believe operating an all-electric car is considerably cheaper than operating a gasoline-powered car, and prove it in “Electric Car Cost per Mile,” 8-04-06 (this is also proven using alternative but equally valid logic in our article “Battery Powered Cars”).

    We believe plug-in hybrids are great, read “Plug-In Strong Hybrids,” 4-4-06, and we called for President Bush to support electric cars in our response to his 2006 State of the Union Address, “The State of Batteries,” 1-31-06.

    About the time when Tesla Motors really started speaking to the press, we were there, read “Silicon Valley, The Next Detroit,” 6-26-06, and when they released the specifications on their first prototype, we were there again, read “The Next Generation Car,” 7-25-06.

    If you think someone wants to kill the electric car, then hope Tesla Motors and all the other battery powered car manufacturers pay attention to battery safety. Imagine a Tesla Roadster battery pack losing its heat containment. Today, nickel metal hydride batteries are still safer, and could themselves power a viable 100% electric car, although there are encouraging reasons to believe lithium ion battery safety will catch up soon. We believe in green cars. Read all of our Green Car Comments. We don’t, however, believe in a conspiracy on the part of auto-makers.

    If anything kept the battery powered and hybrid cars suppressed and delayed – especially after the EV-1 generation – it was the many “green-noramuses” out there, who, being knee-jerk greens, didn’t critically evaluate green ideas for hydrogen fuel cells before they jumped onto that particular green bandwagon. Read “Over-Hyped Hydrogen,” 5-23-06. That’s where the years and the billions have gone, and there isn’t much to show for it, is there? We could have all been driving cheap-to-buy, cheap-to-operate, clean electric EV-1 type cars (which used cheap lead acid batteries!) to work by now.

  3. kert says:

    “The Tesla Roadster is the first all-electric car to rely on lithium ion batteries.”
    Correction. Venturi Fetish used the technology they licenced from ACP couple years before. Not exactly a mass-market vechile but neither is Tesla ATM


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.