Notes from the 4th Battery Technologies and Energy Systems Workshop First Day Panels

The 4th Battery Technologies and Energy Systems Workshop that we followed-up the first day of event as Defence Turkey Magazine, was held on 18-19 December in Kayseri. A vast number of people were stuck at home due to the the new type of Coronivirus outbreak at global scale and we addressed this issue in detail for our readers again. You can find the R&D activities on battery technologies that being carried out such as local companies, institutions and universities as well as main contractors in our article.

Date: April 14, 2020 Update: April 14, 2020

On the first day of the 4th Battery Technologies and Energy Systems Workshop organized by Aspilsan Energy in collaboration with Kayseri Erciyes University (ERU) Engineering Faculty and Energy Conversion Research and Application Center, following the opening remarks a panel on “Developments in Battery and Battery Technologies” was organized under the moderation of Aspilsan Energy’s Ankara R&D Manager Ahmet ALTINAY. Faculty Member of Yalova University’s Department of Polymer Engineering Ozan TOPRAKÇI, Faculty Member at the Department of Chemistry at Akdeniz University Edip BAYRAM, Faculty Member at Medipol University Billur Deniz KARAHAN, Power System Analyst at Shura Energy Transition Center Hasan AKSOY and AVL Turkey Battery Systems Team Leader Burak ALİEFENDİOĞLU attended the panel as speakers.

In his presentation Ozan TOPRAKÇI highlighted the probable lithium supply problem due to the limited number of lithium-mining companies. Yalova University Polymer Engineering Faculty Member TOPRAKÇI emphasized that the price of lithium has been on the rise in recent years. Underlining that the accessibility and reproducibility of sodium ions are more advantageous compared to lithium ions, TOPRAKÇI stated that sodium ions are available in many countries, including Turkey, and the sustainability of it would be easier compared to lithium. He also noted that studies on sodium-ion batteries date back quite some time compared to studies regarding lithium-ion. TOPRAKÇI stated that while the 3-day energy requirement of a soldier during the Gulf War was around 500 Watts, today this figure has reached 1,000 Watts.

Hasan AKSOY, the Power System Analyst at Shura Energy Transition Center, pointed out that the supply of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), which are still widely used and are kind of the star of the global energy sector, will become a problem in the near future. AKSOY also noted that the recycling rate of 99% in lead-acid batteries is much higher than the one in LIBs and that such recycling provides cost advantages.

Pointing out that energy-intensive batteries have come to the fore recently, AVL Turkey Battery Systems Team Leader Burak ALİEFENDİOĞLU stated that LIBs are technically superior and have become a standard in electric vehicles. Stating that the lithium mine is mostly extracted from salt lakes, ALİEFENDİOĞLU noted that there is a lithium stock also in our country, and this stock can be effective even if the energy density is low. Sharing that there are many different production processes for lithium on the cathode side, ALİEFENDİOĞLU said that there are much more critical raw materials than lithium mineral in a LIB, such as cobalt. Pointing out that 80% of the cobalt mined used in batteries is currently extracted in the Democratic Republic of Congo, ALİEFENDİOĞLU said that the use of the cobalt in the battery started to be reduced due to the internal conflicts and tensions in this country, but as a result, the battery turned out to be more dangerous.

ALİEFENDİOĞLU said that these batteries have reached an energy density of 200 Watts/hour, and this figure can reach the level of 400 Watts/hour in 2030, adding that currently 100 kW/hour energy capacity is needed for a 500-600 km drive. While the batteries in hybrid vehicles remain as a secondary factor, ALİEFENDİOĞLU said that the battery has become the major factor in electric vehicles and that these vehicles are now being built based on the battery.

Faculty Member at the Department of Chemistry at Akdeniz University Edip BAYRAM underlined the fact that the range of national fuel cell studies should be more comprehensive.  He stated that the future of lithium will not differ that much from oil due to the limited resources and extraction in particular places in the world. Emphasizing the importance of defense industry participation for the development of diverse alternatives for the fuel cell, BAYRAM said, “An indigenous product can be developed to eliminate foreign dependency in this area, while at the same time meeting the customer’s needs.” Pointing to boron-based fuel cells (such as Boron Hydride), BAYRAM stated that catalysis is also crucial in fuel cells where graphene plays a vital role.

Faculty Member at Medipol University Billur Deniz KARAHAN stated in her presentation that a 'silent go' capability (operating the on-vehicle devices without starting the main engine) in armored vehicles with lead-acid batteries is achieved for a period of 2-3 hours, while it reaches up to 12 hours in the use of 'solid-state batteries.'

Speaking in the Q&A session with the first panel, Aspilsan Energy General Manager Ferhat ÖZSOY said that none of the battery technology alternatives is a substitute for the other and added, “This is a frequently asked question. When it comes to aviation, you should preserve with Nickel-Cadmium; when it comes to lightness, you should stick by Lithium, when it comes to cost-efficiency, Lead Acid is indispensable. So I think seeking a substitution is irrational. Each battery technology has a usage area, and it has to improve itself in this usage area to the fullest extent. You cannot put a Lead Acid battery inside a radio, but you cannot put a Lithium battery inside a huge vehicle that does not have space and weight problems. If you are going to work on the other hand, on an excavator, or a forklift for 1 hour, maybe you will use a Lead-Acid battery, but if you are going to run for 5 hours, you have to use a Lithium battery. Each battery technology has its own usage area, including zinc and carbon, and they have a market as well. Shifts sometimes occur in these markets, but we see that these markets will continue. You even produce ELT batteries for Emergencies; on the other hand, you use Nickel Cadmium inside the aircraft. They are heavy, bulky, low energy density but safe. We can evaluate such a comparison from a market point of view, but I want to mention once more that such an argument claiming that this would replace that is inappropriate.”

In the afternoon session on the first day of the workshop, the 2nd panel on "Usage Areas of Battery Technologies on Defense Platforms" was held. Moderated by Murat ALTUĞ - the R&D Program Manager of Aspilsan Energy, the Vice General Director of Advanced Technologies and Systems Kemal Atılgan TOKER, Aselsan HBT Electronic Design Manager Yalçın AYDIN, FNSS Electric – Electronic Design and Integration Manager Mustafa KANTAR, THY Technic R&D Manager Sedat KARAKAŞ and Turkish Aerospace (TUSAS) UAV Avionics Manager Lütfü AKÇİL attended the panel as speakers.

In response to Panel Moderator’s Murat ALTUĞ’s "How do you think the needs of the industry will evolve in the next 5-10 years?" question Roketsan Vice General Director of Advanced Technologies and Systems Kemal Atılgan TOKER said:

“If you look at the duration of projects carried out in Roketsan, you start a project, you make some decisions, and after 10 years, you complete the project. In other words, the 10-year period is not a period for us to switch to new technologies, but a period in which we use existing technology. What we first of all seek is whether we can acquire this technology, whether we have this technology in Turkey, and if not, whether we develop it on our own or whether we progress with university or industry organizations. When we look at it in the long run, we use missile systems for example, but we wait to use them until there is a need. When you use it, the batteries on them must be full. Several types of batteries can work after waiting 10 years, that’s why we use them. When we want to use those batteries, we expect them to work securely, and we do not worry about charging, so we just use them.

So far, Roketsan has always developed military systems, especially missile systems, and we have focused on the battery technologies that we can access for these systems. There were various challenges at the beginning but we started to progress slowly, thanks to institutions and companies such as Aspilsan. Looking at space technologies as a new field, Lithium-Ion batteries are available for use there because they don't have to wait for years in warehouses. However, for military systems, Lithium-Ion seems to be unsuccessful; currently, it is required to operate in -40/+70 degrees in very harsh conditions, but for space systems, you do not need such thresholds to launch satellites. It seems that new technologies in civilian use may be on the agenda as well. If we work in the space field, we can use batteries that can be recharged like Lithium-Ion again and again. Also, the studies on Fuel-Cells are remarkable. We see it as the technology that will reach the power levels required when you want to run large electric motors in satellite launch vehicles for ultra-high-power needs. We do not expect much if you say in next 10 years, but we expect a lot beyond 10 years.”

In response to the question posed by the moderator ALTUĞ on the expectations as a company within the scope of the development of the batteries, Aselsan, TUSAS, FNSS, and THY Technic officials shared the following information respectively:

Aselsan HBT Electronic Design Manager Yalçın AYDIN: “In the Aselsan Communication and Information Technologies Department, we generally use portable batteries in our military handheld radios and civilian radios. Additionally, almost all of our devices that require information security have batteries that we use as backup batteries.  Perhaps I can touch upon them later. We expect the energy density to be increased in the next 5-10 years. Because when the energy density is increased, our soldier will carry less battery weight during the operation. Apart from that, we expect it to have faster charging and longer life cycles. It should be ready for operation with fast charging units. In military use, it is likely to operate under challenging conditions. If a battery cannot provide a constant current at -30 degrees, energy density will not be that meaningful in the military field. It needs to be reliable on the battlefield. Our soldier should not suffer from a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 disaster. We also want ergonomic and flexible batteries to be developed. Batteries have a form, and our products have a form. If this is a handheld radio, it must be in a hand-held form. Besides, we expect disposable batteries to increase in number and become cheaper because a soldier in an operation must carry it and also needs to bring it back upon return. Depending on the suitability of the operation area, disposable batteries can be left there when they run out so that unnecessary load is not carried during return. For this, we want to access batteries that are easier to manufacture and have less waiting time on the shelf. For example, the manufacture of a battery in South Korea, its transportation by sea, and the packaging of it here takes a long time, like 8 months. Therefore, the process needs to be shortened; for this, they need to be transported by air at low temperatures and low pressure. Another issue can be the portable, more efficient Fuel Cell, there are applications on laptops, and it can also be used in the military field.

When it comes to working under cold/hot temperatures, which is a must in military use, the expectation on a component basis in military practice is -40/+ 85 degrees, but +85 degrees for a battery is not very realistic, especially for lithium batteries it is +60/65 degrees.  For example, we used the +70 degree as a reference in our last project. Even if you do not use it, the battery temperatures can rise to +50/60 degrees, especially in hot weather. They compare our radio batteries with phone batteries, but while an important part of mobile phone batteries cannot fully provide a current at -10 degrees, our expectation is to receive a current at -30 or -40 degrees from those batteries. Especially in radios, our loads are in the form of "burst" currents (receive and send), the battery should respond well to a high "burst" current. If I touch upon a problem with lithium batteries, it is that lithium batteries are unable to charge below 0 degrees by nature so that low-temperature lithium battery charging can be a research topic for our universities. If we need to nationalize and indigenize as a country, the needs of the defense industry must be taken into consideration.”

Aselsan will use the rechargeable 18650 battery developed together with Aspilsan under the Electronic Warfare Protected Portable Radio (EHKET) Project, which will start production in 2020 within the scope of domestic and international orders. In the first phase of the project, there will be a need for approximately 40,000 battery sets (approximately 200,000 cells) for 2020. These batteries will need to be replaced with new ones periodically during the use of the radios.

TUSAS UAV Avionics Manager Lütfü AKÇİL: “In the battery industry, as in all industries, whoever the highest consumption comes from actually directs it. What matters to us here is not good or bad batteries but meeting the battery needs. There are several studies on lithium, investment is made for new technologies, but we still use old technology batteries at ANKA UAV. We want to switch to lithium batteries; it has weight advantages, benefits, but also has risks at the same time. For us, the battery is a tool, and we must use it most optimally so that we can make the main system sustainable. Here, the biggest problem of the defense industry is to supply a product on time, at a reasonable cost. Whether the product is the latest technology or not is in the second plan for us. If we are going to maintain our platform, we make choices according to our needs because the aircraft we produce remains in the inventory for 20 or even 30 years. Therefore, those working in this field must make investments by taking this factor into account. If we fail to supply ANKA UAV's battery in the future, we should work on how to produce this battery with domestic resources, even if it is old technology.”

FNSS Electric – Electronic Design and Integration Manager Mustafa KANTAR: “Apart from the devices we supply externally, our main problem is to select and install the task battery that feeds the vehicle's starter battery and the task equipment. When we look at the starter battery, AGM batteries and dry Lead-Acid batteries come to the fore, as it can deliver very high currents in a very short time. On the task equipment side, we need lighter batteries that can provide low current continuously, that are more durable to charge-discharge cycles, and occupy less space in armored vehicles. When using AGM type batteries on both sides and especially considering recent user requests, the situational difference is increasingly important in Land Vehicles. Another issue is mobility. The area that we try to provide mobility in is the batteries that we use on the automotive side, because of their classic starter capacity. Because in the field of land vehicles, there are specific user requirements to start the vehicles at -32°C, regardless of the condition of the battery. These vehicles should start in Sarıkamış. On the task side, we have begun to deploy new high-tech mission equipment with ever-increasing power demand, especially in the last 5-6 years, such as situational awareness equipment, E/O systems, radios, and Battle Management systems. There is a user request to perform specific tasks (communication equipment, RCWS, mission computer, etc.) using only the power of the batteries without starting the main engine (silent go capability). AGM batteries have started to fail in meeting our needs in this field. Instead, we need more durable products that are lighter, that take up less space, allow more charge-discharge, and this need will increase incrementally in the next 5-10 years. The land vehicle industry needs to support this. The batteries we use today are 40 kg, 12 volts (100 watts), and a total of 160 kg battery load (4 batteries) in a vehicle. We can no longer increase the number of these batteries due to weight or use them on aircraft. Our main goal is to make the TAF fight better. Compared to 30 years ago, electrical demand in land vehicles has changed a lot, and energy storage and battery technologies have become an important part of this purpose. We believe everyone should support this to the maximum. Batteries used in land vehicles have certain parameters like; are the personnel affected by the gas it emits, does it explode upon impact, how is its performance affected when it overheats, how does it resist the vibration profile of a tracked vehicle.  We need a battery that can be both charged and discharged at -32/+49 and is smaller in size than what we are using now.”

THY Technic R&D Manager Sedat KARAKAŞ: “There is a saying that need is the source of supply. In other words, the need determines the main strategy of your efforts to be carried out on that subject and directs your future efforts. Until recently, the Aviation and Space Sector was directing other fields by generating innovation in various technologies. But now there is a paradigm shift in the world, now the processor in the flight computer on the aircraft, the process volume has become simpler than in mobile phones. In terms of battery, we have about 350 aircraft, and each of them uses 100 tons of fuel, and some use 150-200 tons of fuel depending on their size. In the civil sector, it is a bit difficult to adapt the battery to about 300 tons of aircraft that use 150 tons of fuel, so the battery usage there will provide power for 30-45 minutes with two or three batteries that allow landing from 20-30,000 feet.  I was at EASA last week; they are setting the laws of the next 15 years together with the European Civil Aviation Authority. Now there is a transition to unmanned systems in aviation. In the civil aviation world, studies are being carried out on unmanned aerial vehicles that can perform vertical takeoff and landing. There are currently two companies that have obtained certificates. What people want is to get on a flying vehicle that can fly from their home. As THY Technic, we have a similar project, and we will launch it soon. Battery technology is now extensively used in the automotive sector; in 2030, Electric Vehicles will be legally mandatory in Germany and Europe. In aviation, there is a transition to a concept called the drone taxi.

As you know, aviation regulations are written in blood, so rules for certification have started to be introduced in this area. Rules for how to use electric motors in aviation started to be introduced. The basis of this is the battery, so remarkable investments are being made in battery technology. One thing I oppose is that when foreign countries develop a new product, we try to imitate it as well, believing that there must be a reason behind it. This is just plain wrong. There is already a paradigm shift in the world, and everyone has just started to develop VTOL, so what we need to do simultaneously is to focus on new battery technologies. We want to achieve 500-watt hours/kg. If this technology matures, we will then design and launch VTOL vehicles with battery technology rather than with fuel.”

2nd Panel Q&A Session

The questions we asked, and the answers given by Roketsan and TUSAS officials are as follows:

Have the batteries used in missiles such as SOM, ATMACA, and HİSAR-A/O produced by Roketsan been indigenized? OMTAS, UMTAS, and CİRİT have Aspilsan batteries, MAM-L has a battery of French origin, are there any efforts to indigenize this battery as well?

Roketsan Vice General Director of Advanced Technologies and Systems Kemal Atılgan TOKER: “We do not count in detail the components on batteries, but the batteries used in the missile systems you mentioned are all thermal batteries. We are producing these in Turkey together with TÜBİTAK. They have developed this technology recently, 3-4 years ago, and the products they have developed also have components supplied from abroad. After all, we make efforts to supply products to the TAF. The battery you have mentioned has sub-components purchased from abroad; that is why it is thought to be of foreign origin. The first priority of Roketsan is to supply products to the TAF whenever required. The second priority is to make them indigenized. In fact, the second stems from the first priority, that is, because of an obligation.  Foreign countries do not sell to you, so it is obligatory for us to meet the needs of the TAF, not only merely for developing technology and indigenization.  The batteries that are difficult to supply from abroad are the large ones, those used in longer-range missiles. There is not much difficulty in thermal batteries in mini ammunition.”

Regarding thermal batteries, you mentioned the problem of overheating after 25 minutes. Did you manage to overcome this difficulty?

Kemal Atılgan TOKER: “Roketsan missiles use thermal batteries. These batteries were initially obtained from abroad for Roketsan missiles. As the thermal battery manufacturing infrastructure was developed in Turkey (TUBITAK) in due course, such needs have been met domestically. The most problematic issue for thermal batteries is the prolonged duty period. For example, if a cruise missile operates with a ramjet or scream jet rather than a turbojet engine, and if you cannot produce the power required for electronic devices (task computers, actuators, IIR seeker heads, altimeters, etc.) for at least 30 minutes, the thermal batteries remain insufficient on long-term flights. This also means that the avionic equipment on the cruise missile cannot be cooled during prolonged flight. Since the missile cannot be cooled, thermal batteries again cause trouble. One of the topics that Roketsan has been doing a lot of research on is battery types that can operate for a long time (i.e., longer than 30 minutes) and do not need much cooling.”

Mr. AKÇİL, you mentioned ANKA UAVs in your speech. Is the battery used in ANKA supplied internally or externally? There are also ANKA-S, SATCOM, and SARPER. In your speech, you drew attention to the fact that when the radar is installed on the aircraft, there will be more power in the take-off. Therefore, an appropriate electrical/battery infrastructure should be established. Is the existing battery in the ANKA UAV enough for this additional power take-off? Is this need satisfied by increasing the number of batteries, or will there be a power take-off from the diesel engine in the ANKA UAV, as receieved from the turbojet engine in missiles?

Turkish Aerospace UAV Avionics Manager Lütfü AKÇİL: “The flight time of ANKA reaches 18-24 hours, we have alternators on the diesel engine there and two alternators with a capacity of 4.5 kW each. In the UAV or target aircraft having shorter flight times, there are two 3 kW alternators. In many of the sub-equipment used at the time of the launch of the project, there were products that had proven themselves; therefore, certain products have been selected during the contract period of ANKA. We currently replaced our foreign-origin 17-amp 28-volt batteries, which we previously supplied to our aircraft, with our 22-amp batteries, developed together with Aspilsan, and we will continue with these batteries in the renewal processes and Integrated Logistics Support (ELD) processes of batteries that expire in all the ANKA UAV platforms. Foreign batteries will be replaced with domestic batteries once their economic life expires.

In the ANKA UAV System, there is a need for a battery and uninterrupted power not only in the aircraft but also in the ground segment. Since the ANKA UAV can perform tasks for 18-24 hours, there are generators and uninterruptible power supplies on the ground so that the Task Operator and the Pilot who work on the ground can perform their duties without interruption.