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Ask the Expert - Advanced Sensors for Electric Vehicles

In our latest Ask the Expert interview, I was joined by Brian Engle of Amphenol Sensors. Not only is Brian an expert in the use of sensors, but he also plays a key role in the safety of battery systems for automotive applications.

In this fascinating conversation, we discussed why Li-Ion batteries are so important to today’s technology, the conditions in which they work best, and what happens when they don’t cooperate. We also discussed the role that Amphenol sensors play in a properly-functioning BMS, and how the correct use of sensors could prevent the worst from happening. Join us as we talk about batteries, sensors, and the technologies they employ.

At DesignSpark, we have been looking at the subject of sustainability and our environmental responsibilities. As engineers, we have a significant role to play in the battle against climate change.

One of the key subjects in any conversation about sustainability is energy. The quest for new sources of energy that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is creating some exciting opportunities. The rise of the all-electric society and the use of hydrogen along with other clean energy sources has brought energy storage into sharp focus.

Lithium Ion (or Li-ion) batteries currently offer the best solution for energy storage. They provide the best combination of size, weight, and energy density, and current advances in battery technology mean that they are now a real competitor to hydrocarbons for electric vehicles.

Their use goes beyond the world of the electric car. Consumers are embracing renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Local generation has increased the requirement to store energy to ensure continuity of supply. Li-ion batteries are forming the core of Energy Storage Systems (ESS) that are being installed in homes and businesses.

However, Li-ion batteries do need careful management. They perform best in a relatively narrow range of temperature conditions, and they do not respond well to overcharging. Therefore, it is vital that battery management systems (BMS) are deployed to prevent failures. Although thankfully rare, when a large lithium-ion battery fails, the results are spectacular.

P.S. When you are talking to someone as knowledgeable and entertaining as Brian, you don’t let him leave without asking for more info! We managed to persuade Brian to give us a mini masterclass on thermal runaway and the importance of battery management systems. Keep your eyes peeled for our exclusive video interview extras coming soon!

Connector Geek is Dave in real life. After three decades in the industry, Dave still likes talking about connectors almost as much as being a Dad to his two kids. He still loves Lego too. And guitars.