Lithium-ion batteries have many advantages over their lead-acid counterparts. For example, they are lighter, more efficient, charge faster, and have a longer lifespan. However, they are also susceptible to many conditions that can damage the battery pack. To avoid these conditions, lithium-ion batteries utilize a battery management system (BMS). A BMS could be considered the brain of a battery pack. It is a set of electronics that monitors and manages all aspects of the battery’s performance and, more importantly, prevents the battery from operating beyond its safety margins.
The main function of a BMS is to protect the battery cells from damage resulting from being overcharged or over-discharged. Furthermore, the BMS calculates the remaining charge, monitors the battery’s temperature, and monitors the battery’s health and safety by checking for loose connections and internal shorts. To keep each cell functioning at maximum capacity, the BMS also balances the charge across the battery pack. If the BMS detects any unsafe conditions, it will immediately shut down the battery to protect the cells as well as the user.
So, how does a BMS work? The BMS monitors individual cells within the battery pack. It then calculates how much current can safely enter (charge) and exit (discharge) without damaging the battery. The current limits prevent a source, typically a battery charger and a load, such as an inverter, from overdrawing or overcharging the battery. This prevents the battery pack from cell voltages getting too high or low, which increases the battery’s longevity. The BMS also monitors the remaining charge in the battery by continually tracking the amount of energy entering and exiting the battery pack while monitoring cell voltages. It then uses this data to know when the battery is drained and will shut down. This is the reason why lithium-ion batteries suddenly shut off, rather than showing signs of dying like lead-acid batteries.
BMSs are critical in protecting the health and longevity of a battery, but are even more important from a safety perspective. As the liquid electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries is highly flammable, these batteries need to be operating optimally and within safety limits at all times to prevent a fire. There are countless benefits to lithium-ion battery technology, but it is nevertheless important to ensure battery cells of this type are monitored, managed, and balanced to ensure safety, longevity, and efficiency. The BMS is the primary component in a battery pack that monitors these conditions.
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