An eight-month project that kicked off in October aims to evaluate the application of composite materials to produce the battery casings used in electric vehicles instead opting for aluminium and steel, as is currently the case.
The project, initiated and led by Aachen-based engineering consultancy AZL has drawn together participants from the entire value chain, including automotive OEM Audi and suppliers such as Asahi Kasei, Covestro, EconCore, IPTE and Johns Manville.
According to statista.com and marketsandmarkets.com the global battery housing market for electric vehicles is projected to have a growth rate of over 13 percent across the next seven years. The consortium behind the project believes there is huge potential in this area to use lighter composite materials.
A primary goal for electric vehicle OEMs is to increase the vehicles operating range, through weight reduction, without compromising on strength and quality.
“Battery casings are a key component in electric vehicles. The requirements are challenging and very individual for different vehicle classes,” said Dr.-Ing. Florian Meyer, project management mentor from the Technical Development department of Audi AG. “We are looking forward to the creative exchange with the cross-value chain and cross-material class consortium to find out how we can save weight and costs by using plastic-based multi-material solutions versus status quo solutions made of metals.”
Honeycomb material producer EconCore is one of the consortium members. The company is actively exploring how the thermoplastic honeycomb technology can be applied into this area, said COO Tomasz Czarnecki.
The first phase of this project will be focused on understanding what the potential opportunities and challenges are. For the EconCore team, this means pre-selecting thermoplastic materials, using different composite skin layers and working through different geometrical design variants, to optimise the honeycomb material to obtain desirable characteristics and share findings with project partners.
EconCore already has experience using honeycomb material in vehicle interiors, which can be compression moulded to produce three-dimensional shapes. If the initial phase goes well, the plan is to progress to a prototyping stage.
“It’s important we don’t get ahead of ourselves,” Czarnecki said. “Part of the process is to also understand things like design, material, and the likely production costs. These are also critical factors in addition to the potential lightweighting benefits, that must be assessed. It must make economic sense too. However, we remain optimistic.”