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H A r D WA r E High Voltage Safety

Insulation Monitoring in
High Voltage Systems for
Hybrid and Electric Vehicles
As a consequence of recent developments in electric drives in vehicle manufacture there are new
aspects to be addressed in the protection of individuals and systems. The battery voltages used at
DC 120 V to DC 1000 V are way beyond protective extra low voltage. For this reason it is necessary
to monitor the level of insulation of the high voltage system in relation to vehicle earth. With
continuous high impedance monitoring using an A-Isometer iso-F1 manufactured by Bender,
possible high touch voltages and leakage currents can be recognised at an early stage.

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1 Introduction monitoring using the Bender A-Isometer The Author
iso-F1, Figure 1:
There is no doubt as to the need to moni- – It is only possible to locate asymmetri-
tor the insulation level of high voltage cal faults. An evenly moistened con- Dipl.-Ing.
systems in electrically assisted or com- nector, for instance, would however Holger Potdevin
pletely electrically powered vehicles. generate a symmetrical fault. is Key Account
However, the battery management sys- – A measurement through the inverter ­Manager OEM at
tems produced in the past only incorpo- is not possible. As a consequence, Dipl.- Ing. W. Bender
rated very simple, so-called passive meth- drive trains and recuperation genera- GmbH & Co. KG in
ods of measurement. High value resistors tors and, as a result, a large portion of Grünberg (Germany).
were connected alternately to the posi- the high voltage system remain un-
tive or negative wire with more or less monitored.
intelligence. The leakage currents pro- – High voltage gradients are caused by
duced by the battery voltage were then acceleration or braking. These gradi-
evaluated using Kirchhoff’s laws and an ents cause the majority of simplistic
insulation resistance calculated. In1885 insulation monitoring systems to
this method of measurement has been “give up” while the vehicle is in opera-
developed by Siemens & Halske and be- tion, that means that there is no mon-
came known as the “Three Voltmeter itoring during the trip, a situation
Method”. Experience has shown that it is that is imperative to avoid.
excellently suited to use in static perma-
nently installed DC systems in mining.
In case of electrically powered vehi- 2 Unearthed (IT) Systems –
cles, on the other hand, engineers are Industrial Application for the Vehicle
faced with several problems on the usage
of this method which can be solved by As already described, the “Three Voltme-
so-called active methods of measure- ter Method” is a very old and proven
ment, such as continuous high-voltage measuring method that was used at the

Figure 1: Application of the insulation monitoring device for unearthed DC systems

(IT systems) in electric and hybrid vehicles: monitors the entire drive system, protects
against electrical accidents and reduces the fire risk

ATZelektronik 06I2009 Volume 4 29

H a r dwa r e High Voltage Safety

start of isolated power supply systems,

the so-called unearthed (IT) systems.
These IT systems were and are used due
to the specific property that the first (in-
sulation) fault in the DC system cannot
generate any leakage current. This is be-
cause there is no connection between
the active conductors and the equipo-
tential bonding. The outcome is signifi-
cantly increased availability of this sup-
ply system: It is not necessary to shut
down the supply in the event of a fault,
it is sufficient to detect and signal this
insulation fault. However the supply
should only continue to be operated as
long as absolutely necessary and, after
shut down, the fault located and recti- Figure 2: In vehicles, there is an additional source of interference: heavily fluctuating mains
fied by a specialist. voltage. it was necessary to couple together two intelligent measuring systems to obtain the
To be able to use the term IT system, required results.
the following applies: the protective con-
ductor must be intentionally earthed. In
the case of an electrically powered vehi-
cle, the earthing is, however, undefined solution for insulation monitoring for ating mains voltage, Figure 2, that had
and, if present at all, heavily dependent very recent developments in very early only been seen previously in industry on
on the weather. An earth cable cannot project phases. The experience obtained pure DC systems. This situation made a
be used for obvious reasons. In this ap- in the past in the non-automotive sector further trick necessary: it was necessary
plication, it would therefore be better to is today helping to increase the high volt- to couple together two intelligent meas-
talk of protective separation (with per- age safety in hybrid and electric vehicles. uring systems to obtain the required re-
manently connected loads) than of an IT A short review: One of the first require- sults, which is now also possible.
system. However the advantage is the ments was to monitor pure AC systems.
same: It is not necessary to shut down Already in 1939, Walther Bender provid-
the drive on the occurrence of a first ed a device-related solution and applied 4 HV Insulation Monitoring –
fault. In some circumstances a shut for a patent for this method. With the us- Device-Related Development
down could place the occupants of the age of converter technology, the DC volt-
vehicle at great risk. age from the DC link circuit could then In the now almost 70-year history of the
be superimposed on the measuring sig- Bender Group, the emphasis has been on
nal. This situation made it necessary to complete systems for installation in in-
3 Development of the change the measuring voltage so that it dustrial plants. These industrial devices
Measurement Technology can be differentiated from the “extrane- are equipped with easily accessible ter-
ous DC voltage”. It was now possible to minals. They are installed in housings
As the usage of the IT system is proven correctly detect insulation faults after for DIN rail mounting or for installation
and brings immense advantages, this directly connected rectifiers if a load cur- in panels, have a large control panel with
form of installation has become increas- rent flowed through the rectifier valves illuminated display and user-orientated
ingly widespread. The requirements on of 5 to 10 mA in case of insulation faults menu-based control. In a lot of cases,
the monitoring devices have become in- > 10 kΩ and around 100 mA in case of in- communication with other components
creasingly complex and technologically sulation faults < 10 kΩ. With supply sys- can be realised via a special measuring
more demanding. For decades converters tems of ever increasing physical size, the system bus.
or inverters have been in use with drives challenge of increasing system leakage For vehicle manufacture these sys-
and generators in industry. These devices capacitances arose. By using microcon- tems are unfortunately completely un-
are also installed in the high-availability trollers it was, however, possible to ad- suitable, as they are too big, have a rela-
IT systems. just automatically to the existing condi- tively low internal resistance, a high
At the Bender Group very high priori- tions in the electrical system. It was also power demand and are relatively expen-
ty is placed on the development of the soon possible to deal with a wide range sive. Over the past years, however, a vari-
latest innovative measurement technol- of different electrical system frequencies ety of industrial device solutions have
ogy for the protective measures to be in- and interference by using increasingly found their way into different vehicle
stalled in the different types of system. intelligent, digital filters. projects. Responsible system developers
As a result, time and again, it has been In vehicles, there is an additional recognised that monitoring only makes
possible to offer the right measurement source of interference: the heavily fluctu- sense when the appropriate measure-

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ment technique is applied. Bender is go- nal resistance (1 MOhm conductor to lenge. Here it is important to take into
ing back to an old development for the protective conductor, 4 Mohm conduc- account the requirement from the vehi-
high voltage insulation monitoring solu- tor to conductor) or up to 1000 V with cle manufacturers that the start sequen­
tions now required in hybrid and electric Ri = 1.2 MOhm or 4.8 MOhm with supply ce must be just as quick as for a combus-
vehicles. A small circuit board solution voltage from 9 to DC 18 V or 10 to DC 36 tion engine. As a result long measuring
was produced based on a feasibility study are already available. Here, it does not times are excluded right from the start.
for a hybrid application in a military ve- play a part what kind of energy store is The positioning of the devices in the
hicle. This did not include any evalua- applied, for example fuel cells such as overall system will also be crucial for the
tion intelligence or manual control fea- electric double layer capacitors (EDLC), design of the devices. There are many ve-
tures, but should withstand the extreme lead, NiCd, NiMH or Li-ion-batteries. Also hicle concepts that integrate the insula-
conditions and can be equipped with the the basic design does not play a part – tion monitoring device in the battery.
latest measurement technique. whether fully electrically powered, serial However, there are also solutions in
hybrid, parallel hybrid or mild hybrid – which monitoring is intended to be un-
4.1 Status Quo for using the measurement technique of dertaken from the inverter, integration
As in October 2008 a Formula 1 team ap- iso-F1 this would be no criterion of ex- in the battery management system is al-
proached Bender and asked about a clusion. so a common approach.
monitoring solution for a “Kers” system, Within the framework of further de-
it was possible to provide the first 100 4.2 Outlook and Recommendations velopment, the undefined construction
functional models as early as December. With its broad “model policy”, Bender of the charging stations must also be
Here a circuit board version of an insula- wants to address automobile manufac- taken into account. In this respect, it has
tion monitoring device according to DIN turers or suppliers and implement spe- to be clarified whether the construction
EN 61557-8 (VDE 0413-8), Figure 3, was cial requirements such as CAN bus on should be realised earthed or unearthed
produced weighing only 50 g and that board or the removal of the dedicated via a transformer. It is also important to
with a temperature range from -46 °C to DC/DC converter (power supply) as fur- align the use of protective measures for
105 °C (even 125 °C for 3 h), extreme re- ther developments. the charging station with the protective
sistance to shock and vibration, and very A further more complex subject will measure for the vehicle. To this end, it is
high dielectric strength and EMC immu- be the start sequence. Here the issue is to necessary to work out normative funda-
nity, in the majority of cases actually prevent the connection of a “good” com- mentals in the corresponding commit-
­exceeds the requirements for vehicle ponent to a “bad” component. This tees. Through participation in a number
manufacture. This iso-F1 is now in use in means neither a battery with an insula- of standard committees over many years,
large numbers in a very wide range of tion fault should be connected to the Bender has gained the necessary experi-
electric and hybrid vehicles without any drive system, nor should a badly insulat- ence and competence to provide assist-
failures or incorrect measurements. Vari­ ed drive system be started up. The realisa- ance in this matter.
ous versions, for example DC nominal tion of this measurement by the time the
voltage up to 800 V with 1 Mohm inter- separate systems start is a major chal-
5 Conclusion

Experience to date has shown that there

exist certain reservations in relation to
the subject of electrical protective meas-
ures in the high voltage systems in the
car. Measurement solutions are some-
times highly simplified with the conse-
quence of an increase in the risk of elec-
trical accidents. With technical solu-
tions tailored to the vehicle market,
Bender is making it clear that this is not
another problem area for electric mobil-
ity that is “insolvable” in the short-term,
but that suppliers and automobile manu­
facturers can make use of proven tech-
nology installed in compliance with the
standards. The Bender Group is embrac-
ing the challenges from the vehicle mar-
ket. Custom technical solutions adapted
to the vehicle concept ensure that elec-
Figure 3: Circuit board version of an insulation monitoring device, weighing 50 g, according tricity in the car can also “be made safe”.
DIN EN 61557-8 (VDE 0413-8), with a temperature range of -46 °C to 105 °C (125 °C for 3 h)  ■

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