What are the Different Battery Parameters of Hybrid Electric Vehicles?

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Editorial Team - everything PE

Mar 18, 2024

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) are vehicles that combine the power of an internal combustion engine with an electric propulsion system. This innovative technology aims to enhance fuel efficiency and decrease emissions by harnessing the benefits of both traditional combustion engines and electric motors. 

The electric energy stored in the HEV battery is gained using regenerative braking or while driving using the combustion engine. HEVs utilize various battery parameters to manage their operations efficiently. These parameters include: 

Capacity: The capacity of a HEV battery is the total amount of electrical energy generated by electrochemical reactions in the battery. It is determined by the mass of active material contained in the battery. The unit for measuring battery capacity is ampere-hours (Ah), watt-hours (Wh), or kilowatt-hours (kWh). Batteries with higher capacity can store more energy and provide longer driving ranges.

Generally, HEV batteries have capacities ranging from around 1 kWh to 2 kWh or more. This can vary significantly based on factors such as the vehicle's size, technology, and intended use. For example, compact HEVs may have smaller battery capacities, typically around 1 kWh, while larger or more advanced HEVs may feature larger battery capacities, up to 2 kWh or more. The battery capacity in HEVs is typically smaller than that of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) or battery electric vehicles (BEVs) since HEVs primarily use the battery to support the internal combustion engine rather than completely relying on electric power for propulsion.

Voltage: Voltage represents the electrical potential difference between the positive and negative terminals of the battery, measured in volts (V). The voltage of a HEV battery can vary depending on the specific design and configuration of the vehicle. However, HEV batteries typically operate at high voltages to efficiently power the electric propulsion system.

Usually, the voltage of an HEV battery falls within the range of several hundred volts to over 300 volts. Some HEVs may have voltages exceeding 600 volts, especially those with larger battery packs or more advanced propulsion systems. High-voltage battery systems are advantageous in HEVs because they allow for more efficient power transfer, reduce the size and weight of electrical components, and enable faster charging and discharging of the battery.

Power Density: Power density is a measure of power that is delivered by the battery per unit of weight or volume, measured in watts per kilogram (W/kg) or watts per litre (W/L), respectively. Batteries with high power densities can provide more power output for a given size or weight. This is crucial for HEVs where space and weight are limited.

The power density of HEV batteries is characterized by factors such as battery chemistry, design, packaging cell manufacturing techniques, and thermal management systems. Generally, HEV batteries have lower power densities compared to batteries used in pure electric vehicles (EVs) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) as they are designed to provide power for short bursts of acceleration and to support the internal combustion engine rather than solely propel the vehicle. Typical power densities for HEV batteries range from around 200 W/kg to 500 W/kg or more, depending on the specific battery technology and design choices.

Energy Density: The energy density is the amount of energy stored in the battery, relative to its size and is also known as volumetric energy density. It is measured in watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg) or watt-hours per litre (Wh/L). Batteries with higher energy density can store more energy in a smaller or lighter package, contributing to improved driving range and efficiency in HEVs.

Hybrid vehicle batteries, which are primarily used to support the electric motor and assist the internal combustion engine, have lower energy densities compared to batteries used in fully electric vehicles (EVs) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). This is because hybrid vehicle batteries are typically smaller and lighter since they do not need to provide all the energy for propulsion.

The energy density of hybrid vehicle batteries can vary depending on factors such as battery chemistry, design, and packaging. Typical energy densities for hybrid vehicle batteries range from around 100 Wh/kg to 250 Wh/kg, and from 200 Wh/L to 400 Wh/L, depending on the specific battery technology and design choices.

C-Rate: The C-rate of a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) battery is a parameter that is used to measure the speed at which a battery is fully charged or discharged. It is the rate at which the battery is charged or discharged relative to its capacity. It is a measure of the current flow to the battery's capacity.

Charging at a C-rate of 1C means that the battery is charged from zero to 100% in one hour, while a C-rate of 2C means that the battery is fully charged or discharged in 30 minutes. A C-rate higher than 1C means a faster charge. For example, a 3C C-rate is three times faster. So full charge is achieved in 20 minutes. Likewise, a lower C-rate means slower charging. A C/5 C-rate would be five times slower than 1C amounting to a 5-hour charging. 

The C-rate of HEV may be defined as

For example, if a battery with a capacity of 10 ampere-hours (Ah) is charged or discharged at a rate of 5 amperes, the C-rate would be:

This means the battery is being charged or discharged at a rate equivalent to half of its capacity per hour.

For hybrid electric vehicles, the C-rate is important for understanding the rate at which energy is transferred to or from the battery during operations such as regenerative braking or assisting the internal combustion engine. HEV batteries often have relatively high C-rates to support rapid energy transfer during these dynamic driving conditions.

Cycle Life: Cycle life refers to the number of full charge and discharge cycles a battery can undergo before its capacity degrades to 80%, which is considered a typical end-of-life for electric vehicle applications. It is an important metric for assessing the durability and longevity of the battery over its usable lifespan. HEVs require batteries with long cycle lives to ensure durability and reliability over the vehicle's lifespan.

The cycle life of HEV batteries depends on several factors such as battery chemistry, operating conditions, battery management systems, and the quality of battery manufacturing processes and materials. HEV batteries are generally designed to provide reliable performance over the vehicle's lifespan, typically ranging from 8 to 15 years or more. Regular maintenance and proper use help in enhancing the cycle life of HEV batteries.

Charge Rate: The charge rate of a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) battery is the rate at which the battery can accept electrical energy during the charging process. It is measured in kilowatts (kW) and specifies how quickly the battery can be charged under various conditions. HEV batteries support fast charging to replenish energy quickly during regenerative braking or when connected to external charging stations.

The charge rate is an important parameter for HEV batteries as it affects the charging time and the overall efficiency of the charging process. Higher charge rates enable faster charging, allowing the battery to replenish its energy more quickly. However, the charge rate may be limited by factors such as the battery's chemistry, design, and thermal management system. If an HEV battery has a charge rate of 4 kW, it means that it can accept up to 4 kilowatts of electrical power during charging. 

Temperature Range: The temperature range of a hybrid vehicle battery refers to the range of temperatures within which the battery can safely and effectively operate. The temperature range is crucial for HEV batteries because temperature extremes can impact battery performance, efficiency, and lifespan. A thermal management system is usually incorporated to regulate temperature and optimize battery operation in varying environmental conditions.

  • Operating Temperature: This is the range of temperatures in which the battery can operate effectively during normal vehicle operation. Operating within this range ensures optimal battery performance and efficiency. For most hybrid vehicle batteries, the typical operating temperature range falls between approximately -20°C to 50°C (-4°F to 122°F).
  • Charging Temperature: HEV batteries have specific temperature limits for charging to prevent damage or degradation. Charging the battery at temperatures outside of this range can reduce battery life or pose safety risks. The charging temperature range is often similar to the operating temperature range.
  • Discharging Temperature: Similar to charging, discharging the battery at extreme temperatures can affect its performance and longevity. The discharging temperature range is typically aligned with the operating temperature range.
  • Storage Temperature: Hybrid vehicle batteries also have recommended storage temperature ranges for periods when the vehicle is not in use. Storing the vehicle or battery at temperatures outside of this range can lead to capacity loss. The storage temperature range is often broader than the operating temperature range and may extend from around -30°C to 60°C (-22°F to 140°F).

Safety Features: Safety features of electric vehicle (EV) batteries are mechanisms and systems designed to ensure the safe operation of the battery pack under various conditions. The high energy density and potential risks associated with lithium-ion batteries commonly used in EVs necessitate robust safety measures to prevent thermal runaway, fire, or other hazardous situations. Here are some key safety features commonly found in EV batteries:

  • Thermal Management System: This system helps regulate the temperature of the battery pack to prevent overheating, which can lead to thermal runaway. It may include cooling systems, such as liquid cooling or air cooling, to maintain the battery within a safe temperature range during charging, discharging, and operation.
  • Battery Management System (BMS): The BMS monitors and controls various parameters of the battery pack, including temperature, voltage, and state of charge. It helps optimize battery performance, prevent overcharging or over-discharging, and detect and respond to any abnormalities or faults in the battery system.
  • Cell Balancing: Cell balancing ensures that individual cells within the battery pack are charged and discharged evenly to prevent overcharging or undercharging of specific cells, which can lead to capacity imbalances and reduce battery life.
  • Overcharge and Over-discharge Protection: Circuitry and sensors are incorporated into the battery pack to prevent overcharging beyond the safe voltage limit and over-discharging below the minimum voltage threshold, which can damage the battery cells and compromise safety.
  • Short Circuit Protection: Safety mechanisms are in place to prevent short circuits within the battery pack, such as fuses, circuit breakers, or current-limiting devices, which can lead to rapid discharge, overheating, and potentially fire.
  • Physical Enclosure and Structural Integrity: The battery pack is housed within a protective enclosure designed to withstand impacts, vibrations, and other external forces, minimizing the risk of damage to the battery cells and containment in the event of a collision.
  • Ventilation and Containment: In the rare event of a thermal event, such as a thermal runaway, ventilation systems, and flame-retardant materials are designed to contain and mitigate the spread of heat, gases, and flames to minimize the risk of fire or explosion.
  • Emergency Shutdown Procedures: EVs are equipped with emergency shutdown procedures that can disable the high-voltage system and isolate the battery pack in the event of a serious fault or safety hazard, allowing emergency responders to safely manage the situation.

These safety features work together to ensure the reliable and safe operation of EV batteries under normal driving conditions and in the event of unexpected incidents or emergencies. Manufacturers continuously improve and innovate safety technologies to enhance the safety of EVs.

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