The growth in electrification initiatives is a bold and clear statement from manufacturers that there is cleaner, more efficient ways to power vehicles, and that electric vehicles on the roads will soon become the norm. Projected growth is said to be at a compound annual rate of almost 40%. By 2025, that’s almost 2,000,000 electric vehicles.
There are specific factors driving this rapid development; government legislation and environmental pressures the most common and whilst OEMs welcome the switch, the electrification of vehicles doesn’t come without its challenges.
One such challenge is protecting the life blood of these vehicles – the all-important battery. Many consider the battery to be the biggest challenge because it needs to be light, it needs to be protected from the elements and damage, and it needs to power the vehicle for as long as possible.
These are challenges that need to be addressed and solutions need to be improved. Material innovation is likely to be the difference once the leap from prototyping and low-volume production to mass production is fully facilitated.
The battery carrier in electric vehicles is absolutely critical for effective thermal management. Keeping batteries from overheating is a major priority for vehicle manufacturers as chemical changes provoked inside the battery have extremely harmful consequences.
Furthermore, charging can also create problems. The more time spent fully charged, the faster internal resistance builds up and similar problems surface. Keep this up over time and the battery becomes useless. Again, emphasis on innovative thermal management is key.
Protection from damage is just as important. Electric batteries carry a risk of giving off toxic gases if damaged and even during proposed recycling initiatives there are risks. Lithium and cobalt are finite and extraction during recycling attempts can lead to water pollution and depletion, among other environmental consequences.
Battery carriers must offer both a protective structure to stop impact damage and also an application for improved thermal management. MAN member, Barkley Plastics believe that injection moulding forms a large part of the answer.
The beauty of injection moulding is in design flexibility; so, the ever more complex requirements of the electric vehicle and battery carriers in particular can be accommodated. Since its inception in 1965, Barkley Plastics have faced complex moulding requirements for critical systems in all sorts of industries but none more so than in the automotive industry.
Innovations in materials and their properties are likely to be the key to the battery protection challenge and the process of innovation is no more active than it is in the world of plastics. Barkley Plastics is well versed in this world, using over 300 different grades of plastic and already boasting a proven track record of advising clients involved in the EV market.
Initial discussions have included flame-retardant plastics that are ideal for battery enclosures and carriers (they prevent or delay the spread of fires) and the use of plastics to deliver high-impact strength, chemical and hydrolysis resistance, thermal stability and a good high heat distortion and physical performance balance.
Needless to say, plastics are an ideal option for delivering lightweight components that will, ultimately, make vehicles cleaner.
2-shot moulding (which negates the need for seals, o-rings and secondary operations) or gas assisted injection moulding are often used for automotive requirements, particularly in car interiors.
Barkley Plastics is a specialist in interior light guide mouldings and assemblies, along with steering columns, panels, window switch packs and instrument clusters. The company has 55 years’ experience in these areas and in working with tier 1s and OEMs to develop the processes and the components that will drive forward a new era of mobility.
Furthermore, the firm’s patented In Mould Internal Weld (IMIW) technology allows for the insertion of products, such as electronics, into a sealed component. The process lends itself well to encapsulating sensors, which suits the EV market’s move towards greater autonomy.
The IMIW process greatly reduces design constraints within future plastic enclosures; fundamental to the design challenges surfacing in the EV market.
Inevitably, the quicker consumers switch to electric vehicles, the more scrutiny consumers will pay to car appearance and aesthetics. And if these are the cars of the future, then buyers will expect the best in looks, apparatus and comfort.
The interior light guide mouldings and assemblies that produce the ambient lighting is an area that Barkley Plastics specialise in, with projects already completed for the likes of Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover and BMW.
Barkley Plastics and the members of the Manufacturing Assembly Network are actively focused on developing innovative solutions, combining disciplines and refining existing processes to offer industries both entering and driving electrification the best in manufacturing solutions.
The world continues to move rapidly towards vehicle electrification and therefore mass manufacture, battery protection, thermal management and lightweighting appear to be the challenges that need mastering. There’s no doubt that injection moulding has a major role to play in solving those challenges.
Barkley Plastics will continue to use its collaborative network to learn best practice, continue to develop relationships with academia and undergo knowledge transfer partnerships with OEMs to stay at the forefront of adapting core competencies in plastic injection moulding to offer a solution for the electrification requirements of the future.
For more information on the capabilities of the Manufacturing Assembly Network, use the enquiry form below or follow the group’s various social accounts.
The Manufacturing Assembly Network is a collaboration of eight sub-contract manufacturers and an engineering design agency.
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