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One Faulty Cell Impairs the Entire Battery

Once each year, battery users and manufacturers, along with their suppliers, gather at the Battery Experts Forum. This year, the lack of battery-cell production in Germany and Europe as well as the reliability and safety of battery systems were popular topics at the conference and the accompanying exhibition from 10th to 12th April. One of the speakers was Dr. Peter Kritzer, Senior Application Manager E-Mobility at Freudenberg Sealing Technologies.

The 16th edition of the industry conference, which had been held in Aschaffenburg, was relocated to the Forum Messe Frankfurt this year – an indication of the increasing importance of battery solutions in a growing number of fields. This has naturally resulted in a diverse array of topics that the roughly 100 speakers addressed over the three days of the event. Current developments in battery technology were the main focus. Besides the use of new materials and battery management, there were presentations on safety and storage issues as well as testing and certification processes.

Dr. Peter Kritzer: „We’re able to take advantage of the expertise from the auto sector in other fields – in a spirit of cross-innovation.”

In addition, other topics came to the fore: “One was a call for battery-cell manufacturing in Europe, the subject of lively discussions again and again,” said Christian Adamczyk, the press spokesman for the BMZ Group, which organized the event. “After all, batteries today are found in more and more products that have done without them in the past – for example, on bicycles. Some discussions were also devoted to recycling and energy storage systems.”

Technical Discussions Lead to Valuable Conclusions

Adamczyk said the Battery Experts Forum is well on its way to becoming one of the leading expert forums on battery technology. With over 2,500 visitors over three days, the number of participants was double the total for the previous year. Most came from Europe and Asia. Dr. Peter Kritzer stressed the importance of this type of technical conference to Freudenberg Sealing Technologies. “Trends and topics emerge from the numerous discussions, and invaluable conclusions can be drawn from them. Even if the auto industry did not have a huge presence here, we’re able to take advantage of the expertise and developments from the auto sector in other fields – in a spirit of cross-innovation. For example, there are batteries that are used in aerospace and medical applications. We saw that here.” Dr. Kritzer identified a few key Forum themes — fast-charging capabilities, thermal management and especially the safety of batteries with ever-increasing capacity — all trouble spots for which Freudenberg Sealing Technologies has the right solutions ready to go.

Battery Reliability Is Fundamental

Battery reliability is a major, undisputed concern of the entire industry, according to the participants. Dr. Dirk Uwe Sauer of RWTH Aachen confirmed this in his keynote address on the final day of the event. Especially on the road, sudden malfunctions are not acceptable. That’s why active safety features are exceptionally important. The ultrafast charging procedures needed to promote the acceptance of batteries are also posing new challenges. The batteries have to be designed especially for this purpose; otherwise, they will suffer damage quickly. With complex battery technology, it is always the case that the cell in the worst condition impairs the entire battery and affects its operating life. So nothing is more important than uniformly high quality. In another keynote speech, Dr. Joachim Döhner of KUKA Germany said production lines always have to be adapted to product, market and customer needs. “One-size-fits-all” is definitely the wrong approach, he said.

In his lecture, Dr. Kritzer highlighted standard components that promote the long-term reliability of battery systems. He also talked about components that improve responses to the battery-safety challenges cited here. For example, heat shields developed by FST not only suppress harmful heat transfer from cell to cell in an emergency; with a compressible and topographical configuration, they provide the bracing for the cells, extending their lifespan.

Major International Players at the Exhibition

A total of 75 companies presented their products and services at the exhibition accompanying the conference on battery-system applications. They included Panasonic, BYD, LG Chem and Murata – each a major international player in the battery sector. For the first time, Germany’s Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) had a presence at the event. Its representative, Ehsan Rahimzei, called the exhibition a promising start with plenty of potential for the future. Again and again, conversations with suppliers revolved around electric mobility. Rahimzei was struck with the general willingness to keep gearing up for electrification – and the need to do so.

At the end, the organizers confirmed that the Battery Experts Forum will again be held on the Frankfurt Messe grounds next year – an understandable decision given the level of international interest in the Forum.

Detailed information on FST’s solutions in the electric-mobility field can be found here.

“The Production of the First Battery Cells in Germany Will Begin in the Near Future”

Sven Bauer founded the BMZ Group, a provider of smart battery solutions, 25 years ago in Karlstein, Bavaria. In 2004, he launched the Battery Experts Forum, which this year welcomed its international guests to Frankfurt for the first time.

Mr. Bauer, when you think back to your company’s early days in 1994, how would you describe your entrance into the then-emerging battery sector?

No one believed that lithium ion batteries were the future of batteries. Many companies were hesitant and apprehensive – they were unwilling to give me, a young man of 25, either the credence or the credit that my company needed to get into the market. I had to exhaust all my personal resources to launch a company that employs 3,000 employees today.

At the Battery Experts Forum, a great many high-caliber experts gathered to discuss current developments in battery technology. Where do things stand with electric mobility?

Electric mobility goes far beyond the automobile. We’re also talking about equipment such as forklifts, hoisting equipment and even boats, among other things. The opportunities for its use are nearly limitless. The electric mobility market – especially for automobiles – is frequently discussed in the media, but the options for industrial applications are much more interesting. For example, Still and KION are two of our most important customers, and the developments in the field are extremely important to the entire battery sector.

What are the greatest challenges now facing battery-electric powertrains in the auto industry?

One interesting aspect is safety, which poses a communication challenge. The purported hazards of electric mobility are often a subject for discussion, as is the alleged environmental damage occurring during development and production. But these arguments have largely been refuted, and there is enduring proof that the technology is considerably safer and more environmentally friendly than internal combustion. The disadvantages of electric cars are vanishingly few in number, but the media like to play them up.
Vehicle range and costs are certainly relevant issues for vehicle developers. In the past, electric cars covered 100 kilometers. Today no one is buying batteries any more – people are leasing batteries that can cover 500 kilometers. The key component of an electric car is – and will remain – the battery.

How important is thermal management – to which seals contribute – to the use of batteries with ever-increasing performance?

Thermal management is an important factor governing a battery’s lifespan. It is also crucial during the charging and discharging mode. Intelligent, properly executed thermal management extends lifespans and increases the efficiency of battery systems.

At the Battery Experts Forum, you came out strongly in favor of establishing the European manufacture of battery cells. What are the chances of achieving this?

The chances are better than good. We are in close touch with the Economy Ministry on governmental support and are well on our way. But the manufacture and development of cell technology will ultimately not be borne by a single company – there has to be cooperation. We are pressing ahead with a consortium. We will begin producing the first cell in Germany in the near future and bring it to market.

Freudenberg Sealing Technologies has been working with the automotive industry for many years and also develops tailor-made products for the electric mobility.

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