How big can a battery get?

With cars, trucks, and other applications, what are the size limits on batteries?

05/27/2011


Dear Control Engineering: It seems that battery technology is being used in more transportation applications and all sorts of places. Are there practical limits on battery size?

First, you have to remember what battery means, and I don’t mean clobbering the guy next to you. In the pre-electrical world, it meant a group of artillery pieces working as a unit. More recently, it was applied to a collection of individual electrical cells that are interconnected. Your car battery has six individual cells combining to make 12 V.

Individual cells do have practical size limits, but the number of them that can be lashed together can be anything for all practical purposes.

There are very large batteries that are used for UPSs (uninterruptable power supplies) for critical installations such as data centers and hospitals. Usually they only have to supply power for a few minutes until something like a Diesel generator can be fired up. Other large batteries are used to smooth out power supply and demand spikes as are common with more erratic generating technologies such as wind turbines.

ABB has built some installations along those lines, including one under construction right now for use in Switzerland. EKZ, a Swiss utility, is testing a 1 MW lithium-ion battery that will be put on the grid as a test. It’s designed to provide 350 to 500 kWh to help satisfy demand spikes. When finished, it will be about the same size as a 40 foot shipping container. It could probably keep you lap top going for at least several hours. (Just kidding.) If this works, the utility expects to install more.

A truly massive battery using 13,760 cells. If that isn’t impressive enough, ABB also worked on an installation in Alaska in 2003, that was recognized as the world’s largest battery (see photo). The Golden Valley Electric Association, the utility that serves Fairbanks and surrounding areas, installed a truly massive battery using 13,760 cells. In an emergency, it can put out 40 MW for 6 to 7 minutes, or 27 MW for about 15 minutes. This is enough to cover a community of 80,000 for the time required to get Diesel generators going. The building it is installed in is larger than a football field. The cells are rated for a 20 year life span.

Need a jump?

--Peter Welander, pwelander(at)cfemedia.com



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Learn how to create value with re-use; gain productivity with lean automation and connectivity, and optimize panel design and construction.
Go deep: Automation tackles offshore oil challenges; Ethernet advice; Wireless robotics; Product exclusives; Digital edition exclusives
Lost in the gray scale? How to get effective HMIs; Best practices: Integrate old and new wireless systems; Smart software, networks; Service provider certifications
Fixing PID: Part 2: Tweaking controller strategy; Machine safety networks; Salary survey and career advice; Smart I/O architecture; Product exclusives
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Look at the basics of industrial wireless technologies, wireless concepts, wireless standards, and wireless best practices with Daniel E. Capano of Diversified Technical Services Inc.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.