L9963: 5 Things to Watch Out for in a Battery Management Solution

As Battery Management Systems (BMS) are transforming electric modes of transportation, we released the L9963 at the beginning of this year to address New Energy Vehicles in China and around the world. The device has a unique architecture that enables it to measure from four to 14 cells in series without any desynchronization delay, and our tests show that it’s possible to daisy chain 15 devices while still enjoying a latency of less than 2 µs. However, the L9963 goes far beyond a simple measurement of voltages or a typical Coulomb counter, which is why we also recently published a white paper to delve into the intricacies of BMS design. Additionally, and to help engineers and decision-makers further, we wanted to look at the five things that one must take into account when working on a battery management system.

A BMS measures the current and voltage out of battery cells and sends that information to an application that will determine the battery’s state, called State of Charge or SOC. These measurements can also help an application determine the battery’s state of health (SOH) and remaining useful life (RUL) by computing its actual maximum capacity, which decreases over time. It will estimate if a battery is still functional or needs replacement, and can enable additional optimizations. For instance, by determining the SOC and SOH of each battery cell, a BMS can balance their charge and discharge to ensure an even wear, thus prolonging the battery’s lifespan and extracting more performance. Today, the L9963 also plays a crucial role in ensuring the battery’s safe operations. Let’s thus look at what makes a battery management system truly great.

1. L9963: Watch Out for Precise Measurements and Fast Operations

The first feature engineers traditionally focus on is the BMS’ precision. If a system is not accurate, the user will suffer immense frustrations at the lack of relevant information. Hence, a BMS must not only measure the state of each cell with high precision, but it must do so exceptionally quickly, otherwise, by the time the IC is done reading the last cells in the stack, the measure reported for the first cell is no longer accurate, and the application will not offer results that reflect the actual state of charge.

The L9963 offers one of the best accuracies in the industry with a maximum error of ±2 mV while it can also measure the current to allow an application to know the actual capacity of each cell. Additionally, the architecture of the device ensures that each cell has specific resources to process the electrical data captured by the sensing elements. Traditionally, competing models will share these resources between cells. However, by offering dedicated resources for each cell, we can provide simultaneous readings and avoid desynchronization delays. The L9963 in a daisy chain also communicates through a serial bus offering a bandwidth of 2.66 Mbps while most of the industry hovers around 1 Mbps. As a result, reading and processing 96 cells take less than 4 ms.

2. Battery Management System: Watch Out for Safety, It’s a Priority

A feature of a BMS that too many designers tend to overlook is its safety. The system’s accuracy serves its performance but will also determine if cells are suffering from over- and under-voltages, or if the system is experiencing overheating or overcurrent. For instance, in the event of a crash, an electric car must figure out that the battery is no longer within typical norms and must initiate a shutdown, or the damages could be catastrophic.

Such capabilities demand an IC that’s robust and capable of still functioning, even in dire circumstances. It is also crucial to prevent any false readings that would wrongly start a shutdown while the car is cruising at high speed. Hence, the L9963 has a unique redundancy feature that enables it to cross-check its analog-to-digital converters (ADC) to ensure that they are still accurate. If they are not, the device can force a neighboring ADC to take over a faulty one and solve the issue.

3. L9963: Watch Out for the Best Balance Between Performance and Costs

As electric vehicles become more affordable, costs are an essential aspect of a system. After all, a powerful IC that’s too expensive for most systems loses a lot of its appeal. The L9963 differentiates itself by offering a lot of performance without blowing up its die size, which ensures that it remains cost-effective. Moreover, a traditional BMS IC requires an external Zener diode in parallel to each cell. The system cannot know which cell will first make contact with the connector when the user turns it on, and since it is always a random event, a Zener diode on each cell protects the IC. The hot-plug and robust architecture of the L9963 mean that engineers using our component can do without these Zener diodes, which simplifies the PCB and reduces the overall costs.

4. L9963: Look Beyond the Prototype With 3 Evaluation Boards and a Powerful MCU

A successful battery management system starts with a straightforward proof-of-concept. Coming up with a feature-rich design is far from easy, and it often takes a working demo to convince a client. ST will offer three evaluation boards for its L9963. The first one includes a microcontroller and comes loaded with a graphical user interface to facilitate its configuration. The second connects to an external MCU board to help developers reach a design that’s closer to the final product. The third one attaches to either the first or second and serves to put multiple L9963 in a daisy chain.

Many of our customers love to pair the L9963 with an SPC58 Chorus microcontroller because the models with 6 MB or more of storage offer all the capacity an application needs to store the numerous data points coming from the BMS, while its multicore architecture enables developers to dedicate one core to this application and use the others for typical processes. The MCU also includes a lot of interfaces, with six FlexCAN buses, to make the entire design more flexible. Indeed, engineers need to think beyond the BMS, and using an SPC58 Chorus alongside the L9963 can make this process a lot smoother.

5. Battery Management System: Watching Out for Future Applications Starts Now

All engineers try to future-proof their design as much as possible, but in the case of battery management systems, a design must not only think of the car of tomorrow, but all the new products that are now using a BMS, such as electric bikes and scooters, or portable medical equipment, among many others. The L9963 is flexible enough to adapt to a lot more designs than the traditional electric car. Thanks to its ability to measure as little as four cells, its small 10 mm x 10 mm TQFP64EP package, and its cost-effectiveness, a company can easily use the same ST device in many types of vehicles or applications, thus saving on development costs.

For more information, visit www.st.com

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