As the automotive industry transitions to electrification, new material needs are emerging. For Dow’s Mobility Science division, it’s an exciting challenge. As part of its commitment in this area, Dow Mobility Science has entered into a partnership with Jaguar Racing, one of the teams that competes in the Formula E racing series, becoming the team’s official materials science partner.
One of the key areas of focus for the partnership is the development of lightweight materials that can help reduce the weight of Jaguar Racing's electric car components without compromising their strength or durability. Dow Mobility Science has developed a range of lightweight materials that can help increase the range and performance of Jaguar Racing's electric race cars while also reducing their environmental impact.
These benefits extend beyond the racetrack. Formula E racing is a test bed for EV manufacturers, who have extensive race to road programmes designed to advance their road electric vehicle platforms.
“When you talk about sustainability - in reference to plastics generically in the automotive industry – lightweighting is far and away the biggest sustainability benefit for automotive,” said Tim Boven, Mobility Science commercial vice president at Dow.
Sustainable Plastics briefly spoke with him at the start of the Dow Sustainable Mobility Summit at the EUREF-Campus Berlin about some of the solutions being developed particularly solutions that include advanced thermal management materials that can help improve the efficiency of electric powertrain systems and advanced adhesives and sealants that can help improve the durability and reliability of EV components.
“Looking at the carbon footprint, the benefit is enormous,” he emphasised. “And we expect polymers to continue to grow at a pace greater than automotive production – again, mainly because of the lightweighting benefits such as more range and better fuel efficiency that they bring.”
He pointed to TPO as a prime example of a material that has long been used in the automotive industry, but that is now an area where tremendous innovation is taking place. “Things like translucent TPO,” he said. Placing sensors of electronics behind materials like these makes it possible to make technology invisible when not needed, for example. “You see it when it's on, you don't see it when it's not on; and it can be lighting, it can be actual buttons or sensors, it can be on the interior or the exterior. And this is giving OEMs degrees of freedom in design that they haven't traditionally had.”
TPO is also a readily recyclable material, he noted. Recyclability is becoming a bigger issue because of the revision of the End-of-Life Vehicles directive, which is increasing the recycling requirements of plastics. “It's not that you can't recycle or that the problem of plastics recycling in automotive is not addressable, it just hasn't been the biggest focus for the industry. And we're going to see that change with policy,” said Boven.
“I think what’s happening in automotive is no different than what you're seeing in an industry like packaging, for example: because of the huge focus on end-of-life recycling, a process of design simplification is taking place in both the interior and exterior. We're using less diverse materials and we're developing more simplistic structures, but we still need to meet the performance requirements. And that means pushing the envelope on innovation for certain materials to be expanded into applications spaces in which they were not previously used. Aligning sustainable innovation with performance and safety requirements is one of the major challenges today.”
At Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, where on 22/23 April the 2023 Sabic Berlin E-PRIX - Rounds 7 and 8 of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship - was held, the two Jaguar cars taking part in the race provided tangible evidence of what this looks like.
As Mitch Evans, one of the Jaguar drivers pointed out during a press conference prior to the race, the advances seen in the technology in less than a decade have been ‘incredible’. 2023 is the first year for the teams to be racing with the Gen3 car, the world’s first net zero race car. “EVs have come such a long way, and the same holds for the sport. It’s all about extracting maximum performance from the powertrains, as the carbon fibre chassis and battery are common components and the same for all eleven teams.”
Dow, as the official material science partner, contributes by working with Jaguar’s engineers, to come up with materials and solutions that can help improve the efficiency, weight, strength, sustainability of the vehicles: “to produce the fastest, lightest, most efficient race car that we can,” added James Barclay, Jaguar TCS racing team team director.
And with success: Jaguar took a double win at the Berlin Formula E race.