Automotive

Ohm intelligent car battery refuses to die

Ohm intelligent car battery re...
The Ohm is designed as a smarter form of car battery
The Ohm is designed as a smarter form of car battery
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The Ohm contains supercapacitors and LiFePO4 batteries in a standard-size case
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The Ohm contains supercapacitors and LiFePO4 batteries in a standard-size case
Ohm Labratories made its design with scalability in mind
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Ohm Labratories made its design with scalability in mind
The Ohm is designed as a smarter form of car battery
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The Ohm is designed as a smarter form of car battery

It's a terrible feeling. You're already late for wherever you're going, so you rush into the car and slam the door shut. You put the key in, give it the usual twist and ... nothing, not a peep. Dead battery. Many a driver has experienced this issue at one point or another, and most would prefer not to repeat it. The Ohm smart battery was designed to help make sure you never do.

The car battery is one of those items that most people really don't want to think too much about. They want to replace it as infrequently as possible and then have it just work, every time, without fuss.

It's no surprise, therefore, that the car battery is largely the big, heavy, electrochemical block that it was generations ago. It does its job pretty well, and you don't really have to think about it much.

Silicon Valley startup Ohm Laboratories believes there's some room for improvement and new thinking, though. More than just a battery, its Ohm battery is an energy storage and management system in a battery-sized case. Its integrated processor monitors power level and automatically cuts power when the battery drops to a critical level. So if you accidentally leave your lights on, Ohm will shut itself down before going dead and then turn itself back on within about 30 seconds when you start up the car.

The self shut-off system is a handy feature to have during the battery's effective life, but there's one dead battery issue it can't help with: end of life. That's why the battery also has a replacement warning system. The system beeps to let you know it's time for replacement, and Ohm says it works more quickly and accurately than the battery warning light on the dashboard.

Unlike the lead acid construction of typical car batteries, Ohm uses a combination of lithium iron phosphate batteries and supercapacitors. It's the supercapacitors that deliver the quick burst of electricity for starting. The LiFePO4 batteries, in turn, keep the supercapacitors charged when the engine is off, so they're ready to go when you twist the key or punch the ignition button.

Ohm says that the LiFePO4/supercapacitor configuration gives the battery a seven-year lifespan, which is around double that of the average lead acid battery. It also makes claims of better performance in cold weather.

The Ohm contains supercapacitors and LiFePO4 batteries in a standard-size case
The Ohm contains supercapacitors and LiFePO4 batteries in a standard-size case

Assuming it doesn't gain any bulk before production, the Ohm is also a lot lighter than a lead acid battery. The estimated 6-lb (2.7-kg) weight looks light right off the bat, but when you compare it to the ~35 pounds (15.9 kg) a group size 35 lead acid battery weighs, it's downright feathery. That loss not only cuts down your vehicle's weight, it makes the Ohm easier to handle during replacement.

While lighter internally, the Ohm's body is sized to slide into existing cars' battery wells and connect just like a lead acid car battery. The unit comes in two sizes – one designed to fit neatly in cars that accept group size 35 batteries and one designed for smaller battery wells. You can use the reference tool on Ohm's Indiegogo page to find out if the battery is a match for your car.

Ohm designers admit one downside to their design: a small 10 Ah reserve capacity. This could be a problem if you rely on the battery to run electrical equipment and accessories with the engine off, and Ohm suggests sticking with a standard lead acid battery if that's the case. Thanks to the Ohm's self shut-off, at least you won't risk running the battery dead.

The Ohm team says that it has tested its battery over thousands of miles but still has a lot of testing left to do on aspects like life cycle, temperature rating and battery management circuitry. Its numbers are not finalized, so the aforementioned seven-year lifespan, 10 Ah reserve capacity and 6-lb weight are still subject to change, as are the 500 peak cold cranking amps and -22 to 122° F (-30 to 50° C) operating range.

Ohm has worked with the seed funders at Y Combinator and has turned to Indiegogo to raise the additional funding it needs to complete testing, finalize the design, purchase tooling and get production started. It is closing in on its US$50,000 goal with 23 days left to go and the lowest early bird pledge levels have sold out, but the Ohm battery is still available at $199, a $20 discount off the estimated retail price. That price is probably a lot higher than you'd spend on a lead acid battery at the local auto parts store, but if the Ohm performs as promised, it may be worth it.

Source: Ohm

29 comments
Gavin Roe
this will work for conventional car engines, but does it have any use in electric cars, is there any intention to support hybrids, would it be of any use in regenerate systems
qoodude@gmail.com
"So if you accidentally leave your lights on,..." And there is the great automotive mystery - why oh why do automakers insist on leaving the battery draining headlights on when you turn off the vehicle's master switch (ie the ignition)? It is this feature that keeps the AA assistance organizations in business. How many wasted hours, how many lives even, have been put at risk due to this ridiculous design flaw that has persisted over decades of motoring history? I've asked this questions many times, and have never received a plausible answer. Anyone up for the challenge? ;-)
ijsmith
I think this product is ten years too late! From a European perspective... 10Ah is tiny and no good for all our cars now that have start/stop systems. They also monitor battery status and re-start the engine to charge it when stationery. Some even increase engine revs if necessary to speed the charging up. Many cars turn their headlights off by themselves these days to avoid a flat battery. I can't remember the last car I owned where the battery didn't last at least 8 years. So perhaps it'll find a home in old vehicles as a replacement battery.
Bob Stuart
The battery saves itself and then comes back on 30 seconds after you start the car? Are we back to using a push start and a magneto? I'd like to see a deep-cycle battery paired with a capacitor to give enough cranking amps. It is always good to give a starter time to cool, and modern cars seldom need much cranking, so the capacitor recharge time would be OK.
minivini
Sounds like a fantastic option for light weight, sporty (or sporting) cars. I used a ten pound racing battery in my classic Mini for years, and they are in the $200 range - but are a bit fragile when it comes to not being used regularly. Plus, they don't crank out a gagillion cold cranking amps. I think mine had around 200? Still plenty, but it pushed the envelope at times when the car sat longer than a week. Much longer than that and it required a trickle charger or a jump start. Plus, I'm all for any battery tech that reduces landfill waste.
ramriot
So here is why this very intelligent idea is in fact old and currently not needed:- OLD IDEA:- Over 10 years ago the NSW Australia Ambulance service had exactly this issue on remote calls. In that an ambulance at the scene may need to provide power for an extended time and then MUST carry an emergency case if required. It could happen that after a long period on the scene that the ambulance would be unable to restart the engine for transport. Solution: Two batteries. Well really, one large deep cycle battery for all the ancillary components in the same package as a small capacity thick plate battery to give the surge of power needed to turn over the engine. The only other changes needed were in the wiring loom to separate the two needs at the battery and the addition of a split charging circuit to allow both batteries to charge but prevent them from feeding of each other. NOT NEEDED:- There is a requirement in most 1st world countries (others would I think not be buying this product) that the vehicles electrics will prevent inadvertent discharge by shutting off all major loads, unless the ignition switch is in the ON or Ancillary positions. BTW: Even my Kia does this.
Buellrider
You have to wonder how this company can say with a straight face that lead acid batteries only last 3 years. My original Harley battery lasted almost 10 years before being replaced. I'm all for lighter batteries but shouldn't have to pay double and shouldn't have to read questionable pseudo facts about current tech that they are trying to replace.
Stephen N Russell
Lisc & mass produce, ideal for Auto Club use which provides own batteries for 100.00 IF your battery wont charge up from tow trucks. Awesome. Id buy one.
Benchkey
This is not a new idea however their take on it seems to be new. As to the battery shutting off power while facing a drain, this would be problematic for computer driven cars. Computers would need to be programmed. That cost would far outweigh the advantages of the Ohm battery. Needs a lot more thought, maybe the article doesn't address all the manufacturer's ideas. Thankfully my 35 y/o Mercedes diesel only needs a battery to start and run the lights. Much more dependable.
BruceNAnnWilliams
Sounds like it would be just right for a Rotax 912S powered light sport plane. I'm going to try one.