Things are moving fast in the world of batteries and the countless applications they power. In order to provide the best possible answers to specific questions from manufacturers, VITO/EnergyVille offers a particularly wide and varied range of battery tests and corresponding expert advice. ‘In recent years, we have seen a strong differentiation in the market, and we take that into account.’

 

Companies that develop products or systems powered by batteries can contact VITO/EnergyVille for performance and lifetime tests. It has advanced testing equipment that meets all customer needs. This equipment was recently expanded with several state-of-the-art test instruments: a new battery tester, a larger temperature chamber and an ARC device that is unique in Belgium.

Tailor-made battery testing

The new battery tester was developed by manufacturer PEC and is only the second tester of this type to be put into service worldwide. ‘Thanks to the new tester, we can now get to a voltage of up to 150V per module,’ says Filip Leemans of VITO/EnergyVille. The higher testing range is important because the ‘density’ of cells in modules, which is often higher nowadays, means the modules have higher voltages. The VITO/EnergyVille testers measure the decrease in battery capacity and the increase in resistance, while also monitoring things like heat development. ‘This allows us to find the optimum balance between the lifespan of a battery and its performance,’ says Leemans. Some of the battery tests take place in a temperature chamber, where the influence of highly variable and changing weather conditions on battery performance can be examined. In order to test these conditions even more effectively, VITO/EnergyVille not only purchased the new battery tester, but also an expanded temperature chamber – larger both in size and temperature range. ‘This way, we can also test complete car batteries,’ says Leemans.

Typical customers are companies who want to find out which battery is most suitable for their application, or who want to test already purchased batteries. Whether it is for a car manufacturer, renewable energy storage, medical devices (e.g. Philips) or even for household appliances (e.g. the KOBI garden robot), the tests are custom-designed to investigate the customer’s specific requirements. The VITO/EnergyVille testing lab also offers a wide range of services, from data sheet verification to lifespan assessment under various conditions of use. The quality of the testing services is highly important to VITO/EnergyVille. The battery tests are carried out according to own defined ISO quality procedures and in compliance with ISO 9001/ISO 14001/OHSAS 18001. VITO/EnergyVille has its battery testers calibrated every year by the manufacturer PEC in order to guarantee qualitative and quantitative measurement values. These procedures prompted Jabil Circuit Belgium NV to call on VITO/EnergyVille in 2019 for a battery testing campaign within the framework of an accredited test report (ISO 17045).

Battery test lab equipped with ARC

In response to growing concerns about the safe use of batteries, the lab has recently been equipped with a new ‘accelerated rate calorimeter’, or ARC. This ARC is suitable for testing small amounts of powder to measure the release of energy in chemical reactions, for example, as well as for investigating the thermal behaviour of cells and modules. The ARC also functions as an explosion resistant chamber for safety tests. An installation with these characteristics is unique in Belgium. With the purchase and installation of state-of-the-art testing technologies, VITO/EnergyVille is keeping its finger on the pulse of the market and the needs of the industry. ‘In recent years, the types of tests that companies request from us have started to vary greatly. That indicates a differentiation in the market, so we’re taking that into account,’ says Leemans. In the coming years, the demand for batteries, and therefore for specific battery tests, will only increase. With the expected growth in demand from companies and authorities for these kinds of battery tests, the capacity of the multi-disciplinary battery test lab in Genk is likely to double soon. This is how VITO/EnergyVille is positioning itself as the leading battery testing laboratory in Belgium and one of the best testing facilities in Europe.

Safe transport of lithium batteries by air

In recent years, there have been several incidents of uncontrolled fires during flights, caused by lithium batteries. This was why the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) banned the  separate transport of lithium batteries (without further equipment) as cargo on passenger flights in 2016. To study these problems VITO/EnergyVille co-ordinated the Sabatair project (November 2017 to November 2020) on behalf of the European Commission and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The main goal of this project was to evaluate new and existing potential measures for improving the safe transport of both lithium-metal and lithium-ion cells and batteries as cargo on both passenger and cargo flights. An important outcome was the creation of a safety and risk assessment guide for air transport operators in using the identified solutions and measures in their daily operations. Thanks to the success of the Sabatair project and the good collaboration between Airbus, DLR and VITO/EnergyVille, a follow-up research project AirPED will soon be launched for the European Commission, under the supervision of EASA. This project will investigate fire hazards related to the transport of portable electronic devices in checked-in baggage on aeroplanes.

Read more about Sabatair

 

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