By James Morra, Contributing Editor
Since companies plan to manufacture more hybrid and electric vehicles, Maxim Integrated has released a new chip for lithium-ion battery management systems. It can detect faults in battery packs filled with hundreds or even thousands of cells, while lowering the cost of the electronics scaffolding them.
The integrated circuit monitors voltages inside the battery, keeping it from overcharging and flagging unusual fluctuations. “This ASIL D-certified battery management system by Maxim proactively detects faults and is extremely important to the safety of vehicles,” said Siddharth Jaiswal, automotive industry analyst at research firm Technavio, in a statement.
The batteries inside an electric vehicle must be handled carefully. Keeping it overcharged or undercharged raises the risk of damage that could cause swelling and overheating. In addition, the capacity of the cells diminishes and diverges over time, so every cell in the system must be managed to keep the charge within a tight range.
The MAX17843 takes fast and accurate voltage measurements, while resisting the effects of inference from the jungle of cabling inside cars. The new product fulfills the most stringent safety level for automotive electronics, ASIL-D, as well as ISO26262, making it impervious to faulty signals and the random effects of electromagnetic radiation.
Maxim’s rivals have also introduced new battery management chips over the last year. Analog Devices recently released a battery stack monitor that could take accurate measurements from battery packs with a dozen cells. Built by its Linear Technology division, the product uses an analog-to-digital conversion technology to measure every cell within 290 microseconds.
Linear Technology installed it in a prototype battery management system that relays voltage measurements wirelessly. The company said that the system improved reliability, lowered costs and reduced wiring complexity for large battery stacks in electric cars. The prototype used mesh networking for redundancy, routing data around obstacles and mitigating interference.
Maxim’s other rivals include Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics and Renesas’ Intersil business unit, which makes power management integrated circuits that span from factories to electric cars. Analog Devices is a tough competitor because it also supplies products like analog-to-digital converters and wireless chips to the automotive industry.
Maxim is trying to stand out by giving companies another way to cut costs. The chipmaker said that its new product provides both capacitive and transformer isolation from interference, which normally requires many other components. Maxim claims that the new product can cut the cost of components used for isolation by 90%.