VAN BUREN TWP., Mich. --- Ricardo Inc., an engineering firm specializing in vehicle fuel economy, is establishing the Battery Systems Development Center to offer turnkey engineering and development of high-voltage battery-pack systems for hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and electric vehicles (EV).

The center, based at Ricardo's headquarters here, will feature three lithium-ion (Li-Ion)-capable development chambers, large HEV/EV-capable battery cyclers and equipment to facilitate the development of battery systems in simulated vehicle environments.

The Battery Systems Development Center will be used to validate Ricardo's design, analysis and simulation of advanced high-power battery packs.

"Electrification of the vehicle is a critical element of automakers' strategies for reaching 35-mile-per-gallon CAFE regulations," said Ricardo President Dean Harlow. "Up to half the development cost of a battery system can be the robust integration of battery cells into packs. As a leader in advanced vehicle technology, Ricardo is applying its Total Vehicle Fuel Economy (TVFE) capabilities to this important new technology to help our customers accelerate the volume production of electric vehicle technologies into the market."

The Battery Systems Development Center, projected to grow to a staff of 32, will focus on engineering complete Li-Ion and nickel-metal-hydride(NiMH) battery-pack systems (as opposed to the development of battery cells, which is the domain of cell manufacturers).  

"There are critical items to address, such as control algorithm robustness, accurate state-of-charge estimation, fault-tolerance design, thermal management optimization, shock and vibration robustness and cost management," said Wayne Thelen, Ricardo's chief engineer for advanced technology. "Ricardo has the engineering expertise to meet these challenges. Our TVFE simulation, control and optimization capabilities are extremely accurate in setting the parameters for battery-pack design. The development chambers will validate these designs in real-world tests, assuring maximum performance and efficiency in this important new technology." 

Prototype pack systems will undergo exhaustive development in three specially built development chambers equipped with safety and filtration systems. Each will feature high-capacity EV/HEV-capable battery cyclers, high-voltage instrumentation, hardware-in-the-loop systems and other equipment to enable the development of battery systems in simulated vehicle environments.

Once a battery pack design is verified in a safe, simulated environment, the battery system can be integrated into --- and further developed on --- a vehicle in Ricardo's adjoining garage facility. The first chamber is scheduled to be commissioned by mid-summer 2008.