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A design guide to DC precharge circuits. When initially connecting a battery to a load with capacitive input, there is an inrush of current as the load capacitance is charged up to the battery voltage. With large batteries (with a low source resistance) and powerful loads (with large capacitors across the input), the inrush current can easily peak 1000 A. A precharge circuit limits that inrush current, without limiting the operating current. A precharge circuit between a battery and its load is required if any of the following are issues:

The load has input capacitors will be damaged by the inrush current The main fuse will blow if asked to carry the inrush current The contactors, if present, will be damaged by the inrush current The battery cells are not rated for the inrush current

Function
The precharge circuit consists at the minimum of: A precharge resistor, to limit the inrush current (R1) A contactor (high power relay) across the precharge resistor (K2) to bypass the resistor during normal operation Additionally, the precharge circuit may have: A precharge relay (K1), to keep the load from being powered through the precharge resistor when the system is off A contactor in line with the other end of the battery (K3) to isolate the load when the system is off

contactor K2 is turned on (relay K1 may be turned off to save coil power) Typical precharge waveforms. Additionally. all relays / contactors are off Precharge: When the system is first turned on. In the typical precharge circuit. K1 and K3 are turned on. Operation In the most basic form. the precharge circuit may be used in combination . K2 ande K3) appear to be industry standard. the ones in this schematic (R1. While you are free to use any designators you wish. the precharge resistor is on the positive terminal of the battery. so you are encouraged to use them as well. the precharge circuit is operated as follows: Off: When the system is off.Typical precharge circuit. until the inrush current has subsided On: After precharge. to precharge the load. K2. though it could just as easily be on the negative terminal.

AC rated contactors rely on the fact that the current waveform goes through 0 A at every crossing from + to -. under normal operation. For example. the contacts of the contactors are polarized (one terminal is labeled '+'). Such methods are specialized and are usually proprietary to the manufacturer. . In that case. connect the contactor so that normally (that is. because the system will reduce the load current to 0 before the contactors are opened. as that voltage will be across the contacts when they are opened. while discharging) the current flows into the '+' terminal. bending it and breaking it.with sensors to detect problems with ground isolation. a DC contactor incorporates other ways of quenching the arc that forms at turn off. The contactors must be rated for the maximum battery voltage. One method is a magnet that creates a field across the path of the arc. The contactors must be rated for DC operation. Contactor manufacturers include: Curtis Kilovac Panasonic Omron Curtis / Albright Precharge relay The precharge relay needs to be rated for the full battery voltage. only the carrying current rating needs to be sufficient for the average load current. and problems with components in the precharge circuit itself. to interrupt arcing across the opening contacts. An AC relay may be used because by the time it is turned off the current through it has gone to 0 A. The Elithion Lithiumate™ can be programmed to perform such tests. when the system is off. Therefore. the full battery voltage appears across its contacts. short circuit across the load. a contactor with a 50 A breaking current rating and a 100 A carrying current rating will work with a load that draws 100 A average. Component selection Here are some tips on component selection. the contactors are not required to interrupt the operating current. That is not the case with batteries. because. Instead. Contactors In a well designed system.

with a 100 V battery voltage and a 10. Wire-wound resistors are recommended. and the breaking current is nearly zero. for example. during the precharge.000 F * 100 V^2) / 2 = 50 Joules. sudden power. cement or extruded aluminum. since the average current is low. So. So.000 F. but. For example. Ultimately. yet it doesn't need a heat sink.000 F / 5 = 10 Ohm The precharge resistor needs to dissipate as much energy as the energy stored in the load's input capacitors. For example: "Overload: 5 times rated wattage for 5 seconds. you should ask the resistor manufacturer if a particular resistor will work in your application. and try the resistor in the application. the current rating of the relay is not critical. typically encased in ceramic. Stackpole KAL series An alternative to a resistor is an incandescent light bulb. The power dissipated by the precharge resistor during precharge is that energy over the precharge time. the precharge resistor will be stressed by that high. But. Resistor The resistance of the precharge resistor is chosen based on the capacity of the load and the desired precharge time. the energy in the charged capacitors (and therefore the energy dissipated by the precharge resistor during turn on) is: E = (C * V^2) / 2 = (10. and the load capacity is 10. then: R = T / C / 5 = 500 ms / 10. That is why the precharge resistor needs to be very sturdy and high power. In that case. Inductive resistors are OK. if the desired precharge time is 500 ms.000 F capacitance. Some manufacturers specify the peak power dissipation. For example: Tubular wire-wound: Ohmite 270 series. a 50 W resistor will be handle 500 W (well above the 100 W of the example above). over the long term. with a precharge time of 500 ms: P = E / T = 50 J / 500 ms = 100 W At the very beginning of the precharge.The relay needs to be able to handle the peak of the inrush current. Vishay/Dale NL series Cement wire-wound: Xicon PW-RC series Aluminum extrusion wire-wound: Ohmite 89 series. the instantaneous power will be quite high: P = V^2 / R = 100 ^2 / 10 = 1000 W! Now.". whose . the precharge resistor will not need to dissipate any significant power (it will not get hot). The precharge surge current reaches 1/e of its initial value after a time of: T=R*C The current is reduced to a manageable value after approximately a time of 5 * T.

except where noted by CC mark. © 2008~2012 Davide Andrea. therefore making it able to drive a shorted load without a problem.resistance increases as it gets hot. damaging the contactors. the immense inrush current will occur at the end of the precharge period. and possibly blowing the main fuse. The Elithion Lithiumate™ can be programmed to perform such tests. the load capacitors. should the precharge circuit fail (the resistor is open. or the K1 relay is not closing). or its proper operation should be confirmed before the contactors are closed. graphic design by morninglori . All rights reserved. Therefore.) Reliability Note that. (Thank you to Lee Hart for the tip. the reliability of the precharge circuit is paramount. Handcrafted on 2/12/12 by Davide.