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Digital twins are becoming an increasingly popular way for companies to measure, test, and predict how their systems will work in the real world.

Silver Power Systems is one such company that helps automakers, battery manufacturers, and fleet operators improve their battery performance.

Pete Bishop, the company’s founder and CTO, tells us more.

What does Silver Power Systems’ battery digital twin do?

Silver Power Systems Pete
Pete Bishop

Understanding how an electric vehicle’s battery is performing and predicting how it will perform over the coming years is absolutely critical for many sectors. But to date, there has been a lack of data and predictive modelling has been largely lab-based.

Our digital twin project, which we named REDTOP (Real-time Electrical Digital Twin Operating Platform) saw us generate data from a 500,000-km, nine-month, on-road trial of more than 50 electric vehicles. We then ran sophisticated algorithms on this to not only unlock an unprecedented view of real-time battery performance and health but also create the world’s most advanced digital twin enabling prediction of battery future life.

How does Silver Power Systems work with OEMs, battery manufacturers, and fleet operators?

OEMs and battery manufacturers benefit from our technology by getting rich data for EV research and development. Also, our embedded hardware device (which collects the vehicle’s data) allows them to offer customers battery data services once the vehicle is sold.

For fleet operators (e.g. utility companies, parcel distributors) we help give them a complete picture of battery usage/health across their fleets and the ability to geofence/prove zero-emission status in urban areas.

Why are battery digital twins important?

Battery digital twins are important as they allow us to predict the future performance of electric vehicle batteries under a range of different operating scenarios.

This can be useful for evaluating performance over particular drive cycles or looking at longer-term aspects of battery performance such as the cumulative effects of temperature or degradation.

What are the benefits of creating a digital battery twin compared to simply testing batteries in the real world?

Testing batteries is an extremely time-consuming process as the battery chemistry limits the speed at which charge and discharge cycles can be performed. So unlike other forms of accelerated life testing, it can take quite a long time for physical testing to build up a picture of how batteries perform under different use cases.

Digital twins can be used to simulate and study the battery performance under a wide range of different operating conditions without the need to set up complex and expensive test regimes and can be run relatively quickly for many different scenarios on high powered computing resources.

Are there any scenarios or conditions that battery digital twins currently struggle to replicate?

The digital twins are able to replicate conditions for normal battery operation on a day-to-day basis however the mechanisms affecting battery degradation are many and complex. This is a key area of work for us in order to be able to harness the power of digital twins to predict future battery degradation based on current usage patterns.

As our understanding of degradation mechanisms improves, and we can correlate the models with the observed behaviour in vehicle usage, we should be able to use digital twins to predict degradation even more accurately in the future.

How will the electric vehicle and battery landscape change in the next ten years?

In the future, the UK government plans to invest £620 million in grants for electric vehicles and public charging stations. This would lower the cost of electric vehicles and make public charging more accessible, two barriers that customers must overcome before EV adoption becomes widespread.

As batteries become ubiquitous across ground transportation methods – from passenger vehicles to commercial vehicles and beyond, we can expect greater industry and consumer focus on the environmental impact, raw material sourcing, production processes and also their second life after they are no longer usable in the EV.

It’s estimated that 100-120 GWh of electric vehicle battery capacity will be retired by 2030, a volume roughly equivalent to current global annual battery production. Thus the battery design industry needs to look beyond the pure performance targets of reducing weight, increasing range and cycle life, but also to the wider impact on the environment and society. These considerations are much more efficiently addressed at the design stage.

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