STEM DRC Initiative CEO, Dr. Ngalula Sandrine Mubenga working at the University of Toledo to improve Lithium Ion Battery Equalization technology to reduce cost and improve the service life of batteries used in electric and hybrid cars. This clean energy, green energy technology can make electric and hybrid cars more practical and affordable while reducing carbon emissions that cause climate change.
TOLEDO, Ohio (WNWO) – Researchers at the University of Toledo have created an energy storage solution that helps batteries last longer and perform better. The idea was prompted by an associate professor’s near death experience.
Dr. Mubenga was just 17-years-old when she lived in Kikwit, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Unfortunately, there was no fuel to start the power generator at the general hospital,” said Dr. Mubenga.
Her illness left her close to death after days of waiting in the hospital.
“I decided that if I made it out alive I would work so that I could find solutions, so I could help provide electricity in places like Kikwit,” said Dr. Mubenga.
Currently, batteries operate in a series.
“Large lithium ion batteries have to have a circuit, and the electronic circuit is called an equalizer,” said Dr. Thomas Stuart, a professor at UT. “All these cells are connected in series.”
The battery life expectancy is around 10 years.
“As the cells age, the storage capacity begins to decrease,” said Dr. Stuart.
Some have turned to passive equalizers. However, those have flaws as well.
“With passive equalizers, the capacity to one of those big batteries is exactly equal to the weakest cell in the cell stack,” said Dr. Stuart.
In order to overcome that you need a hybrid or active equalizer.
“They have active equalizers that have been around for a long time, but hardly anyone uses them because they are very expensive,” said Dr. Stuart.
So, Dr. Mubenga and Dr. Stuart created the bilevel equalizer.
“It’s the first type of hybrid equalizer,” said Dr. Mubenga.
The bilevel equalizer stacks the batteries differently.
“We are taking the stack and grouping them into sections,” said Dr. Mubenga.
The bilevel equalizer balances cell voltage and allows them to last longer.
“For one section we use an active equalizer unit. By doing that we reduce the cost of the equalization and increase the performance,” said Dr. Mubenga.
Right now, Dr. Mubenga said they believe the bilevel equalizer is going to be a game changer for hybrid cars. The next step is testing the equalizer on applications, like a hybrid vehicle. Hopefully after that a company will want to manufacture the bilevel equalizer.