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Improving the safety of batteries for use in electric vehicles

Libris 1 Libris 2

The UK has ambitious plans to be the fastest nation in the G7 to decarbonise cars and vans, announcing in its Transitioning to zero emission cars and vans: 2035 delivery plan that all new petrol and diesel vehicles will be phased out by 2030.

To support this, the automotive industry is electrifying at pace and investing hundreds of millions of pounds in developing and building electric vehicles.

The battery technology required to power these vehicles needs to be safe and that's where HSE Bespoke Research and Consultancy is playing a pivotal role.

How is HSE helping?

Electrically-powered vehicles and battery storage installations thankfully have a good safety record in the UK, but engineers and academics involved in battery design are taking no chances.

Lithium-ion battery cells have the potential to catch fire aggressively, and with consumers demanding that batteries give them further range and faster charging, there is an urgent need to develop an understanding of how such "thermal runaway" (TR) events may be triggered, suppressed and contained. The use of improved prevention materials, methods and mechanisms and a focus on identifying and detecting all early signs of risks, will ensure that fires can be prevented, or if necessary isolated and suppressed before they spread.

Scientists at HSE's Science and Research Centre, in a consortium with JLR, Denchi Power, 3M, Potenza, Lifeline, Tri-Wall and the University of Warwick, have been working as part of project LIBRIS, a Faraday Battery Challenge project, funded by UKRI, set up to support important research to improve the safety of batteries for use in electric vehicles and as stationary power sources.

What do we want to find out?

Project LIBRIS seeks to improve understanding of the range of potential causes of TR in individual battery cells and through scaling up tests and scientific understanding, develop better computational models for assessing the spread of TR within battery packs. The team will use real vehicle and stationary lithium-Ion battery designs and applications to model theoretical work and will take forward the most effective innovations into newly designed packs which will be tested to make sure that the inventions actually work. The group will then use this experience to develop standard tests for assessing the effectiveness of any future battery fire prevention mechanisms, thus assisting the next generation of work on this vital issue.

The project will lead to better battery pack design and control software, better fire sensing equipment, more use of innovative flame-retardant materials and better packaging for batteries in transport and during storage. It will create business opportunities and investment in the UK, whilst also contributing to public safety.

Additionally, it will build UK public sector capability to influence future international safety standards and regulations, so that safety remains paramount, but is science-based and not used as an artificial excuse for trade barriers.

If you would like to know more about our battery safety capabilty or how HSE Bespoke Research and Consultancy could help with the safe introduction of similar technologies, please contact Stuart Hawksworth -

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