We have all learned a lot over the last couple of decades about the negative issues affecting the performance of lithium-ion batteries in electric cars – and it has been an incredibly steep learning curve for the car manufacturers and the battery manufacturers alike.
Working in collaboration, the next generation of electric cars are coming off the production lines with massive improvements – and that is visibly apparent as we see the increase in electric vehicles on our roads today.
Swap cars for cows, and you have a different perspective on the crucial role lithium batteries play in improving performance.
In the last three decades, the milk industry has massively realigned itself, with the closures of millions of smaller independent farms, a concentration on higher herd sizes, and an increase in the average yield per cow.
The introduction of herd management and monitoring systems has played a massive role in streamlining changes and increasing efficiencies in managing the animals, their productivity levels, and their welfare. The bigger the herd, the harder it is to monitor individual animals, so to be able to track them electronically makes massive time and resource savings for the farmer and eliminates margins of error.
Of course, the systems gather massive amounts of data that can then be used to implement further improvements.
In the same way that an electric car is only as good as the battery that powers it, the same goes for the batteries that help run the herd management system.
An all singing all dancing agri-tech system for dairy farms that can detect mastitis up to four days before any clinical symptoms even become visible is great, BUT, if the performance in the individual animal’s tracking device is faulty due to a malfunctioning battery, then all the whizzes and bangs of its functionality are meaningless.
Your battery is the life source that will keep powering your systems, and as a farmer, the following are questions that you must ask if seeking a new herd management system. As a provider of agri-tech solutions, you need to be asking yourself these questions too.
Are the batteries cow-proof?
Because the cattle like to scratch and rub themselves against hard surfaces, the tracking devices, which are usually incorporated into collars or ear tags, can get damaged. The lithium-ion battery pack must be reinforced and durable enough to cope with the rough and tumble of being attached to a minimum 600lb animal.
Will the batteries operate in inclement weather?
When out grazing, the herds will be subject to a number of different climatic conditions – from freezing cold temperatures in the winter to occasional blistering heat waves in the summer. The animal itself will be damp from the rain, dusty and muddy, and will steam in the early mornings when the night’s condensation rises from its haunches.
Temperature can have a critical impact on the performance of lithium-ion batteries. Different temperature conditions can result in different adverse effects, such as degradation of performance, lithium plating, and thermal runaway.
Lithium plating, or deposition, can cause rechargeable batteries to malfunction over time.
Thermal runaway occurs when the internal temperature of the battery exceeds critical levels and causes an explosion. This can happen when the polyethylene separator between the cathode and anodes ruptures (sometimes due to the inadvertent pressure of the cow rubbing itself).
Are the batteries long life?
If you have 1000 strong herd, it is impractical and expensive to be changing the batteries. A good herd management system will be fitted with long life batteries – packs that will run year after year and changed only when the system as a whole goes through diagnostics and refurbishment. On the whole, battery life should not be of concern to the farmer as part of the daily operations.
An agri-tech company demonstrates innate knowledge and understanding of the needs of a farmer investing in methods to maximise milking efficiencies of its dairy herds. An agri-tech company will know what it needs to do in order to achieve this level of functionality but will need the support of a more specialised battery manufacturer who will be able to translate the performance requirements into a bespoke battery pack design that will combine energy density, cell durability, and intrinsic safety.
If you are looking for a bespoke battery partner for your agri-tech products, contact YOK Energy and speak to one of our experts.