Boosting Battery Performance

Automotive Engineering Student Ubaid Rehman Aims to Design a High-Functioning EV Battery Pack with a Thermal Management System for the Asia Pacific Market

In a world gravitating toward sustainable transportation, Ubaid Rehman has taken a significant stride in designing a high-functioning battery pack with an innovative Thermal Management System (TMS) for the burgeoning Electric Vehicle (EV) sector in Asia Pacific.

Rehman, who is pursuing a Master of Engineering degree in Automotive Engineering, Integrative Systems + Design, University of Michigan, began a project in fall 2023 with the support of industry experts and academic professionals to address the unique environmental challenges and economic opportunities presented in this market.

Recognizing the EV battery pack as the costliest component of an electric vehicle, Rehman’s research aimed to not only mitigate the upfront costs, but also ensure the efficient operation of EVs in Asia Pacific’s widely varying climates. The project focused on enhancing battery performance and longevity through improved thermal management — a critical factor given the country’s extreme temperatures.

Better Air Quality

EVs emit fewer greenhouse gasses compared to traditional vehicles, especially when powered by renewable energy sources and produce zero tailpipe emissions, leading to better air quality, particularly in urban areas where vehicular pollution is a significant concern, according to Rehman. 

“EVs lessen reliance on finite fossil fuel resources like oil and natural gas, enhancing energy security and reducing vulnerability to global supply disruptions and price fluctuations,” he said. “EVs can serve as storage units for renewable energy through smart charging and vehicle-to-grid systems. Transportation is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Widespread EV adoption is essential for advancing global sustainability efforts by reducing emissions, improving air quality, promoting renewable energy integration, enhancing energy security, and mitigating climate change.”

Rehman’s project began with an exhaustive Literature Review that helped in establishing benchmarks and identifying best practices in battery pack design. An essential part of Rehman’s research involved selecting the appropriate cell type for the battery pack, where Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) cells emerged as the best candidate due to their cost-effectiveness, safety, and reliability.

The selection of LFP batteries for EVs was influenced by two critical factors:

  • Safety, Cycle Life and Temperature Performance: LFP batteries are known for their high thermal stability and reduced risk of thermal runaway, enhancing EV safety by minimizing overheating and fire hazards. LFP batteries offer a longer cycle life compared to other lithium-ion chemistries, allowing them to withstand more charge-discharge cycles and contribute to improved durability and longevity for EVs. LFP batteries exhibit superior performance across a wide temperature range, making them suitable for EVs operating in diverse climates and environments, ensuring consistent performance and reliability.
  • Cost-effectiveness and Environmental Sustainability: Despite having slightly lower energy density, LFP batteries provide a favorable balance between cost and performance, making EVs more affordable and fostering wider adoption and market penetration. LFP batteries contain less cobalt, addressing environmental and concerns associated with cobalt mining. By reducing reliance on rare materials, LFP batteries offer a more environmentally sustainable option for EV manufacturers.

Primary technical challenges facing EV battery packs include energy density, charging speed, battery degradation, safety, and cost. To tackle these issues, Rehman’s project focused on battery technology, battery management systems (BMS), testing and validation, and collaboration with the project sponsor. By researching battery chemistries, optimizing designs, and selecting sophisticated BMS hardware, his goal was to improve energy density, charging speed, safety, and cost-effectiveness.

Rigorous Testing

Suggestions were made to do rigorous testing to ensure the reliability, safety, and durability of battery packs, ultimately advancing the adoption of EVs for a sustainable future.

Rehman’s design addressed key mechanical aspects critical to battery safety, such as cell spacing for mitigating swelling forces and thermal management to prevent overheating. The proposed TMS ensured the battery cells operated within optimal temperature ranges, thereby enhancing their cycle life and averting thermal runaway — a dangerous scenario that could lead to fire or explosion.

With an eye on practical application, Rehman’s design was developed to be consistent with manufacturing techniques available in Pakistan and international safety standards. The modular nature of the TMS makes possible its feasible application in various battery pack sizes and shapes, accommodating different vehicle models and preferences in the market.

According to Rehman, the introduction of EVs in countries like Pakistan supports international climate change mitigation strategies in several key areas: 

  • Emission Reduction: EVs emit fewer greenhouse gasses than conventional vehicles, aiding in achieving global emission reduction targets.
  • Air Quality Improvement: EV adoption improves air quality by reducing pollutants, addressing health risks associated with poor air quality.
  • Renewable Energy Integration: EV introduction offers an opportunity to integrate renewable energy sources into transportation, aligning with clean energy transition goals.
  • International Cooperation: Pakistan’s embrace of EV technology aligns with global climate efforts, promoting collaboration and leveraging international support for low-carbon mobility.

“EV introduction in countries like Pakistan aligns with international climate goals by reducing emissions, enhancing air quality, integrating renewable energy, and fostering global cooperation on climate action,” he said.

The project’s simulation stage confirmed the TMS was highly effective, and the overall pack design displayed competitive specific energy density on a global scale. However, Rehman recommended further analysis in areas such as crash safety and the containment of noise, vibration, and harshness to refine the design further.

Generating More Profit

Financial viability was also a key consideration, with production cost estimates placing the 27kWh battery pack at $5,850 and the 33kWh pack at $6,800. These prices are deemed competitive within the Asia Pacific market, Rehman said, especially when considering the anticipated growth in the use of battery packs across automotive and electronics industries.

By 2031, the lithium-ion battery pack market is expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of about 11 percent, reaching over $120 billion globally. Rehman’s project sponsor, with a conservative estimate of securing a 1 percent market share, could potentially generate revenue of $1.2 billion by the year 2026 in Pakistan alone.

His project aligns with global efforts to counter climate change and could significantly change the automotive landscape in Pakistan. It promises to make EVs more accessible, reduce the country’s dependence on oil imports, and bring new employment opportunities — all while taking a vital step toward a more sustainable, greener future.

“The global surge in battery pack usage will significantly impact the EV market in

Pakistan and the wider Asia Pacific region,” he said. “The growing adoption of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) globally will lead to increased EV market growth in Pakistan and the Asia Pacific. The growing demand for EVs will necessitate the development of charging infrastructure in Pakistan and the Asia Pacific. Increased usage of battery packs in EVs will drive innovation in battery technology, energy storage, and electric powertrains. The rising reliance on battery packs will impact the supply chain dynamics of key raw materials like lithium, cobalt, and nickel, positioning these countries as potential leaders in the battery supply chain.”