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NEWS | May 1, 2024

Carderock Team Recognized with the SECNAV Energy Excellence Award

By Tamari Perrineau-Palmer, NSWC Carderock Division Public Affairs

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division earned the fiscal year 2023 Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Energy Excellence Award for Technology Development and Acquisition for its work with lithium battery safety certification on Navy Ships.

The SECNAV Excellence Award Program annually recognizes excellence in the areas of energy security, energy resilience, innovation, combat effectiveness and program management across the Department of the Navy. For energy technologies to be considered for this award, they must have a functional prototype that has a significant impact on the lethality or operational range of a platform or weapon system and be capable of being tested in a field-operating environment.

The Carderock team consisted of Julie Simmons; Tracey Cheek; Toby Cole; Josh Garvin; Keegan Symon; Carolyn Flores; James Mulford; Robert Caliri; Michael Wartelsky; Jessica Schwartz; and Jonathan Ko, as well as former Carderock employees Madelaine Hernandez-Mora and Matthew Daniel.

“It was an honor for me and our whole team to receive recognition,” Senior Test Engineer Carolyn Flores said. “We work very hard and we really enjoy our work. We spent years getting the project to this point, working long days together as a team to support the mission. The warfighter has enough hazards to deal with every day, we take our work very seriously and are dedicated to the mission to ensure their safety as it pertains to battery use. There were logistical challenges involved with this testing as we partnered with the Fire Protection Branch and the Naval Research Laboratory Chesapeake Bay Detachment to utilize their expertise, capabilities and facilities for test execution. We are grateful for their support.”

The team collaborated with Carderock’s Battery Certification and Integration Branch and its Expeditionary and Developmental Power and Energy Branch. They also used partnered with Navy test facilities to conduct a lithium battery safety certification supporting the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) Program Office, which is a joint-led Army and Marine Corps Program Office that supports the acquisition of tactical vehicles that transport soldiers and Marines to and from the battlefield.

It took an estimated three years from the initiated request for the battery’s safety certification to be completed. During that time, the team verified test requirements with the Certification and Technical Authorities at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), and then tested the batteries at Carderock labs and partnering facilities, culminating in a six-month evaluation period.

The heat release rate test was the biggest challenge due to the size of the battery. That specific test evaluates the rate of total heat generated by the battery during a thermal runaway battery casualty. This characterization allows the NAVSEA Technical Authorities, who have expertise in fire science, to assess the impact of the battery casualty on nearby critical systems or host platforms, like the naval ships that will be used to transport the JLTV.

The safety certification enables the use of a superior battery technology in the JLTV for all concepts of operations and deployment, including supporting the warfighters. This achievement sets the precedent that large format lithium-ion and lithium batteries can safely be employed in large systems, and that those systems can be safely transported on naval ships, according to Simmons, the designated Technical Agent for the Navy’s Lithium Battery Safety Program who led the JLTV lithium battery safety evaluation.

This effort required inter-department collaboration to ensure the full compilation of relevant data to support the safety evaluation resulting in the recommendation made to NAVSEA to issue the safety certification.

This is not the first time Carderock supports a lithium battery safety evaluation for the JLTV Program Office. In 2012, the Division began working on battery testing to support safe integration of lithium-ion batteries into the JLTV design, and they completed that testing in 2016. In the end, the contractor decided not to go with the lithium battery for that JLTV variant, but when the program office moved on to their next variant, they contacted Carderock again. 

“We ended up compiling testing from previous projects, so the Joint Program Office did not have to fund new testing,” Simmons said. “We started discussing what the new test requirements would be for this variant and coordinated with NAVSEA technical warrant holders to ensure the correct test data were generated.” 

A lithium battery is one of the most energy dense electrochemical systems for storing energy and, according to Simmons, is superior technology that replaces the lead-acid battery.

“It's an improvement on the existing technology,” Simmons said. “By implementing these enhanced and cost-effective batteries, not only do they offer additional and improved capabilities, but they also deliver an extended lifespan and superior performance. As a result, the overall cost of owning the system throughout its lifespan is significantly reduced, leading to substantial cost savings.”

By validating that the lithium battery can safety be deployed on naval assets such as aircraft and surface ships, the Carderock team has changed the perception on large-format lithium batteries, proving that the battery can safely be transported on mission critical platforms.

After obtaining the initial safety certification, the team is currently in the process of updating the calculations to represent the potential for deploying additional JLTV systems on the designated host platforms in the upcoming years.