With passive and active cell balancing, each cell in the battery stack is monitored to maintain a healthy battery state of charge (SoC). This extends battery cycle life and provides an added layer of protection by preventing damage to a battery cell due to deep discharging because of overcharging. Passive balancing results in all battery cells having a similar SoC by simply dissipating excess charge in a bleed resistor; it does not, however, extend system run time.1 Active cell balancing is a more com- plex balancing technique that redistributes charge between battery cells during the charge and discharge cycles, thereby increasing system run time by increasing the total useable charge in the battery stack, decreas- ing charge time compared with passive balancing, and decreasing heat generated while balancing.
Active Cell Balancing During Discharge
The diagram in Figure 1 represents a typical battery stack with all cellsstarting at full capacity. In this example, full capacity is shown as 90% of charge because keeping a battery at or near its 100% capacity point for long periods of time degrades its lifetime faster. The 30% discharge represents being fully discharged to prevent deep discharge of the cells.
Over time, some cells will become weaker than others, resulting in a discharge profile, as represented by Figure 2.
It can be seen that even though there may be quite a bit of capacity left in several batteries, the weak batteries limit the run time of the system. A battery mismatch of 5% results in 5% of the capacity being unused. With large batteries, this can be an excessive amount of energy left unused. This becomes critical in remote systems and systems that are difficult to access. As a result, there is a portion of energy that cannot be used, which results in an increase in the number of battery charge and discharge cycles. Furthermore, this unused energy reduces the lifetime of the battery and leads to higher costs associated with more frequent battery replacement.
With active balancing, charge is redistributed from the stronger cells to the weaker cells, resulting in a fully depleted battery stack profile.
Active Cell Balancing While Charging
When charging the battery stack without balancing, the weak cells reach full capacity prior to the stronger batteries. Again, it is the weak cells that are the limiting factor; in this case they limit how much total charge our system can hold. The diagram in Figure 4 illustrates charging with this limitation.
With active balancing charge redistribution during the charging cycle, the stack can reach its full capacity. Note that factors such as the percentage of time allotted for balancing and the effect of the selected balancing current on the balancing time are not discussed here, but are important considerations.
Both active and passive cell balancing are effective ways to improve system health by monitoring and matching the SoC of each cell. Active cell balancing redistributes charge during the charging and discharging cycle, unlike passive cell balancing, which simply dissipates charge during the charge cycle. Thus, active cell balancing increases system run time and can increase charging efficiency. Active balancing requires a more complex, larger footprint solution;