High-profile battery failures have become all too familar in the news of late. In the last month alone, two major consumer electronics vendors have seen exploding batteries derail their product ( 1 , 2 ). Several other industries have suffered significant battery catastrophes in recent years. (Aerospace, Medical, Automotive, Grid-Scale Energy Storage).
All of these companies are under extreme pressure to improve battery performance as quickly as possible. Shrinking device sizes, increasing power requirements in application, and market demands have all forced vendors to put faster charging and more energy dense batteries in their products. But incorporating the latest and greatest battery technology can bring major risks for these organizations, as they push lithium-ion batteries to the limit. Moreover, until a few years ago, most lithium-ion batteries were limited to consumer applications with lifespans of around two years. Today, these same batteries are being pressed into applications with warrantied lifetimes of 8 to 10 years or longer, particularly in the automotive and energy storage fields.
New demands across each of these dimensions — higher energy densities, faster charge rates, and longer lifetimes — have dramatically increased the need for improved manufacturing control and reliability testing. Product OEMs typically test a representative sample set of batteries from their vendors under a variety of operating conditions — room temperature, low temperature, high temperature, high discharge rate, etc. These tests are meant to probe how a battery will respond in application, making sure they'll meet expected lifetimes and won't suffer catastrophic failure.
However, the rapid release cycles demanded by today's marketplace can occasionally provide incentive to cut corners. Indeed, there have been reports that some consumer electronics OEMs may have tried to skate by with rushed reliability tests, decisions that we now know can lead to recalls and missed sales totaling in the billions, with a yet-unquantifialble risk to the the brand.
Voltaiq's battery intelligence platform is currently deployed at major consumer electronics OEMs, where our software is used to track and analyze both battery reliability testing performed in-house, and battery performance data supplied by vendors in Asia. With a single platform for all of this data, our customers can now immediately compare batteries between vendors, deeply analyze performance variations, and review results with vendors quickly and efficiently. Using Voltaiq has helped these OEMs to accelerate battery design iterations and improvements, increase cross-organizational efficiency, and learn substantially more from their tests to critically minimize product risk. In fact, the Voltaiq platform is estimated to reduce the risk from product failure by 80%, potentially saving billions of dollars.
Download our case study on how the consumer electronics industry is using Voltaiq to dramatically limit product risk.
Keep an eye out for our subsequent post on the need for metrics that go beyond basic pass / fail criteria to ensure your products are safe and reliable.
As a sneak peak, the above plot (generated in Voltaiq) shows how internal resistance measurements extracted from raw time-series performance data can be used to spot a battery that's degrading before any loss of capacity is observed. In a subsequent post we'll dive into how more advanced metrics, like differential capacity analysis, can tell you even more about how a battery is changing and degrading in application.