|Multi-Flex unit in a golf cart battery pack. Click to enlarge.|
An Indiana startup, Indy Power Systems, has developed a hardware platform that uses embedded software to manage the flow of energy between multiple types of power units—including different types of rechargeable batteries and fuel cells.
Indy Power System’s Multi-Flex Energy Management System blends two or more sources of power so that the cost and performance characteristics of each can be optimized. The system could potentially reduce the cost of a battery-electric vehicle energy storage system by around 50% per vehicle, according to internal company tests that combined power from lithium-ion batteries and lead-acid batteries.
The company notes that a 35 kWh Li-ion battery pack could last the life of a BEV, but the cost of the Li-ion batteries would range between $25,000 and $70,000 depending on type and supplier. On the other hand, 35 kWh of advanced Pb-A batteries would cost only $6,000 but would not stand up to daily deep cycling. With a mix of Li-ion and Pb-A batteries managed by the Multi-Flex System, the savings could exceed $10,000 per highway capable vehicle, the company says.
Indy Power Systems has demonstrated the Multi-Flex technology in golf carts, and company officials are upscaling it to power a highway electric vehicle. They are also in discussions with a plug-in hybrid vehicle manufacturer and a battery electric vehicle manufacturer for further development.
If a consumer starts with low-cost lead-acid batteries and then wishes to add lithium-ion batteries to the system, it is possible to do that. If a consumer wants to add more lithium-ion batteries, they can be added. And if a new energy storage technology emerges, it can be added with only a software upgrade.—Steve Tolen, president and CEO of Indy Power Systems
In May 2008, Indy Power Systems filed a provisional patent titled “Bi-directional nominal current, variable power and/or variable voltage, energy transfer circuit.”
Created in 2007, Indy Power Systems is based at Purdue Research Park, owned and managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, a private, nonprofit foundation created to assist Purdue University in the area of economic development.
Indy Power director Bill Wylam retired from General Motors, where he was responsible for the development of the propulsion system for the GM EV1 electric vehicle and for development of advanced lead-acid, nickel-zinc and lithium-ion battery systems. COO Bob Galyen developed the battery pack for the EV1 prototype and owns an independent battery testing laboratory. Senior Electrical Engineer Quentin Kramer served for a time as chief electrical engineer for the award-winning Rose-Hulman Solar Phantom VI.