In a world accelerating towards sustainable energy and electrification, the role of companies like Unico is pivotal. Having dominated the sphere of power electronics for industrial automation for over 50 years, Unico is now redefining the future of electric vehicle (EV) propulsion systems. To dive deeper into Unico’s ventures and their impact on the EV landscape, The EV Report sat down with Don Wright, Vice President of Engineering at Unico. Wright’s insight paints an informative picture of Unico’s strategic shifts, the importance of battery testing, and the challenges and opportunities in the evolving EV market.
Can you tell us a little about Unico and yourself?
Unico is a leader in power electronics for industrial automation for over 50 years and is accelerating a greener future with the next generation of drive and control systems for testing electric vehicle propulsion systems. Whether it is the development and testing of powerful traction inverters and E-motors to lifecycle and performance testing of batteries, Unico provides a complete range of testing tools to support the EV development community.
I am the Vice President of Engineering at Unico and I work to produce world-class power electronics control products spanning multiple industries including EV battery and powertrain development.
Why did Unico decide to expand into the battery testing market?
Unico has been supplying test equipment into the auto industry for decades, starting with the testing of internal combustion engines. As the industry transitioned to electrification, the need for high-performance DC power supplies in these test systems was becoming a requirement. In fact, Unico started providing these DC systems (sometimes called battery simulators or battery emulators) already in the late 80’s. Of course, once customers started to use the DC power systems, they applied them to battery cycling as well. So, our customer’s helped bring us into battery testing and with their current requests of test systems from Unico to cover battery pack, sub-pack, module and cell as well, we needed to expand our product portfolio.
Why is battery testing important?
Battery testing makes sure that the battery will meet all of its performance and safety requirements. This ranges from lifetime expectations, to performance capabilities in all different climate conditions (very hot, very cold) and in all the desired applications. This will guarantee that the battery will work and be safe if it is in a car in Alaska or Texas, in a plane on the ground or in the air, in a boat at sea or in the port, or down deep in a mine or on a farm.
What does battery testing enable for electric vehicles?
In the end, Battery testing enables a better experience for the end customer of the EV. They want a reliable EV that will get the range they expect and need, in all climates, that can be recharged as fast as possible and yet live for the life of the vehicle, and give them the performance they desire. Battery testing enables OEMs to provide the best EV experience to these customers to make them EV drivers forever.
Who uses battery testing devices?
Anyone and everyone in the electric vehicle or battery storage space uses a battery testing system. This includes: OEMS, battery manufacturers, electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles, the electric maritime industry, energy storage companies, etc.
Battery manufacturers are industry agnostic and often supply batteries into all the transportations industries from passenger cars to on/off highway to the maritime industry as well as aviation, motorcycle, pleasurecraft and recreational vehicle markets.
What is the largest challenge you are seeing from customers as electric vehicle batteries become more popular?
Everyone wants something different. The Quantum Drive Platform is 80% modular and can be made unique depending on customers needs. Some customers are deep into the technology and already know what they need. While others explore different testing options. Unico will guide customers while they explore which testing system is best suited for them.
Some customers also have a hard time finding enough power to power the testing devices. The Quantum Drive Platform recirculates energy in the test system which allows the system to draw less power from the grid.
With the battery testing systems what else can Unico do?
Unico also has a system that allows for the use of second-life batteries and battery recycling for end-of-life batteries. The system will bring the voltage of a dead battery to zero so it can be safely recycled. The remaining voltage is put back into the building so it is not wasted.
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