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Akasol Engineering has designs to be the number one battery developer in the world. E&H takes a trip to Germany to find out just how such an ambitious plan will be realized

With 20 years' experience in the development of high-tech battery systems for mobile and stationary applications, Akasol Engineering has found itself in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the blossoming electric and hybrid vehicle sector.

And this clever positioning can in no better way be reflected than in an announcement in September 2011 that confirmed a tie-up with Continental that would see the two suppliers co-develop a new generation of lithium-ion battery systems. The strategic cooperation with Continental is very important to us, explains Sven Schulz, Akasol Engineerings managing director.

Were able to supply Continental with our standard battery system solutions for small batch series as well as prototypes, and we can support the experts from Continental concerning development projects for mass production battery system solutions.

Besides that, our clients have the possibility to buy Akasol technology from Continental, if they want a Tier 1 supplier for a reasonable production capacity.

The agreement with Continental represents a big win for Akasol. The next-generation Li-ion systems that the two partners are developing will use innovative fluid cooling technology that ensures uniform cooling of all battery systems. This essentially means enhanced battery life, easier modular expansion and a flexible and scalable approach, allowing for a wide variety of applications ranging from small city cars and high-end sports sedans through to SUVs and even buses.

Since its formation in 2008, Akasol Engineering has been a subsidiary of the Schulz Group, which consists of five other companies, 10 global manufacturing locations and 250 employees. At the core of Akasols expertise sits the companys AIBAM2 (Akasol Intelligent Battery Module) and AIBAS2 (Akasol Intelligent Battery System) technologies. The modular design realizes a battery module equipped with 53Ah Li-ion/NMC cells, featuring a positive and negative terminal, a data connector and connections for fluid cooling. The modules can be connected easily and within just a few steps with the use of the AIBAS2, as Schulz explains: It meets all requirements for mobile storage solutions and has already proved its value in many high-performance applications such as sports cars, motor yachts, municipal buses and other commercial vehicles with hybrid or electric drive.

AIBAS2 has been optimized to include numerous new and further developments, which have arisen from field tests and customer projects. The high energy density of AIBAS2 ensures a high range, with maximum safety, reliability and durability. The highly integrated modules form the basis of the modular scalable battery system. These modules were subjected to different crash tests to check the safety requirements of the battery in case of accidents. The advanced battery module passed the different crash tests with flying colors and fulfils important safety requirements for electrical vehicles.

What is more, the battery system provides powerful passive and active thermal management using liquid cooling even at high loads. As such, the temperatures of the cells are always within the recommended range, which in addition to high performance ensures a long lifetime of the cells. By the integration of a redundant battery management system, an even higher level of safety is achieved, continues Schulz. The battery management evaluates at all times the current, voltage, temperature and internal resistance of the cells, as well as their state of charge, to bring the system into a safe condition in the event of errors.

With such a focus on engineering, Akasol is not a company that stands still. For future client projects, engineers are developing a wide portfolio with special cell chemistry for each application and a capacity range from 6-53Ah. With this strategy, we will be able to offer standardized Akasol battery systems for the most common hybrid and electric vehicle applications with high performance needs, proudly explains Schulz.

Akasols underlying ambition is clear: Our mission is to supply one of the worlds best battery systems thats made in Germany for mobile applications. This is what our clients and the market expect from us and what we will keep on focusing on in the future.

To accomplish this mission we will invest a lot of research and development efforts in cutting-edge technology concerning battery chemistry, thermal management, battery management system, safety and reliability.

Schulz, who is credited as being the driving force behind the expansion of the Schulz Group since 2001, growing turnover from US$5 million to US$43 million, is proud of the companys German R&D footprint. He adds: The design and the engineering of Li-ion battery systems is very complex. Its much more than installing many Li-ion battery cells in a metal box and connecting them with cables and battery management hardware.

As a German automotive company we employ many experienced engineers, who have been extremely familiar with automotive standards and automotive requirements for years and even decades. Those engineers are part of the success of German car manufacturers today and they know exactly how to develop a battery system, which is supposed to run in electric and hybrid vehicles not only for one or two years but for up to two decades. Besides that our engineers are focusing on long-term solutions with technically elegant and valuable properties. More clearly: installing more than 6,000 battery cells in a system like Tesla is not a solution that meets our expectations.

Its plain to see that 2011 was a key year for Akasol, but 2012 will at the very least be just as important. In the next 12 months, the Darmstadt-based company will start to supply the first small batch serial production, with up to 200 battery systems per year. Beside that, at the end of 2011 we employed an R&D staff of almost 30 engineers and 10 staff in the workshop. In 2012 we expect to employ 40 people in Darmstadt, mainly in the R&D and project management department. With so much innovation taking place, it is hard not to take Schulz at his word.

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