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Accelerating your Battery Pack Development with The Voltt & COMSOL Multiphysics

“About:Energy’s technical team supported us in simulating the thermal behaviour of an air-cooled variant of our battery pack – enabling us to accelerate development by quickly evaluating different thermal design directions.” - Project Manager

We recently worked with a UK-based pack designer developing batteries for motorcycles, three-wheelers, quadricycles, and city cars to develop a variant of their modular battery system with high power requirements. To scope out some initial thermal design directions, About:Energy built a parametric representation of the company’s battery pack using COMSOL Multiphysics and Simulink. Once built, a series of simulations were run, varying key parameters of the design to help the company converge on a preferred direction for further development.


Challenge

Batteries are complex systems, whose performance is susceptible to temperature. The selected cell for the pack was the Molicel INR21700-P42A cell, which required full in-house characterisation to determine its thermal and electrical properties. Then, the challenge was to couple its electrical response to 3D thermal simulation to inform system-level design with high-fidelity temperature prediction.


Molicel INR21700-P42A cell and thermal model
Prepared and fully characterised thermal-electrical models enable Voltt subscribers to embed cell models in a digital twin of their design at the click of a button, rather than waiting months.

Screenshot of Voltt database showing Molicel INR21700-P42A cell data.
Screenshot of Voltt database showing Molicel INR21700-P42A cell data.

Walkthrough of the engineering solution

As part of About:Energy’s design capabilities, users can compare and select s-p configurations for the module, and model their system parametrically to understand sensitivities to important design parameters. In this case, a distributed electrical model of the 8s4p module was used to predict cell-by-cell heat generation, depending on each cell’s unique state-of-charge (SOC) and local temperature.

8s4p module coupled thermal-electrical model: temperature distribution during discharge. Nominal voltage: 28.8 V; maximum voltage: 33.6 V; capacity: 16 Ah, 0.46 kWh.
8s4p module coupled thermal-electrical model: temperature distribution during discharge. Nominal voltage: 28.8 V; maximum voltage: 33.6 V; capacity: 16 Ah, 0.46 kWh.

Cell heating is coupled to an advanced 3D heat transfer model that considers external convection, the role of thermal contact such as base cooling, and design features used for thermal control.

Volumetric heat source maps for busbar design optimisation
Volumetric heat source maps for busbar design optimisation

Detailed electrical and thermal properties resulting from busbar and weld engineering are included in the model. With precise cell characterisation, users can iterate to find the best module performance, considering manufacturing cost tradeoffs, to design an optimised battery system.

Predicted temperature and heat loss transient profile
Predicted temperature and heat loss transient profile

Collaborating with COMSOL

About:Energy’s parameter sets are compatible with any suitable implementation of the underlying model, so the choice of software can be aligned with the desired engineering workflow. For this project, the thermal-electrical model is implemented in COMSOL Multiphysics. The setup takes advantage of COMSOL’s Battery Pack interface, provided in the Battery Design Module for automating electrical calculations in series-parallel-connected cells. Combined with the capability of COMSOL software for user-controlled parameterisation and straightforward parametric design analysis of geometries, this implementation was fast to build and deploy for the optimisation analysis.


Navigating the complex world of battery cells and their varying properties can be a daunting task. By leveraging cutting-edge tools with About:Energy, we can adopt a systematic approach to design. This allows pack-level performance to be simulated and optimised for critical properties such as thermal performance and discharge power, ultimately enabling data-driven decisions for cell selection and pack design.


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We’re excited to work with battery solutions providers. If you're keen to learn more, please fill out our interest form, and we'll be in touch soon. Alternatively, don't hesitate to reach out to us directly at sales@aboutenergy.co.uk.


About:Energy is a leading battery software company headquartered in London. The company was founded in 2021 by Gavin White and Kieran O’Regan, two researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Birmingham respectively. About:Energy has focused on building a portfolio of battery measurement and modelling capabilities to provide a software solution for battery design.


About:Energy provides organisations with the tools to streamline their R&D, reducing time-to-market and enhancing battery system performance. About:Energy’s data informs better decision-making across the value chain, from mine to end-of-life. These activities include battery system design, lifetime prediction, and cell optimisation. Customers include organisations across the automotive, manufacturing and aerospace industries.

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