Go further for longer: load cells and electric car batteries

Published On: April 25 2024

In January, the millionth battery powered electric vehicle (BEV) was sold in the UK, with an estimated 414,000 more expected to join it during 2024. That’s a 21% increase on last year’s figures.

The amount of miles you can drive on a single charge is also increasing. A year ago, the average range of an EV was estimated at around 200 miles. Now it is closer to 300 miles.

Given the still-patchy network of UK charging points, and the slow progress of building new charging stations, it’s definitely good news is that electric vehicle manufacturers are constantly innovating their battery design to improve both mileage and lifespan. However, manufacturing now needs to keep up with demand without compromising on quality or wasting precious resources.

 

Right from the start: load cells in electric battery manufacture

The most popular type of EV battery, Lithium-ion, now dominates the BEV market. Load cells feature at various stages in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, according to an article by Futek.

“In battery manufacturing, high yield and repeatability are just as important as cost-effective solutions. This is true for many different process steps, from slurry mixing, calendaring, and electrode precise slitting and force-controlled applications. Without precise measurement and control of process variables, the battery manufacturing process may be inconsistent, resulting in quality issues, process inefficiencies, and loss of production.”

 

Saving the slurry

The very first stage of monitoring the battery slurry preparation is crucial. The raw materials for making lithium-ion batteries are expensive, accounting for up to 60% of the total battery’s production costs. By using a load cells on a slurry container, manufacturers can measure and monitor these expensive ingredients:

“Weighing is the most accurate method of meeting high process tolerances for consistency in formulation and avoiding expensive waste.”

 

In-vehicle electric battery testing

Electric batteries in vehicles are subject to a wide range of forces, including electrical mechanical and thermal stresses. Load cells can be used to fully test the batteries, as:

“Mechanical evaluations must maintain strict force tolerances, often using load cells because of their accuracy and cost-effectiveness.”

 

Recycling battery components

Li-ion batteries are also driving high demand for lithium, with demand exceeding supply since 2022. In 2022, 60% of all lithium produced was destined for EV batteries.

With such expensive and rare ingredients involved, it is reassuring to read in Direct Industry e-magazine that that Bosch Rexroth are pioneering the use of automation to recover up to 95% of chemical elements from used EV batteries. These elements can then be fed back into the manufacture of new batteries.

According to Franck Papon, Business Development Manager:

“Bosch primarily focuses on the upstream part of the process, specifically on the pre-treatment after the battery is removed from the vehicle. Pre-treatment involves diagnosing the battery to determine its condition, health status, charge status, and also its model and what the battery is made of. The diagnostic process includes opening the battery hood using AI-driven methods tailored to each battery model. Once the battery is diagnosed, we can load all the machines in the recycling line.”

 

Enter the robots

Most industrial robots are packed with load cells and sensors so they can perform intricate tasks with the same delicate touch as a human hand. (See our blog here for more on this )

A German project aims to use human mentors’ to help robots learn how to identify, examine and disassemble components for remanufacturing. The robot can rework an old component, or disassemble it for reuse, resulting in an eco-friendly operation that minimises waste, uses less energy, and reduces the cost of the final re-manufactured product.

The AgiProbot uses an AI system to learn from skilled humans as they disassemble a specific component. A cobot then reproduces each task individually. Equally, the AI can be used to check returned used components for damage that would prevent them being reusable, including corrosion, cracks, flaws and excessive wear.

Do explore their interactive website – that’s impressive on its own!

 

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