Battery research laboratory opens at VUB


The Benelux’s biggest energy storage research laboratory has opened in Brussels, with researchers working on technology for electric vehicles and renewable energy farms

Investing in durability

The biggest laboratory for energy storage research in the Benelux has opened at the Free University of Brussels (VUB). The Battery Innovation Centre, which opened in December, will house scientists working on the development of electric cars and solar and wind farm technology.

Batteries are the key to the development of clean, efficient electric vehicles and energy farms. The VUB has a long history of expertise in the field, and its engineering faculty was a pioneer of research and development in electric vehicles. The new innovation centre, known as the BIC, will also focus on other crucial energy matters, such as improved performance and storage capacity for solar and wind power.

With 260 test channels, 10 climate chambers and thermal imaging equipment, the BIC has been established to better market the VUB’s battery-testing technologies.

Professor Noshin Omar, head of the centre, said: “The biggest challenge with batteries is to balance optimal performance with durability and capacity. Investing in durability means reducing performance. In our climate chambers we can test thermal as well as electrical performance and durability, and on this basis, we can develop market models for rechargeable energy systems.”

Range anxiety

The BIC is an integral part of Mobi, a research group of more than 60 staff members from the faculties of engineering and economic and social sciences, led by professors Joeri Van Mierlo and Cathy Macharis. This means their technological innovation is fed by other research such as environmental impact studies and market analysis.

The biggest challenge is to balance performance with durability and capacity

- Professor Noshin Omar

Research into batteries is growing in importance, with electric cars the future of ground transport as we seek to reduce our use of fossil fuels. The past decade has seen a boom in their popularity and development, but power storage remains a problem, leaving many potential customers with doubts as to their car’s range and the ease of recharging.

“For us, the behaviour of the consumer is very important. How is a driver of an electric vehicle going to behave?” says Van Mierlo. “We know, for example, that being ‘fun to drive’ plays a key part for the consumer in their acceptance of electrical vehicles.

“In addition, there is what we call range anxiety, or the fear of being stranded with an empty battery. How can we respond to that? Are hybrid vehicles or dynamic inductive charging systems a good response to this? Technological innovation needs to be driven by such information.”

The BIC encourages partnerships within the energy sector, while creating a positive environment for further industry collaboration. It will also enable organisations and companies to improve their individual applications by enhancing overall performance and energy efficiency.

Mobi provides technical and scientific services to organisations and private companies, and its facilities and models have been implemented in projects with clients including BMW, Scania and Toyota.

Photo courtesy Mobi

Free University of Brussels (VUB)

The VUB was established as a spin-off of the French-speaking Université Libre de Bruxelles in the 1960s. It’s an internationally oriented and liberal institution, and the only Dutch-speaking university in the capital.
Work - The VUB is the largest Dutch-speaking employer of the Brussels-Capital Region.
St V - Every year, students honour university founder Pierre Theodore Verhaegen in a festive, booze-filled “St V” march through the city.
Campus - The VUB is the only Dutch-speaking university with a small, American-style green campus.

Master’s programmes offered


million euros in research budget in 2010

12 000

students in 2011-2012 academic year