Urban Electric Power Racked Battery System

Motivo designed, built and demonstrated a fully-custom, ultra-cost effective, 800 VDC racked battery system using zinc anode batteries.
CLIENT

Urban Electric Power is a battery development company focused on alternative Zinc battery chemistries that increase cost-performance while ensuring better safety for energy storage systems. While being experts in the battery chemistry field, they approached Motivo to develop and build new products around their novel cells.

REQUIREMENTS

Motivo’s project with UEP was to design, build and demonstrate a fully-custom, ultra-cost effective, 800 VDC racked battery system using the zinc anode batteries. There was an upfront total schedule limit of 4 months for the demonstration of a complete system.

CHALLENGE

The battery management industry’s laser focus on lithium chemistries made sourcing ideal components an issue, especially components that would suit the zinc batteries’ unique voltage range. UEP was also sensitive to several competing constraints such as overall weight (for both human handling and for structural integrity), ease of installation, overall size, robustness of communication, cell cooling capability, and high power fault handling. Sizing the high-power, 800 VDC electrical system was also challenging since UEP is aggressively improving their chemistry. The cell specifications were evolving with huge gains in capacity and performance, so there was much effort expended in ensuring the Motivo system design stayed in sync.

MOTIVO’S SOLUTION

Motivo surveyed the battery management electronics market, conducted early and aggressive trade studies involving component suppliers, and determined a nearly ideal component set to meet UEP’s low cost targets, requirements for low power operation, high resolution measurements, and robust data communication.

The mechanical team created uniform and convenient modules that housed Motivo-designed electronics and harnessing, allowing for production cost savings. These identical modules can be plugged together in different configurations to accommodate a wide range of voltages, powers and capacities, greatly reducing the need for future design efforts. The physical form factor allowed the modules to be loaded via Motivo’s unique rail system that further eases the installer’s efforts and increases safety.

The electrical and software teams designed the hardware and software to allow these battery modules to be hot- swapped, eliminating full-system downtime and reducing costs for battery maintenance activities. This effort included custom Printed Circuit Board design for charge balancing and to translate messages between the rack system and individual modules. The electronic architecture also allows for sub-second reading of hundreds of individual cell voltages, and several temperature sensors embedded in the packs present a detailed thermal picture. To ensure proper cooling, CFD analyses informed cooling component choice and architecture, striking the ideal balance between cost and performance.

OUTCOME/TIME TO COMPLETION

This fully custom battery system was designed in only 10 weeks, and a first prototype demonstrator unit was built in the following 6 weeks. Once manufactured in scale, this battery system will be highly cost-effective compared to competitive energy storage systems while avoiding their common safety pitfalls and failure modes. Motivo is continuing to work with UEP on projects with solar plants and large-scale utility companies.

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