Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Supporting Technology

You know that a technology has come of age when the required support is off the shelf instead of custom. Which is why this is such good news for mult-cell lithium battery technology.

Data Translation has announced its Voltpoint series of voltage-measurement instruments for lithium-ion cell-by-cell determination. Each Voltpoint is a stand-alone box offering 48 24-bit-resolution inputs over a sampling range of ±100V, each with its own sigma-delta ADC for direct connection to a PC through USB or Ethernet. The LXI (LAN-extensions-for-instrumentation) - compatible instruments can make high-voltage, high-precision battery-stack and cell-balance measurements in commercial and military hybrid-vehicle applications. They accept direct voltage inputs of any value in the range of ±100V from a single cell or from a series of stacked cells. In addition, the instruments can make motor-shunt measurements. Each of the 48 input channels offers 1000V channel-to-channel galvanic isolation. Maximum error is 3 mV for any input range.
Interesting specs, huh? Well for an engineer. The big deal is that a tester for multi-cell lithium batteries is now an off the shelf item. Which means that there is significant demand for such testing. Which means that in a year or three (depending on how long it takes to work out the bugs of the batteries and their charge and discharge systems) we will start seeing such batteries in autos in at least pre-production prototype volumes (which in the case of autos runs into the multiple-thousands). And, if it works out, we should see production volumes following on about a year or two afterwards.

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