The race is on to develop the next generation of energy storage solutions. From tiny battery packs that keep smartwatches running for days on end to the huge arrays that power EVs for hundreds of miles, new products are tested every day in the ongoing quest for a better battery.
With innovation, however, comes some degree of risk. Manufacturers must take great care, through research and quality assurance, to ensure that subpar, defective, or even potentially dangerous batteries never make it to market. Battery failure in your product can create a negative perception of your brand, cost a great deal of money in fines and recalls, and even seriously injure someone.
Thorough and accurate testing is critical for batteries, but the widespread pivot toward electrified products has dramatically increased the pressure on testing facilities. As both batteries and the regulations that govern them become more complex, testing also becomes more complex and more specialized. Modern battery labs require special equipment like purpose-built chambers with fire suppression and remote monitoring equipment, and battery testing personnel must be committed to ongoing education to keep up to date on international battery regulations. For many organizations who produce battery-powered products, maintaining an in-house battery testing lab is costly and labor-intensive, which makes outsourcing to a dedicated third-party lab an attractive option.
What Challenges Does Outsourcing Solve?
An in-house lab can prove efficient for an organization that is doing a very high volume of testing, but the financial investment, operational focus, and staffing requirements necessary to maintain an effective testing program are substantial.
You might consider testing with a third-party laboratory for many reasons, including:
- The high fixed costs of an in-house lab
- The potential cost of underutilized resources
- Shifting regulations and standards
- Testing capacity limitations
- Limited test data from suppliers
High Fixed Costs
Perhaps the most obvious consideration is the financial investment required to build and maintain a qualified in-house testing laboratory. Testing instruments are expensive, the lead time to acquire these instruments is often long, and with the rate of battery innovation, current testing equipment could become obsolete more quickly than anticipated.
Even if the cost of equipment and adequate testing facilities is within reach for your organization, both real costs and opportunity costs are relevant. Building or expanding a lab may not represent the best use of your company’s resources if an investment in, for example, R&D or intellectual property development gives you a better return.
- These are some major costs associated with an in-house battery laboratory:
- Building or expanding a testing infrastructure
- Additional electrical capacity
- Maintaining, calibrating, and validating new and existing equipment
- Establishing regulatory procedures and documentation
- Efforts to source, train, and retain the technical experts to operate equipment
- Fixed costs for in-house salaries and benefits
A third-party battery testing partner such as Element offers a cost-effective and customizable alternative for regulatory and performance-based evaluations. Because Element’s battery testing labs are dedicated exclusively to batteries, we are continuously updating our battery-specific equipment and capabilities, and our testing staff has specialized experience and superior knowledge of new techniques, technologies, and regulations. When you outsource, you never have to worry about purchasing new equipment, facility maintenance, or re-training staff for emerging needs.
If your in-house lab runs at peak efficiency 100% of the time, it could be cheaper than outsourcing, but peak efficiency is rarely realized. Many manufacturers end up under-utilizing their testing staff, facilities, or equipment due to shifting needs and priorities within the organization over time. Inevitably, some equipment will see more use than the rest. You may also find you have excess capacity due to minimum shift requirements and other commitments required for a full-time battery testing workforce.
It is very difficult to predict how your testing capacity will be utilized over time, and you may find that your lab has excess capacity at some times and inadequate capacity at other times. A testing partner removes underutilization rates and excess capacity from the equation. While in-house labs are characterized by high fixed costs — often for assets and manpower that are underutilized — your real needs are likely to be variable. A testing service provider expands your capabilities and capacity responsively. Specialized short-term tests will no longer require you to purchase new equipment that may go unused or train new personnel for a niche or limited-time testing need.
“When you outsource, you never have to worry about purchasing new equipment, facility maintenance, or re-training staff for emerging needs.”
As battery complexity increases, the testing needed to ensure that batteries are safe and efficient also becomes more complex. Local and international governments and trade organizations impose strict rules on battery testing, and these regulations are changing all the time. Testing labs must be aware of and responsive to this complex regulatory environment.
It takes substantial time and resources to stay informed and ensure that in-house testing procedures and capabilities are always current. The resources required to adjust and verify each testing protocol for compliance can become extremely burdensome, especially when your company has competing priorities demanding your attention.
A partner specialized in battery testing offers built-in expertise, experience, and professional advice. Your company can stop worrying about the cost, time, and expertise needed to keep up with shifting regulations (and to run the tests themselves). Rely on your testing partner to eliminate uncertainties while ensuring your products are compliant with the latest specifications and regulations.
Even when companies have extremely efficient in-house laboratories, limited capacity in the short term often makes some amount of outsourcing inevitable. Needs often change, and special projects often make it impossible to effectively handle a temporarily high volume or unique type of testing in-house.
A testing partner is often the perfect complement to in-house capabilities. Labs are always juggling multiple priorities and projects; outsourcing to a trusted partner, whether on a short- or long-term basis, can keep your lab running efficiently and avoid the high cost of expansion.
When you partner with Element, you’ll gain access to a purpose-built battery testing facility with the industry’s most up-to-date capabilities, plus the expertise of dedicated battery testing personnel with extensive industry knowledge. The extra capacity of a dedicated third-party lab gets your products to market faster and more affordably than constructing a large lab of your own.
“Electronics manufacturers should verify supplier data, even when it comes from trustworthy suppliers, so they can make an informed decision about what batteries are best for their product.”
Limited Test Data from Suppliers
If you are a device manufacturer trying to source batteries, you may have found that some cell or pack suppliers provide limited performance testing data on their products. They may use small sample sizes, test in labs with limited capabilities, and cherry-pick the data points they reveal to the buyer. Electronics manufacturers should verify supplier data, even when it comes from trustworthy suppliers, so they can make an informed decision about what batteries are best for their product.
With demand for batteries increasing and more manufacturers entering the market, this shortage of performance data is becoming a more widespread problem for device manufacturers. Many are now turning to third-party labs to test the batteries they are evaluating for use in their products.
Trusted third-party performance verification puts reliable and complete test data into your hands. Element maintains multiple accreditations related to testing cells and batteries for use in many different industries. We have achieved and maintained these accreditations by ensuring best-in-class laboratory quality systems management and providing comprehensive and confidential testing to our customers.
Our testing clients range from battery cell suppliers to battery pack manufacturers to device manufacturers. We serve multiple sectors with our comprehensive testing, advisory, and certification services, including the medical device industry, consumer electronics, gaming, automotive, and grid storage/ESS.
Battery Testing Services
Element stays up-to-date with the latest industry trends, including automotive, medical, and technology. We offer comprehensive battery testing services for a wide variety of batteries and cells.
Battery Safety Testing
Protect consumer safety, ensure reliable performance, and support your brand’s reputation with advanced battery safety testing for a wide range of battery-powered products.
Battery Performance Testing
Element’s battery performance testing provides crucial insight on how your battery will perform under real-world conditions.
Battery Abuse Testing
Exhaustive battery abuse testing from Element provides clear data on how batteries, including lithium-ion batteries, will react to extreme circumstances.
Expand Your Knowledge with Our Battery Resources
Article: How Battery Design Review Improves Products
With new battery cell manufacturers pouring into the market, subpar battery cells can enter a supply chain and end up causing problems in otherwise high-quality consumer products.
Article: The Value of Battery Thermal Runaway Testing
It's normal for batteries to generate heat, but in certain unusual circumstances, batteries can enter a self-perpetuating cycle of excessive heating called thermal runaway
Article: What is Battery Cell Validation?
When manufacturers include multiple cells in a battery, they need to be sure all the individual cells will perform and age in a balanced way to avoid causing a safety hazard.
Article: UN Recommends Sodium-Ion Battery Safety Regulation
A UN sub-committee recently proposed that regulations for lithium-ion batteries should also include language about sodium-ion batteries.