Thermal Management of Batteries Using a Variable-Conductance Insulation (VCI) Enclosure

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Proper thermal management is important for optimum performance and durability of most electric-vehicle batteries. For high-temperature cells such as sodium/sulphur, a very efficient and responsive thermal control system is essential. Heat must be removed during exothermic periods and retained when the batteries are not in use. Current thermal management approaches rely on passive insulationenclosures with active cooling loops that penetrate the enclosure. This paper presents the design, analysis, and testing of an enclosure with variable conductance insulation (VCI). VCI uses a hydride with an integral electric resistance heater to expel and retrieve a small amount of hydrogen gas into a vacuum space. By controlling the amount of hydrogen gas, the thermal conductance can be variedby more than 100:1, enabling the cooling loop (cold plate) to be mounted on the enclosure exterior. By not penetrating the battery enclosure, the cooling system is simpler and more reliable. Also, heat can be retained more effectively when desired. For high temperatures, radiation shields within the vacuum space are required. Ceramic spacers are used to maintain separation of the steel enclosurematerials against atmospheric loading. Ceramic-to-ceramic thermal contact resistance within the spacer assembly minimizes thermal conductance.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 1995

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-473-7783


  • battery
  • electric vehicles
  • transportation


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