Ion Energy: Giving EVs extra charge by optimising BMS

by Sricharan R 05 Aug 2020


Electric vehicles are as good as the range they pack and EV makers the world over are continually  looking to extend range. Of key importance is the system to manage the battery and keep an EV running for a longer period.

With global lithium-ion battery manufacturing capacity expanding very fast and set to cross 400 GWh by 2022, there will be a huge demand for smarter and more efficient battery management.

Ion Energy, a Mumbai-based advanced battery  management and intelligence company, is focused on building technologies that improve the life and performance of li-ion batteries.

Ion Energy has a wide range of battery management solutions like FS-LT, FS-CT and FS-XT for electric two- and three-wheelers, passenger cars, commercial vehicles and industrial EVs too. It is now working on expanding its BMS (battery management system) portfolio for high-voltage systems and micro-mobility systems.

Speaking to Autocar Professional, Alexandre Collet, co-founder and chief technology officer of Ion Energy, says, “As a company which is focused on advanced electronics and software, we are working on expanding our BMS portfolio for high-voltage systems and micro-mobility systems. Hence, our BMS FS-XT and FS-CT will be focused on these two aspects of the market respectively. We are also taking a deep dive into functional safety and ISO 26262 certifications. We have completed the first prototype of our own automotive-grade telematics system called TCU. This will enable vehicles to become connected to the cloud. Once this is completed, we would have completed our full Battery Management and Intelligence platform suite that connects our BMS with Edison using our TCU as the gateway.”

Eco-friendly start-up
Ion Energy was founded in 2016 by Akhil Aryan and Alexandre Collet. Battery makers and OEMs around the world use Ion’s platform to optimise their battery management systems (BMS) and build world-class batteries. Ion says it is empowering organisations in SE Asia, North America and Europe (Germany, France, UK, Poland, Austria, Sweden) with flexibility, independence, and autonomy to buy ready-to-deploy BMS platforms or build custom zero-downtime BMS models.

The company’s BMS are proven and market-ready for various applications. Designed and built with automotive-grade components, the indigenous BMS has already been deployed in over 15,000 electric two- and three-wheelers in India and Europe. In addition to the basic protection measures of over-voltage, under-voltage, over-current, over-temperature, and under-temperature, Ion Energy has  ensured various methods for fail-safe operations.
Ion Energy’s entire manufacturing footprint is in India and 100 percent localised. It also exports a large portion to clientele worldwide. “We are the biggest BMS supplier in India for the EV segment. We have the most number of deployments — over 30,000 vehicles — and we compete with big companies like Bosch and Continental. What differentiates us is the way we leverage our strengths of speed and agility with a reliable product that meets global standards, in terms of safety and credibility,” points out Collet.

EVs get a new charge The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with lockdowns across the world, reduced motoring and in turn cleaner skies, has given eco warriors and EVs a new charge. In India, two- and three-wheelers are the low-hanging fruit for e-mobility, and a Frost and Sullivan forecast has it that e-rickshaws, e-autos and e-two wheelers are expected to account for over four million units by 2025.

According to Collet, “We anticipate that the uptake for e-commerce and food deliveries would mean that there will be an uptake in commercial mobility of two- and three-wheelers. Those are the biggest benefactors for cheaper-per-kilometre usage, which electric mobility offers. In the 
same time, this has given us time to improve our processes that allow us to scale. Speed is one of the key defining features of Ion Energy. ”

He adds, “In the past, we were so consumed in delivering to our customers that we could not focus solely on improving our processes of scaling. The pandemic coerced us to slow down our operations, but not our capacity to tackle challenges. On the innovation front, we have actively taken this time to reflect on our product and improve its viability, incorporating new features that we have seen our customers wanting.”

New platform = better RoI
Ion Energy has developed a cloud-based battery management platform which it claims helps battery pack makers, electric fleet managers, OEMs and ESS providers acquire better return on investment through all stages of the battery lifecycle. Called the Edison Analytics platform, the solution blends advanced electronics and machine learning with deep domain expertise in energy storage. With Edison Analytics, it is possible for companies to monitor large scale battery deployments with ease, and its custom dashboard provides the information required for the consumer. 

The platform is designed using a model-based-design approach which allows users to configure the BMS based on their specific applications. Users can customise over 200 parameters relating to power distribution, ignition controls, balancing, charger control and much more.
Commenting on the use of AI, Collet says: “Right now, the idea is to find the application in which AI can add the most amount of value so that we can build algorithms in that context. We recently came quite close with our 3D simulation environment and designed a software that enables our customer to simulate vehicles, battery, environment and use cases in 3D running real models in our Edison backends. We have simulated very complicated scenarios where one could virtually drive an electrical three-wheeler between swapping stations and actually swap the batteries.” 

Data mining
“Edison Analytics, our battery intelligence platform, today is on the verge of managing more than 100 MWh of battery data both in mobility as well as stationary energy storage and the objective of that, primarily, is to leverage the data to understand battery usage patterns and to send over-the-air updates to improve the performance of the battery,” Ion Energy’s co-founder points out.  

Betting big on R&D
Ion Energy has over 50 engineers working in India and also a small team of engineers and a setup in France. A majority part of its investment goes into R&D as it is fundamentally a technology and product development company. Now due to the pandemic, it is hiring remotely and has opened up a few new positions where it is looking to hire people in different cities and countries.
The start-up’s clientele base which includes Tata Motors, Ola Electric, Bajaj Auto, TVS Motor and Okinawa Scooters, is set to grow larger. According to Collet, “The company’s goal for this and next year  (2021) is not to optimise our profits but to build deep, meaningful partnerships with customers. The platform, which is the fundamental architecture on which these products are built, is more or less the same but there is about 20 percent customisation from customer to customer. In some cases, we have also given the customer the ability to make changes and differentiate itself in the market. This is true for most of our offerings — be it battery design, BMS design, or even our cloud battery intelligence platform — Edison Analytics. We are working with practically every dedicated three-wheeler or e-rickshaw maker company and plan to deliver world-class products to them at a price point that is going to work for India.”

New trends in BMS
“I must admit that innovation is probably going to take a back seat in the electronics and BMS market. Safety, reliability and cost are going to be the key drivers and we have been preparing for that inflection point since the past 18 months. Apart from chemistry, the real game-changers in terms of battery technology will come from the ‘outside’. There is still a lot of anxiety towards electromechanical storage with regards to its longevity and reliability. Creating tech that can objectively look at deployment, provide useful insights and assurances will be key for the years to come,” he signs off. 
 

(These are excerpts of the interview, published in Autocar Professional’s July 1 issue, also an annual ‘Connectivity & Electronics  Special’ issue.)

Tags: Ion Energy