Unico Launches New Quantum Drive Platform For High-Efficiency Battery Testing

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Unico, a leading provider of innovative EV test solutions, has launched its new Quantum Drive Platform. The Unico Quantum Drive platform is designed to help companies develop and validate batteries for electric vehicles and reduce installation costs and ongoing operating expenses. Unico’s new Quantum Drive Platform is expected to revolutionize the EV battery testing industry, offering a cost-effective, energy-efficient, and flexible solution for companies developing and validating batteries for electric vehicles. The technology was recently on display at the International Battery Seminar held in Orlando, Florida.

Headquartered in Wisconsin, just outside of Milwaukee, Unico also has manufacturing facilities in Germany and the United Kingdom. Unico has been in the automation industry for over 50 years and is now accelerating its focus on the next generation of drive and control systems for testing electric vehicle propulsion systems, optimizing metal forming with control applications embedded into the drives, and delivering precision control systems for a wide range of applications in the converting industry.

Speaking on the launch of the new Quantum Drive Platform, Don Wright, VP of Engineering at Unico said:

“Developing and testing batteries for electric vehicles requires the validation of cells, modules, and packs across a wide operating range. This testing requires multiple high-power feeds and significant floorspace which leads to high installation and operational costs. The new Quantum Drive Platform from Unico aims to address these challenges by allowing companies to recirculate the energy from different pieces of test equipment which will offer a tremendous cost and floorspace savings for our customers.”

This recirculation of energy within the ecosystem enabled by the use of second life batteries for example, unlocks efficiencies, makes the battery testing process more sustainable and greener as well when coupled with energy from renewables such as onsite or offsite solar and wind.

Adding second life battery pack units to test stations as part of these battery testing facilities helps in several areas such as:

  1. As a supplement energy source for test equipment to reduce the energy requirements in large test facilities. As the energy storage sector is growing at an unprecedented rate for applications in both electric vehicles and stationary storage, players in the battery testing industry are now building very large testing labs. To support all this test equipment, they need to have adequate grid connections, which means upgrading their current local grid connection and associated infrastructure. Some testing facilities are now asking utility companies to put in 5 to 10 MW grid connections just to support a battery lab, for example. They can reduce costs and also defer investing in expensive upgrades by utilizing this local storage to complement the grid power and also incorporate behind the meter solar generation etc.
  2. Since battery development companies have a lot of old batteries, Unico can help by working with them to make these old batteries quite a valuable part of their operations. For example, as they cycle their test batteries, they can then recover energy stored in the test batteries during discharging cycles by storing this energy in second life batteries housed in Unico’s new test platform and then reuse that energy for a charging cycle later on. This is a great application and use of batteries which would normally have been sitting idle or disposed too early.

So how does it work? The Unico Quantum Drive Platform allows multiple pack, module, and cell test channels to be utilized in a single system for “back-to-back” battery testing and therefore discharge energy from one channel can be used as the charge energy for another and also in the second life battery energy storage system to “save energy for later.” This also means that a facility can now add more stations and speed up their work by adding more test channels powered with energy stored in the second life batteries. This combination with proper sequencing can reduce the need for substantial utility connections and enables almost net-zero battery test applications. This new platform sets a new industry standard for multi-channel, high-power AC and DC applications in a single system, offering significant footprint reduction and multipurpose capability. The high performance channels also provide galvanic isolation between all test channels without the need for any low-frequency transformers inside or outside of the drive system. Pilot programs of the Unico Quantum Drive Platform will begin this summer. Deliveries to customers will begin in Q3 2023.

Dustin Harrison, managing director, UTAC said:

“We are excited to use Unico’s new Quantum Drive Platform as a powerful solution for reducing the utility power requirements of our test systems. This technology represents a significant step forward in our efforts to enhance energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint of our test facilities. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Unico and leveraging our combined expertise to drive meaningful change in the industry.”

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The Unico Quantum Drive Platform features:

  • High-performance DC channels for cell, module, and pack channels
  • Possibility of multiple channels of each type as well as different output voltage levels combined in a single system
  • Capability for Unico’s world-class AC drives to be added to create a flexible, multi-configurable solution for multi-purpose test systems with both AC and DC outputs
  • An open software interface, allowing companies to use their choice of data acquisition and controls for managing test runs, gathering data, and lab optimization.

Unico is also launching a battery deactivation system that will enable safer disposal of batteries to recycling centers. This new station will allow facilities to bring the voltage of battery packs and cells safely down to zero, enabling recyclers to safely recover materials from old battery packs. Recovering all the energy from these batteries and storing it in the second life battery stations makes the process more sustainable than the traditional method of resistive heating to discharge the cells which just wastes energy as heat. During this resisting heating, over-discharge of the cells can occur, bringing them to a negative voltage that facilitates the formation of dendrites if you get past 12% in negative voltage. This can cause a short circuit in the batteries and increase the risk of potential fires during discharging.


Images courtesy of Unico

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since.

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has 777 posts and counting. See all posts by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai