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The material selection platform
Plastics & Elastomers

E-Mobility Performance Plastic Material Advances!

Donald Rosato – Sep 11, 2020

TAGS:  Automotive      New Energy Solutions      Thermoplastic Composites    

E-mobility Plastic Material AdvancesThe emergence of Electric Vehicles (EVs) represents the biggest challenge for the global automotive industry in the last four decades. The current nascent EV transition will peak around 2035 as existing internal combustion, powertrain manufacturing equipment, and technology sees gradual lower investment by automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Major supply chains will be reshaped, and plastics raw material suppliers will need to adapt to these huge new electrical and electronic, plastic-to-metal conversion, and light-weighting opportunities.

New plastic material systems will be needed:

  • At higher voltage levels, with increased flame retardance, plus increased EV operating temperatures over longer time periods, and
  • In EV cooling systems that stay in use not only when driving but during charging cycles.

Additionally, EV driving range on a single charge will play to new battery materials harnessed to lightweighting. Finally, new autonomous EVs will create a huge new opportunity for specialized plastic sensor materials.

Let’s focus on emerging plastics materials used in the automotive Electric Vehicle (EV) market that will be a key technical market driver during the period 2020 to 2035. This transition will take place concurrently with automotive plastics trends:

  • In increased under-the-hood, high heat, high-performance metal-to-plastic conversion applications in traditional Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles (ICEVs), and
  • Thermoplastic composite development in EVs and ICEVs

Other E-Mobility development areas will eventually come into play to include:

  • E-trucks
  • E-mass transit
  • E-motorcycles
  • E-bikes
  • E-planes, an even e-surf boards.

Also, the advent of hydrogen-powered transportation vehicles will be worth monitoring during the period 2020 to 2035.

Keep up-to-date on plastic materials at SpecialChem’s world renowned Plastics & Elastomers Selector, the free database to select all your plastics & elastomers, where one can search 145,000 technical datasheets, contact suppliers, and get samples.

For example: To search the E-Mobility plastic, Lanxess’ Durethan® BKV45FN04, a glass fiber reinforced, flame retarded Nylon 6 compound for specific compound material details.

Other key plastic material families of interest include:

Let’s explore the advances of these plastic material families produced by different suppliers.

Toray’s TORELINA™ PPS for Electric Vehicle Components

Materials used in electric vehicle power modules, batteries, or drive/generator motor components need to meet specific performance parameters and requirements over longer periods of time to:

  • Withstand higher voltage level and thermal cycling,
  • Maintain electrical properties at elevated temperatures, and
  • Meet increased flame retardance requirements.

The high-performance TORELINA™ PPS line of resins from Toray addresses the engineering challenges for electric vehicle applications such as power modules, batteries, and drive/generator motor components. TORELINA™ PPS materials meet specific performance parameters for electric vehicle components including:

High heat cycle resistance TORELINA™ A575W20B resin withstands 200 high heat cycles compared to 5 cycles for standard 40% glass filled PPS.
Low warpage TORELINA™ A575W20B PPS shows 5X less warpage versus standard PPS.
Improved weld line strength TORELINA™ A675GS1B has 20% improvement in weld strength.
Excellent heat cycle resistance TORELINA™ A675GS1B delivers a 6X improvement in heat cycle resistance at weld line versus TORELINA™ A575W20B PPS grade.
Low water vapor transmission TORELINA™ A495MA2B shows 50% lower water vapor transmission vs 15% glass filled PBT.
Excellent adhesion TORELINA™ A495MA2B has 2X stronger epoxy adhesion strength versus standard PPS.
High thermal conductivity TORELINA™ H310E PPS has 4X higher thermal conductivity vs standard PPS.

Which performance do you need for your Electric Vehicle components? Learn more about TORELINA™ PPS grades for EVs here.

Lanxess’ Plastic Developments for Battery Applications

E-Mobility plastic market leader, Lanxess has recently focused on tailored PolyAmides (PA, nylons) and PolyButylene Terephthalates (PBTs) under their Durethan® and Pocan® brand names for lithium-ion battery components, emerging electric powertrain parts, and future EV charging stations.

Lanxess Polyamides and Polybutylene Terephthalates Components of Lithium-Ion Batteries (T, B)
Battery Applications by Lanxess
Lanxess Polyamides and Polybutylene Terephthalates Components of Lithium-Ion Batteries (T, B)

As described in the figure above, battery applications for power transmission supply lines encompass:

  • Module covers
  • High Voltage (HV) connectors
  • Control unit housings
  • Cell end plates
  • Spacers, and
  • Cable brackets

Durethan® Battery Material (PA 6) with Excellent Flame Rating

A good starting point battery material is the easy-flowing, Lanxess’ PA6 Durethan® BKV45FN04 compound that has 45% by weight glass fiber reinforcement.

  • It is halogen-free with an Underwriters Laboratories UL 94 V-0 (at 0.4 mm thickness) best flame retarded rating.
  • It also exhibits excellent arc tracking resistance at high voltage.
  • Due to Durethan® BKV45FN04’s mechanical strength and stiffness, it is ideally suited for EV battery cell frame and end-plate structural components.
  • Its superior UL rating harnessed to thin wall part stiffness also makes it highly desirable for high-voltage connectors.

Durethane® Cost Performance PA 6 Alternative to PA 66

Lanxess is improving their Durethan® P (Performance) grade range with high glass loading levels in order to be a cost performance alternative to traditional Nylon 66 competitors.

Two specific PA 6 grades, Durethan® BKV60PH2.0EF at 60% by weight short glass fiber reinforcement and Durethan® BKV50PH2.0 at 50% versus standard PA6 materials exhibit superior fatigue resistance in repeated mechanical, pulsating load environments. This makes these improved PA6 grades to effectively displace at lower cost PA66 compound equivalents in EV structural battery supports and rolling in place battery module gears.

Lanxess Durethan® BKV60PH2.0EF PA6 Improved Performance vs. Standard PA6
Lanxess Durethan® BKV60PH2.0EF PA6 Improved Performance (Red) vs. Standard PA6 (Black)

Pocan® Xtreme Hydrolysis Resistance PBT for High Voltage EV Applications

Lanxess has developed a significantly improved hydrolysis resistant PolyButylene Terephthalate (PBT) product family targeted at high-voltage EV applications. Their three primary Pocan® XHR (Xtreme Hydrolysis Resistance) grades and one specialty TP grade for laser transmission welding have a 150-175°C temperature resistance range and go from unfilled to 35% glass filling.

Improved Pocan® XHR temperature resistance in humid environments is ideal for electrical battery protection where high-power densities are in play. Also, this helps when charging EV batteries where increased temperature loads exist over the car’s service life. The Pocan® XHR compounds have received the highest SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers)/USCAR (United States Council for Automotive Research) hydrolysis resistance regulatory ratings.

Other key Pocan® XHR advantages include:

  • Increased elongation for enhanced impact at part break protection
  • Higher temperature resistance for use in metal part overmolding

Finally, Pocan® XHR PBT compound grades possess improved caustic soda chemical resistance, as well as significantly improved long term temperature resistance versus standard PBT materials, and all important features for EV battery stability.

Comparison of Lanxess Pocan® PBT XHR (Orange) with Traditional HR Materials (Black, Grey)
Comparison of Lanxess Pocan® PBT XHR (Orange) with Traditional HR Materials (Black, Grey)

Next, let’s take a look at EV battery development from a Nylon 66 (PolyAmide, PA 66) perspective.

Ascend’s Polyamide 66 for Under-the-Hood Battery Frame Holder

Global nylon producer Ascend Performance Materials views key EV automotive trends as increasing electrification in under-the hood applications requiring:

  • Higher thermal loads
  • Extending EV driving range particularly as lithium-ion batteries plateau power wise requiring lightweighting, and
  • High voltage battery safety in a vehicle crash situation

Ascend’s Nylon 66 Vydyne® J series compounds are an excellent starting point for electrical connectors due to their corrosion resistance in high voltage environments. Also, Vydyne® J grades are quite acceptable for safety encasing lithium-ion battery cells due to PA 66’s superior balance of temperature, chemical, and impact resistance in tandem with enhanced electrical properties for fast charging at high power loads.

Ascend Nylon 66 Vydyne® J for EV Under-the-Hood Battery Frame Holder
Ascend Nylon 66 Vydyne® J for EV Under-the-Hood Battery Frame Holder

Related Read: Evolution of Automotive Industry Towards Electrification, Autonomous Vehicles

BASF’s Nylon 66 Grades for Metal-to-Plastic Conversion

BASF is focused on E-Mobility material advances from a current heavily metal-to-plastic part conversion standpoint. Future EVs will be simultaneously dependent on reducing weight while maintaining safety in evolving electric drive trains.

High voltage EV electrical components will require flame retarded Nylon 66 compounds, such as:

These compounds are halogen- and phosphorus-free, flame-retardant, injection-molding grades with:

  • Outstanding free-flow properties
  • Good electrical properties
  • Low smoke density, and
  • Resistant in a glow wire test (up to 960°C)

Also important through metal-to-plastic conversions, installation space will be increased and cooling requirements for previous EV drive train metal parts will be minimized. Up to now, EV drive train parts have included large volumes of steel and die-cast aluminum housings.

BASF Example Metal (Grey) to Plastic Conversion in Electric Drive Systems
BASF Example: Metal (Grey) to Plastic Conversion in Electric Drive Systems

ElectroMagnetic Interference (EMI) shielding will be important in EV housings that enclose high voltage electrical parts to further minimize any unwanted electronic interference. BASF is involved in metal coating prototype, lighter, lower cost, plastic parts for eventual diecast aluminum housing replacement.

BASF is also at work, optimizing their Ultradur® HR PBT (Hydrolysis Resistant, PolyButylene Terephthalate) plastics targeting the dramatic increase in not only EV drive train sensors, but also anticipated Artificial Intelligence (AI) sensors based on emerging technologies, such as:

  • Lidar (light detection and ranging)
  • Radar
  • IR (InfraRed), and
  • Ultrasonic

More specifically, these sensor technologies are important to Passive Automation Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) components, such as cameras, radar, lidar, and high-speed data connection systems.

BASF/Audi Electric Vehicle Battery Part Applications to Properties Comparison
BASF/Audi Electric Vehicle Battery Part Applications to Properties Comparison

Witcom’s Specialty EV Compounds

Netherlands-based Witcom Engineering Plastics specialty EV compounds are focused in EV sensors. EV guidance sensors require electric shielding. Witcom has established a market leading position in radar absorbing plastic compounds based on resins, such as:

EV sensor mounting brackets must also be radar invisible. The key performance feature here is radar absorption versus radar reflection to eliminate false images or “ghosting” on the radar sensors.

Witcom is also enhancing their radar invisible sensor compounds with ElectroMagnetic Interference (EMI) shielding for additional EV electrical part system safety. Their current radar invisible compounds are fine for an EMI range above 10 GigaHertz (GHz) with additional development work centered on 1-10 GHz.

Another interesting Witcom development aspect is their use of 3D Printing as a service feature with their end-use sensor customers. EV radar sensors need to be continually optimized for specific radar absorbing capabilities and as a result may undergo several part iterations. This led Witcom to offer limited 3D Printing of sensor part volumes with tailored compound filaments for end-use qualification purposes.

Witcom Engineering Plastics 3D Printed Sensor (L), Radar Absorbing Filament Material (R)
Witcom Engineering Plastics 3D Printed Sensor (L), Radar Absorbing Filament Material (R)

Domo Chemicals’ Technyl® Orange PA 6 Grade

There is always a potential for electric shock hazard in EV powertrains, so they are safety critical. Live system parts regularly carry moderately high electrical currents of 30-35V (Volt) AC (Alternating Current) or 60-65V DC (Direct Current). Domo Chemicals has formulated Technyl® Orange PA6 (PolyAmide, or Nylon) Safety grades, namely:

  • RAL 2003 for European EVs
  • RAL 2008/2011 for EV exports to North America

These grades are ideal for electric shock protection for connectors, cables, sockets, and even delicate charge plugs. The RAL grades have a strict UL94 V-0 flame rating at 0.4 millimeter thickness from the Underwriters Laboratory certification agency, with a V-0 Vertical burn meaning burning stops within 10 seconds after two applications of ten seconds each of a flame to a test bar.

Other key performance features include:

  • Excellent orange color stability and fastness
  • Very good Comparative Tracking Index (CTI) of 600V or greater, and
  • Low mold deposits

Domo Chemicals Technyl® Safety Orange High Voltage Connectors (T) in EV Powertrain (B)

Domo Chemicals Technyl® Safety Orange High Voltage Connectors (T) in EV Powertrain (B)
Domo Chemicals Technyl Safety Orange High Voltage Connectors (T) in EV Powertrain (B)

Padanaplast’s XLPO-HFFR Compound in Highly Flexible EV T4 Cable

Italian compounder Padanaplast has developed a new XLPO-HFFR (Cross Linked PolyOlefin, Halogen Free Fire Retardant) plastic grade aimed at high performance, highly flexible EV cables. More specifically their Cogegum® GFR 1709-27 grade is targeted at T4 battery cables where high flexibility is required. A T4 cable is a highly flexible cable that is resistant to automotive fluids and mechanical abuse at 150° C and for short term excursions well above this temperature.

The Cogegum® GFR 1709-27 grade is part of a family of high performance Padanaplast compounds with ISO (International Standards Organization) 6722 Class C and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) J1128 specification qualified for T3 (125°C) primary EV cable insulation covering for grades, such as:

Additionally, there are Polidiemme® G compounds developed for use in EV charging station cables and they are EN (European Standard) 50620 compliant.

Padanaplast XLPO-HFFR Compound in Highly Flexible EV T4 Cable
Padanaplast XLPO-HFFR Compound in Highly Flexible EV T4 Cable

EMS-Grivory’s Polyamide Compounds for EV Charging System

Swiss-based EMS-Grivory’s proprietary PolyAmide (PA, or Nylon) grades namely:

  • Grivory® GVL-4H V0 (PA66+PA6I/X) is V-0 flame retarded and 40% by weight long glass fiber reinforced, and is structurally ideal for EV charging station housings and related mechanical parts such as sockets and charge plugs.
  • Grilamid® L PA12 is a highly elastic grade well suited for liquid cooled cable sheathing in EV charging systems.

A recent application example here is the Swiss cable company Huber+Suhner rapid EV charging station. Their RADOX HPC (High Power Charging) system functions at up to 400 Amperes/1000 Volt charging capacity. This charging capacity permits large EVs to be charged to 80-85% at approximately fifteen minutes.

EMS-Grivory Nylon Compounds for Huber+Suhner RADOX HPC EV Charging System
EMS-Grivory Nylon Compounds for Huber+Suhner RADOX HPC EV Charging System

Plastics Driving Future Electric Vehicle Design

There is a current industrial fallacy that the fewer component Electric Vehicle (EV) is easier to design than the traditional, multisystem Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle (ICEV). In fact, the exact opposite is the reality.

For example, EV batteries need to be side impact protected along with the vehicle occupants.

  • Actually, EV batteries are more sensitive to impact versus a vehicle occupant for very short term, 15 second, time durations.
  • A battery can absorb only a 30 G force (Gravity, or force multiplied by distance) versus a 45 G for an individual occupant.

Thus, material selection and design criteria will favor thermoplastic composites in EV impact zones. Thermoplastic composites with carbon and glass reinforcement will enhance EV lightweighting in general, and more specifically replacing steel or aluminum in the top and bottom layers of battery enclosure housings.

Byton EV Internal Drive Train Schematic
Byton EV Internal Drive Train Schematic

Another aspect of EV design involves cooling battery, powertrain, and interior cabin systems. EVs operate at 65°C whereas ICEVs run at 110°C. This requires a lot of air movement during summer in EV design and especially in winter where there is no waste heat available in EVs as in ICEVs. Thus, EV thermal control systems to optimize temperature uniformity and circulation opens big new opportunities for engineering plastics at EV front ends behind the grille where air intakes, brushless radiator fans, and heat pumps need to be positioned.

In terms of EV, interior design buttons will disappear for the most part and give way to facial recognition, tactile responsiveness, and sensor enabled gesture control enhanced by functional plastic films. Get ready for more immersive and content-rich EV functionality and say goodbye to traditional ICEV instrument panels. Electrical and electronic and structural engineering plastics will play an integral development role here.

Volkswagen ID Space Vizzion Concept Electric SUV Interior Wide Screen Display/Minimally Obstructed Outside Views (T) and Sleek Exterior/Below Front Grille Air Intake Openings(B)
Volkswagen ID Space Vizzion Concept Electric SUV Interior Wide Screen Display/Minimally
Obstructed Outside Views (T) and Sleek Exterior/Below Front Grille Air Intake Openings(B)

Also Read: The Future of Displays is Smart and Flexible

Finally, looking one step further in EV design, the low to the ground, low center of gravity “skateboard” battery and electric motor panel is emerging as a key functional platform for city bus type people movers and bulk delivery vehicles.

  • It ushers in a new supply chain collaboration where electronics supplier Sony integrates its EV systems into a structural “skateboard” package specially built by Tier 1 automotive manufacturer Magna.
  • This “skateboard” design concept lends itself to a whole host of electronic suppliers with Tier 1 structural manufacturers that has the potential to transform and permanently start disrupting traditional combustion engine supply chains starting in the current 2020 decade.

Lightweight engineering plastics, both injection molded and 3D printed, have unlimited potential in these type EVs in terms of parts consolidation and lower system costs versus whatever metal options may be offered.

Rinspeed “Skateboard” Concept Car—Parked Delivery Module (L) and People Mover Module (R)
Rinspeed “Skateboard” Concept Car—Parked Delivery Module (L) and People Mover Module (R)

Newly Launched Polymer Grades for Advanced Automotive Applications

1 Comments on "E-Mobility Performance Plastic Material Advances!"
Paul B May 6, 2021
Don, nice job! Great articles like this will surely help stimulate new product design and material developments for EVs.

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