A key element in the quest for improved performance of batteries is the battery management system (BMS). BMS is the software layer that is responsible for the balancing of cells, protecting batteries from damage and sub-optimal operation. These are applicable to fixed energy storage as well as Electric Vehicle (EV) markets. Growing in parallel with the battery market, the BMS market now sits at $3.2 billion, with a CAGR of 21%, driven largely by the increased volumes of EVs and increasing integration of BMS in consumer electronics.
As the market continues to be dominated by Lithium-ion solutions (with some flammability risk), providing prescriptive control and predictive maintenance (PM) capabilities are essential to more capable BMS systems. Fleet owners, for example, are looking to leverage BMS to manage asset downtime of battery systems which represents 30/50% of EV costs. PM can predict the physical states internal to batteries quickly and accurately enough for the data to be used in making decisions about how to optimize battery output in real time. ARPA-E and NREL research and development programs are funding R&D in these areas.
This week, Twaice founded in 2018 closed its second tranche of seed funding taking its total investment to $3.6 million. The company has developed a digital twin which is fed time-continuous data from a device. BMS constantly update the virtual model of the battery regarding its current condition. Through augmentation of empirical-analytical models and machine learning, the company can predict, simulate and optimize each individual battery’s lifetime. Twaice generates revenue via a Software-as-a-Service model, charging an annual recurring fee per digital twin which scales based on the number of batteries.
Wireless Battery Management
Large automotive lithium-ion battery packs require monitoring of voltages and temperatures across thousands of cells. As a result, the cost of wiring and rewiring can be high. Eliminating sensor wiring in a BMS improves cost, reduces complexity and increases reliability. Start-up Dukosi, shifted four years ago to focus on automotive BMS solutions. The company developed a wireless BMS hardware solution that allows for reconfigurable cell-level monitoring. The solution is integrated to the cell at the start of the project and uses on-board memory on each cell system, recording lifetime service history. This is particularly relevant for second-life battery solutions, where understanding their provenance and future performance is vital.
Third Party BMS Systems
BMS software is typically developed inhouse by the original equipment manufacturer or the system integrator. Standalone vendors need a strong value proposition to find a competitive position within the market. Battery energy storage system (BESS) integrators offer an integrated BMS to add value by limiting risk as subcontractors to EPC, developers, or turnkey solution providers.
Powin Energy is an innovator positioned as a strong contender to other system providers. The company is seeing an uptake of project tenders by including a BMS and energy management system (EMS) for platform control, regardless of which battery cell sub-supplier Powin chooses. The result is a highly flexible, scalable storage platform. Alternatively, vertically integrated, turnkey integrators can act as a BESS integrator, based on project needs offering energy storage-as-a-service with integrated BMS solutions. Innovators typically have the necessary balance sheet and engineering capabilities to provide solutions, but also have strong software expertise to integrate the BMS into a wider grid-scale, flexible software offering. AMS, a leader in the space, is an example largely financed by Macquarie Capital; Dynamic Energy Networks, a spin out of Schneider Electric is finances by Carlyle Capital; and Stem, a developer of learning software and energy storage, is financed by a mixture of organizations including Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, B Asset Manager and Starwood Energy Group.
Keep an eye on…
- Standalone BMS providers looking to edge computing, blockchain and mesh networking to strengthen their value proposition against the consolidated Tier 1 automotive OEM players.
- Chemistry agnostic BMS software licensors who are future proofing for alternative battery solutions.
- Deeper specialization for EV applications specific to use case.
- Software players looking to innovatate further down the value chain that can assist with project design, development and aftercare services, such as MADA Analytics, VoltaIQ and Geli.
- Chemistry innovation is also a key area of development (see my previous blog on this).