CSU’s Energy Storage Team Makes Progress and Learns Along the Way

Colorado State University’s Energy Storage Team worked hard this year to get the donated A123 Systems battery pack up and running. At first, the team had to familiarize itself with the project and all the work done by last year’s team in designing the energy storage system. Once the batteries arrived last fall, the team began working on the A123 modules. The process was a bit slow at first as the mechanical engineering students had to put on their electrical mindset. After much studying of electrical schematics, wiring diagrams and pin outs, the team wired up the batteries and began figuring out the computer interface to run tests and verify that the battery worked properly. With the help of the CSU Controls Team, the battery system was set up to test sending different signals that would start it up. After much trial and error and some wiring fixes, the team was able to complete the normal start-up sequence: The batteries were operating as expected.

Having completed bench testing, the team moved forward with prepping the system for installation into the vehicle. This included rebuilding some of the A123 provided wiring to fit the layout designed for the CSU vehicle. The low voltage communication for the battery system is quite complex and includes 16 wires per module for each of the seven modules. Redesigning over 100 wires for the communication between batteries needed to be done carefully to ensure lines were not crossed.

Throughout the process, this year’s team learned a great deal about the importance of integrating different levels of safety into the vehicle. Understanding and working with high voltage has been an important learning process and is shaping the way the team moves forward. Keeping both the consumer and mechanic in mind, Energy Storage had to ensure that high voltage is contained from the passenger compartment and clearly labeled on the path it takes through the vehicle. Because high voltage is the life blood of the CSU Fuel Cell Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, building a reliable and safe system has been the heart of the Energy Storage Team’s work.