Cognition Energy Gives Battery Packs a Boost

Spin-out Cognition Energy is serving the large market gap for batteries that have a pack design that has been adapted to individual product needs.

The design of battery packs – the specific configuration of battery cells within a device or electric vehicle to deliver voltage, capacity, or power density – has been understudied but has a surprisingly large influence on the life and performance of devices powered by Li-ion battery powered – from portable computers to vacuum cleaners, hand tools to industrial robots, and garden tools to electric vehicles.

Poor pack design can affect heat management and can lead to a battery that has significantly poorer performance than the battery materials and cell design would otherwise suggest, resulting in the battery reaching the end of its life prematurely. Regular replacement of batteries, for example in power tools, also dramatically increases operating costs for consumers as well as increasing waste.

The Faraday Institution Multi-Scale Modelling project, led by Dr Gregory Offer of Imperial College London, provided insights and tools to enable a more optimal battery pack design process. Spin-out Cognition Energy Ltd was founded in October 2018 by Tom Cleaver, Greg Offer and two other academics from Imperial to serve the large market gap for batteries that have a pack design that has been adapted to individual product needs. Cognition Energy predicts that in some cases its approach will lead to product life multiple times longer than equivalents on the market today. Cognition received a £50k Faraday Institution Entrepreneurial Fellowship to help co-fund development of its first prototype.

A presentation given by Tom Cleaver, Entrepreneurial Fellow, at the Faraday Institution Conference in November 2020.

The company has achieved the following since founding:

  1. Developed a novel test rig for temperature control of individual cells.
  2. Won its first customer (a FTSE100 company) for a customised prototype pack.
  3. Evaluated more than 100 different Li-ion cells to select the optimal one for a specific customer’s needs, which is expected to give a pack life of more than 10 years even with heavy use.
  4. Developed a custom battery management systems (both hardware and software) to control the pack, allowing better control and health estimation of the pack.
  5. Filed a patent related to a novel electrical design that will reduce cost and increase recyclability.
  6. Moved from university laboratories to its own dedicated site in Oxfordshire, allowing work to continue through the COVID-19 pandemic, and procured and installed critical production equipment there.
  7. Built a final prototype and undertaking final testing.

 

The following achievements are predicted for the customer project:

  1. Comparable battery manufacturing cost to existing solutions with the need to replace far less often, equating to an 80% life cost saving for customers.
  2. Significantly improved first life of more than 10 years.
  3. Robust pack design to minimise the chance of thermal runaway, improving fire safety.
  4. Pack components selected and pack designed for recycling, reducing cost and allowing a greater proportion of the battery to be recycled

 

Interest in the Cognition prototype is already being shown by other international companies. The company plans to start approaching further potential customers once the full initial prototype has completed testing. The prototype will be adapted to other customers’ needs as required.

In addition, Cognition is evaluating the possibility of commercialising its cell temperature control rig and may license out the novel electrical design if the patent is granted. The cell temperature rig could be used worldwide by battery researchers and developers. The electrical design would be useful for major pack manufacturers in all sectors.

The UK is already leading in battery system design. By taking a best practice engineering approach to pack design based on knowledge discovered in our research programme Cognition will accelerate the development of lower cost, more sustainable, better performing batteries.”

Ian Ellerington, Head of Technology Transfer – The Faraday Institution

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