How Can Electrode Traceability Contribute to Better Profitability and Higher Quality Batteries in EV Battery Plants?

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Without electrode traceability, EVBPs cannot identify and locate critical factors that affect cell performance at the electrode level

In my previous blog, I discussed why traceability is important for electric vehicle battery plants (EVBPs). Supply chain traceability gives EVBPs the ability to track and trace every aspect of the battery manufacturing and distribution process — from where the raw materials originated to the complete battery history.

Now I’m going to drill down specifically to electrode traceability. Electrodes are the life of the battery. They are single sheets of metal foil with active material coated on it and are the source of chemical reactions that produce the charge. They are a major component in battery packs — each battery pack has multiple cells, and each cell has multiple electrodes in it.

While traceability is becoming more common for EV battery cell assembly, it’s not occurring at the electrode level. Without this visibility, there is no connection between electrode-level parameters and final cell and battery performance. This can lead to a struggle with quick problem resolution, a sub-optimized manufacturing process, unnecessary waste, and operational losses.

For example, without electrode traceability, EVBPs may be unaware of defects or raw material quality issues, which can lead to later problems. For instance, electrodes may have a defect caused by foreign objects, mixing, or air bubbles. These unidentified defects can cause shorts or electroplating in later stages of the production process.

While some EVBPs improve general battery traceability, they are missing comprehensive electrode tracing

When talking about battery pack traceability, most people actually mean genealogy and production data. They’re focused only on the lot numbers of the products that are used to make the battery pack. For example, if a car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) is scanned, it’s possible to learn the part number of each component that has gone into the car.

What’s missing is that battery’s specific electrode information. There is no individual serial number for each electrode. This means EVBPs don’t have complete information available, such as what electrodes were used, what machine they were made on, or what mix was used to make those electrodes.

There are two different sets of data that are usually missing from electrode traceability products: machine parameters and quality data.

  • Machine parameters: For example,  dryer temperatures in coating, roll pressure in calendaring, and blade speed in mixing
  • Quality data: For example, coating defects, coating uniformity, and post calendaring thickness

How will electrode traceability simplify problem identification, reduce scrap and increase profitability?

A typical EV battery has around 5,000 cells, and each of these cells has electrodes — that means there are thousands of opportunities for problems. For example, a faulty battery can cause extremely costly recalls and risk consumer safety. But, by identifying variations or deviations at the electrode level, EVBPs can quickly find the root cause and prevent a reoccurrence.

Electrodes make up 65% of the bill of material (BOM) cost in a cell. That means an unidentified electrode process variation can lower profitability by leading to operational losses, EV battery quality inconsistency, wasted materials, and unnecessary expensive labor. For instance, in the case of extrusion defects, defects are caused by the wrong die set up or changes in viscosity. These defects result in process scrap in down stream processes – leading to costly waste.

Improvements start with data collection and analysis — the backbone for electrode traceability

Electrode traceability is dependent on data collection and analysis. Data helps make sense of disparate systems and correlates the electrode level to cell performance.

Here’s a look at how data collection and advanced analytics are used to improve electrode traceability:

  • Optimize data quality and analysis to build fact-based recommendations that reduce operational losses and improve profitability
  • Use data correlation and analysis to bring visibility and improve root cause investigations. Currently, the correlation is weak. For example, using electrode data and analysis, EVBPs will be quickly notified when electrode production issues are identified — before it turns into an expensive problem in the final cell performance. 
  • Create the customized dashboard EVBPs want, which can be used for multiple reports.
  • Use data correlation to explain critical parameters that are causing scrap and help control them.

Learn how to start electrode traceability at your EVBP (CTA)

Discover how digital tools, such as EcoStruxure Traceability Advisor, can support electrode-level traceability. The technology supports green mobility by providing EVBPs with solutions for capturing, analyzing, and connecting data from different sources and stakeholders. Discover how more about how to optimize EVBPs’ battery performance.

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