DEKRA’s innovative battery test
The Business of Mobility is a series of articles featuring business leaders in sustainable mobility.
Q&A with Kai Maywald (Technical Service Manager at DEKRA) and Ross Douglas (Founder at Autonomy)
Since 1925, DEKRA (headquarters in Stuttgart) has been providing testing, inspection and certification (TIC) services to the automotive industry. Their vision is to be a global partner for a safe, secure and sustainable world. DEKRA’s newly-launched (December 2022) battery test for electric cars is an innovative service that gives EV buyers a comprehensive picture of a battery’s state of health (SoH). It’s an important addition to the EV industry, given that the battery is the most valuable part of the vehicle.
Ross: Why is battery state of health so important?
Kai: As the EV industry matures we are going to see more used vehicles on the market and more buyer sophistication in terms of what to look out for in a used vehicle.
Ross: And battery health is a big part of that…
Kai: You could argue that battery health is the most important factor when buying a used EV. It’s fairly easy to make out the state of the rest of the vehicle, but working out how much life you can expect from the battery before you will have to replace it demands a fairly sophisticated technical report.
Ross: And a trusted one?
Kai: Yes, that’s the key. You need a trusted third party test that gives some assurance to the buyer. So, having transparency and replicability is important, and we provide that. Given that the battery is the most valuable part of the vehicle, the buyer needs to know what it’s worth.
Ross: And by giving the customer a read on the battery health, they’ll be more-or-less able to determine what it’s worth?
Kai: Yes. Clearly if battery life was simply a function of linear age (i.e. calendar age), then there would be no need for our battery test. But it’s not. Aging is a function of various factors, e.g. number of cycles, temperature of battery, how the battery was maintained in terms of over-charging and undercharging, etc. Depending on all of this, a battery will have a certain SoH, state of health. And, yes, it’s fairly easy from this SoH to determine its value; which obviously has a major influence on the value of the vehicle.
Ross: But you are not the only battery test on the market?
Kai: Yes, there are others. But I think we are setting the standard in terms of what the market demands from such tests. Credibility is important. Our patented algorithm is verified by the Technical University of Aachen, one of Germany’s most prestigious technical universities. It’s also verified by some key OEMs.
Our test only takes 15 minutes, while for some of our competitors the test takes hours and requires that the battery be charged and then discharged meanwhile ours does not. We deliver a user-friendly report with SoH value, plus OEM data like nominal capacity, cell voltage, cell current, as well as various bits of vehicle information like mileage and vehicle ID.
Ross: We've not got a situation for the first time where Chinese and Americans can make as good vehicles as the Europeans whereas before it was very difficult for Americans to export their cars into Europe just because the quality wasn't there. Does your test cover all makes and models across all regions?
Kai: Personally, I'm thankful for Tesla in bringing the revolution or a wake up call to the automotive industry since it is not only about quality because there is always room to be modern and innovative. To answer your second question, we don’t cover all makes and models yet, but we have parameterized (as it’s called) a large number of German and European manufacturers, and some important Asian makes, too. But, it’s a complex process to do so, and hence we’re focusing on the most common models in the market and will add the rest in due course.
Ross: What about sustainability? There is some concern that the switch to EVs adds strain in terms of the extra resources, like rare metals, needed for batteries.
Kai: Yes, if we’re talking about sustainable mobility, then electromobility must be considered a piece in the overall puzzle, which is CASE (connected, autonomous, shared/subscription, and electric). Electric fits well with the other pieces, and will become increasingly efficient and sustainable as we apply IoT tech. Understanding the EV battery is crucial to enable green mobility: how does the battery work; how does it age; how do we boost battery lifespan?
Ross: And when to recycle it…
Kai: Precisely. Given our 2025 vision (a global partner for a safe, secure and sustainable world), we have various innovative green projects on the go. We are working with the German Aerospace Center on some R&D, and we have other projects involving recycling solar, PV array battery storage, etc.
Ross: I look forward to hearing about them. All the best and thank you for your time.