How Europe’s Joint Research Centre Is Testing Batteries

By Battery Power Online Staff

February 12, 2021 | Andreas Pfrang, a European Commission Scientific Officer, outlined some of the functionalities from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) battery testing laboratory in Petten, the Netherlands.

As the European Commission develops policy, it relies on JRC laboratories to provide experimental data, modeling, research, and testing, Pfrang explained last month at the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference, Europe held virtually. At the facility in Petten, the focus is on battery testing. Pfrang highlighted thermal runaway propagation testing initiated by rapid and slow heating, inductive heating, and ceramic and steel nail penetration. These are just some of the testing that is used to inform the European Commission’s policy decisions.

The EC’s Batteries Directive was launched in 2006 and addresses the treatment of batteries at the end of life. The objective is to minimize environmental impact by setting recycling targets and minimum recycling efficiencies of lead acid, nickel-cadmium, and other batteries.

One of the priority actions of the European Battery Alliance is to revise the Batteries Directive, while will mean addressing performance and durability, carbon footprint, material efficiency, ethical sourcing and safety.

Durability and safety are the areas of focus for JRC Petten. “Battery performance and durability are essential for using a battery,” Pfrang said, “and are fundamental technical indicators.” These are also criteria that inform application design, he pointed out. But equally important, he said, performance and durability have significant impacts on the environment.

“It’s important to understand how quickly the batteries degrades, how quickly their capacity, power, and round trip efficiency drop over time,” he said. As a result, understanding durability requires an understanding of both calendar life and cycle life.

Generally degradation assessments include experiments for cycling, performance, and calculation of cycle life—all of which are usually covered by standards. But there are elements of cycle life testing and aging comparisons that are subjective.

Battery safety, of course, “is a prerequisite, is an enabler of acceptance of these new and more sustainable technologies,” Pfrang said.

Open For Project Work

Currently the JRC Petten facility can conduct battery cell/material testing. The facility is equipped with six cyclers, two environmental chambers, 12 temperature chambers, micro x-ray computed tomography and more.

A contract has been signed, Pfrang said, to begin construction on spaces for battery pack performance testing and battery cell safety testing as well. The facility expansion will have a walk-in climate chamber for pack testing with an X-ray computed tomography system for testing packs in operation within the controlled climate chamber. The new space will also have an abuse testing chamber as well as additional general lab space.

These facilities can be accessed by other groups seeking to do battery testing. The JRC offers access to its non-nuclear facilities to researchers and scientists from EU Member States and countries associated to the EU Research Programme Horizon 2020. While JRC Petten’s focus has been on cell cycling in the climate chamber and X-ray computed tomography, Pfrang encouraged groups to reach out with other needed projects as well.