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Brain Power - GE, Ford and U. Michigan Develop Smarter, Longer-Range EVs
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August 09, 2012

Brain Power - GE, Ford and U. Michigan Develop Smarter, Longer-Range EVs

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

According to the New York City-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE (News - Alert)), the rapid adoption of electric vehicles (EV) is being hindered by the lack of a uniform rechargeable battery with sufficient power for extended-range driving.

Now, engineers at the GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York, are building a new “battery brain” that will make the car batteries powering electric vehicles even smarter and longer-lasting. The goal is to drive down EV costs and boost their range.

At the core of the new GE system are sophisticated “ultrathin” sensors that monitor and manage battery vitals, such as temperature, voltage and current. The tiny sensors fit in tight nooks inside the battery, out of reach of existing technology, and gather a rich harvest of data that will optimize and manage the battery and extend its life.

The GE team has partnered with Ford Motor Company (News - Alert), which manufactures the Focus EV, and researchers at the University of Michigan to develop the sensors. Ford will test prototypes inside its EVs.

 “The car battery remains the greatest barrier and most promising opportunity to bringing EVs mainstream,” said Aaron Knobloch, principal investigator and mechanical engineer at GE Global Research. “Improvements in the range, cost and life of the battery will all be needed for EVs to be competitive. With better sensors and new battery analytics, we think we can make substantial progress at increasing battery life. This, in turn, could help bring down its overall cost and the cost entitlement of buying an electric car.”

In Focus: Ultrathin smart sensors and new battery analytics will put fresh muscle inside EVs. 

The government’s Advanced Research Project Agency for Energy (ARPA-E), which backs high-risk research that may result in spectacular breakthroughs, is helping to fund the three-year, $3.1-million project.

The research fits into GE’s advance into the Industrial Internet, a global network where pieces of next-generation industrial equipment – including batteries – generate and exchange volumes of data about their condition and operation, much like personal computers and servers communicate over the Web.

GE is already using sensors and algorithms to collect and analyze data, and use it to create more “intelligent” devices and systems that improve performance for the customer.

GE has been working on other technology that makes hybrids, EVs and alternative fuel vehicles more efficient. Just last month, GE engineers started developing a speedy and cheap CNG refueling station for the home. They also built a new electric traction motor that is substantially more powerful than what is commercially available now, improving fuel efficiency by up to 5 percent.

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Edited by Braden Becker

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