High-end test center for long-lasting batteries: CATL and Fraunhofer IKTS expand cooperation

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Long-lasting batteries play an integral role in the energy turnaround and thereby in particular the electric transport turnaround. The German branch of battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology GmbH (CATL) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS are jointly developing models at the industrial site Erfurter Kreuz to predict the lifetime of batteries, which will serve as a basis for optimized battery production. The cooperation, which started in 2020 with the “BattLife” project, is now being continued and expanded in the project “BattForce”.

© CATL / Paul-Philipp Braun
Fraunhofer IKTS Institute Director Prof. Michaelis (l). and Jason Chen, Managing Director of CATL Europe (r.).
© CATL / Paul-Philipp Braun
The German-Chinese cooperation continues. Celebrating the launch of BattForce (from left): Arnulf Wulff (LEG Thüringen), Dr. Roland Weidl (Head of BITC, Deputy Director Fraunhofer IKTS), Zhang Junhui (Envoy of the Chinese Embassy), Jason Chen (Managing Director CATL Europe), Prof. Alexander Michaelis (Director Fraunhofer IKTS), Wolfgang Tiefensee (Minister of Economics Thuringia), Matthias Zentgraf (Member of the Supervisory Board CATL), Xue YangXian (Engineer BattForce).

One of the most important factors in battery technology is service life. The longer a battery lasts, the more can be saved and optimized in terms of ingredients and resources, production processes and maintenance. At the same time, batteries are a complex commodity that responds differently to varying environments and under different operating modes. Exploring future potential requires appropriate methodology and a comprehensive base of relevant data.

To this end, CATL and the Battery Innovation and Technology Center BITC of Fraunhofer IKTS started working together in 2020. As a global battery manufacturer with a particular focus on research and development, CATL has the necessary foundations and capacities to help generate and provide such data. BITC, which opened in 2020, performs research on the production of energy storage systems using innovative, data-driven methods. The proximity of both partners' locations in Thuringia at Erfurter Kreuz opened the door for the first collaboration of its kind in Germany.

Jason Chen, Managing Director CATL Thuringia: “With our battery technology, we want to support the transition to a more sustainable future. To drive electrification and decarbonization, innovation is key. Research and development have always been core pillars of our company. We are very pleased to be advancing this together with Fraunhofer IKTS and the Free State of Thuringia in Germany.”

With the support of the Free State of Thuringia, CATL and Fraunhofer IKTS have set up a jointly developed high-end test facility at the CATL plant at Erfurter Kreuz as part of the “BattLife” project. In this facility, various environments with different temperatures, humidity levels, and charging and discharging times can be simulated simultaneously on a large number of test objects. The collected data is analyzed and evaluated by the experts for technology and modeling at Fraunhofer IKTS using state-of-the-art methodology. On this basis, the researchers can create models and simulations that can be used to describe the service life of batteries – a great benefit for industry and the future development of battery technology.

"The decarbonization of the economy, which is so urgently needed, cannot be realized without battery technology. This shows how significant the research work is that CATL and Fraunhofer IKTS are doing here. In this context, it makes me proud that Thuringia is well on its way to becoming a leading location for battery research and production," says Thuringia's Economics Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee.

Since the cooperation began three years ago, CATL employees have conducted hundreds of tests and generated thousands of data points. On the basis of this data, IKTS created the first battery lifetime development model of its kind in Germany.

Building on these results, Fraunhofer IKTS and CATL plan to further expand their collaboration in the new “BattForce” project, which will run until 2027. The focus is on the process of battery swelling, which has emerged as one of the most important determinants in the life cycle of batteries. To enable data collection for this purpose, the test center will be expanded and equipped with new technology developed by CATL and Fraunhofer IKTS.

Dr. Roland Weidl, Deputy Director of Fraunhofer IKTS, Head of Battery Innovation and Technology Center BITC says: “ ‘BattForce’ is the necessary and logical further development of our previous joint work. In the process, our Fraunhofer know-how on industrial measurement methods will provide more precise results and thus optimized data to even better map and predict conditions in electric vehicles."