Student-Designed System for E-Motorbike Tops TI Challenge

Elizabeth Montalbano

August 22, 2014

4 Min Read
Student-Designed System for E-Motorbike Tops TI Challenge

A battery-management system (BMS) to support a lithium-ion battery pack for an electric motorcycle took first place in Texas Instruments' annual engineering innovation contest.

The Battery Interface Module (BIM) designed by Aaron Bonnell-Kangas of Ohio State University won first prize -- $10,000 -- in TI's Innovation Challenge, which singles out student projects that leverage TI products to make a significant engineering impact.

The module connects to the lithium batteries that power the RW-2x electric racing motorcycle designed and built by the Buckeye Current team at Ohio State's Center for Automotive Research. The module is meant to ensure the battery powers the bike efficiently and optimally.


Bonnell-Kangas joined the team several years ago and realized immediately that motorcycle's BMS system wasn't doing the job very well. "There was an opportunity for me to tackle an interesting problem and make a difference in the project," he told us. "That's all it takes for me."

His BIM keeps close tabs on the RW-2x's 110 connected cells, which produce more than 450 V. "When the bike is turned on, the BIM continuously measures each of the batteries it is connected to and monitors them for overvoltage or overtemperature conditions," he said. "It processes the information it measures, then sends it out on a vehiclewide data network called the CAN bus, so that the information can be recorded and used by other modules."

The BIM also can balance the battery pack by equalizing the charge in each cell. "This balancing procedure is critical to maximizing the usable charge in the battery pack, and it's one of the most important factors affecting our performance" in races.

Buckeye Current's electric-powered motorcycles are designed to be racing bikes. The team's first motorcycle, the RW-1, holds the collegiate electric motorcycle speed record at 144 mph. The second vehicle, the RW-2, took third place in the prestigious Isle of Man TT Zero race in 2013. The RW-2x is the next iteration.

The BIM also is the team's first battery module with onboard intelligence. "It is able to measure the cells, detect anomalies, and balance its connected cells completely autonomously," Bonnell-Kangas said. "It also communicates with other BIMs around the motorcycle to coordinate distributed balancing of the entire battery pack."

TI found the invention prizeworthy for a number of reasons, including its "superb engineering and a very good use of TI products in a real application that optimizes power and performance," Amber Pizano, worldwide communications manager of university marketing and engineering workforce development for TI, told us. "Aaron had a very good video and explanation of the design criteria. One of the judges even commented, 'I would buy what was made here.'"

Generally, TI judges designs on a number of criteria. "We're looking for game-changing technology that shapes the future of electronics," she said. "However, incremental changes that impact today's technology capabilities matter, too. Other key aspects when choosing a winner include the complexity and quality of design, level of engineering analysis, and best use of TI's entire portfolio of products."

Related posts:

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Montalbano

Elizabeth Montalbano has been a professional journalist covering the telecommunications, technology and business sectors since 1998. Prior to her work at Design News, she has previously written news, features and opinion articles for Phone+, CRN (now ChannelWeb), the IDG News Service, Informationweek and CNNMoney, among other publications. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she also has lived and worked in Phoenix, Arizona; San Francisco and New York City. She currently resides in Lagos, Portugal. Montalbano has a bachelor's degree in English/Communications from De Sales University and a master's degree from Arizona State University in creative writing.

Sign up for the Design News Daily newsletter.

You May Also Like