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Despite the advancements that have been made in EV battery technology, the fact remains that it is still at a relatively early stage in its evolution. For it to present a truly viable alternative to internal combustion engines, several hurdles still need to be overcome. Question marks continue to linger around electric car reliability, particularly outside of the warranty period. Advancements in battery testing and repair will go a long way to addressing this challenge.
Having the technical capability to address battery faults is one thing, being able to do so with minimal to no environmental footprint is a different matter. In this article, we will examine what electric vehicle servicing looks like in practice and how it can be deployed to support the automotive industry on its journey towards carbon neutrality.
Many commentators continue to claim it is impossible to repair EVs, for a variety of reasons. We have a different view on this, and believe our dynamic testing methodology is the final missing piece of the puzzle of how to truly unlock the environmental and performance potential of electric vehicles. Because of the progress that has been made within EV battery testing, sustainable EV battery repair and servicing is now eminently possible, and is critical to the future success of the wider industry.
The first step in overcoming any problem is being able to accurately identify and diagnose its root cause; EV batteries are no exception. When EV battery faults occur, the fault is typically located within only a small group of cells. If an EV battery (when connected in-series, as most are) can only charge to the level of its weakest cell, we can then see how this undermines the performance of the entire pack. If left unaddressed, faulty cells have the potential to stress adjacent cells, and the issue spreads and becomes more and more problematic with the passage of time. By identifying problematic cells at the earliest possible stage, we can avoid this entirely. Dynamic testing allows us to precisely locate faults at a cellular level, with unparalleled accuracy. Thanks to this, the automotive industry has now reached a turning point.
Inadequate testing methods used by other businesses to date have simply not provided the level of detail required to accurately treat faults. While some tests can demonstrate a drop in power output and capacity, they rarely explain why this happened. This has a knock-on effect within the repair process, where an inability to diagnose faults on a cellular level has resulted in sub-optimal outcomes in the form of repeat repair failures, which undermines the integrity of the entire repair process.
A lack of testing precision has translated into similarly imprecise repair methods. Previously, it was not uncommon to replace entire packs with new ones. Subsequent developments made it possible to replace modules with newly manufactured ones. All of this is well and good, but it comes with a heavy environmental cost that is incompatible with the sustainability objectives of the automotive industry. Our early work within the EV space highlighted a glaring issue within automotive: the tendency to overlook the residual value of the remaining healthy cells of failed EV battery packs.
Recycling is an important part of automotive’s circularity journey, but when items are recycled prematurely, this is problematic. The environmental cost of producing battery packs is such that we have a moral imperative to extract every single ounce of value from each individual module before recycling even enters the equation. Hence, when we have the option to replace faulty modules with existing ones, this is a considerably more sustainable alternative to replacing an entire battery pack or module with a new one. The validity of this approach is supported by the below data.
Theory and practice are two different things entirely, and being able to successfully install used modules in remanufactured packs has only been possible through developing our expertise in grading modules.
This approach to sustainable EV battery repair and servicing is even more impactful than recycling, which requires a massive amount of water and energy, while generating substantial CO₂ emissions. A repair-first mindset must therefore become second nature within the wider EV industry, if it is to achieve its circularity goals.
By periodically subjecting EV batteries to testing so faulty cells and modules can be identified and remedied, we can systematically address causes of degradation and correct them. In doing so, we can restore peak performance and halt premature EV battery decline, at minimal cost to the environment.
For us to truly reap the rewards of EV, the automotive industry needs to transition away from its disproportionate focus on end-of-life recycling and instead consider how we can maximise the longevity of EV batteries by embracing a ‘repair-first’ mindset. To re-iterate the point, recycling and reusing EV batteries in 2nd life is essential if the industry is to achieve its net zero goals, however, these activities should not distract us from our duty to prevent waste in the first place.
In the same way that our focus must be on preventing waste, so too must we also seek to prevent battery faults proactively. In this regard, testing has a vital role to play. The use of digital twins is a fundamental part of sustainable EV battery repair and servicing in that it allows us to diagnose and treat potential issues before they arise. For automakers, this protects them from the financial and reputational risks associated with repeat failures. On a much broader level, increasing confidence in EV as a viable alternative to internal combustion engines by substantially improving reliability will accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, with all the additional environmental benefits that this brings.
Through dynamic testing, we now have a viable route to restoring and maintaining optimal EV battery health. The implications of this are significant; by maximising EV battery longevity and making optimal use of existing components to minimise the carbon footprint of the wider automotive industry, we can truly unlock the environmental benefits of electric vehicles.