Automotive: Electric vehicles in full throttle

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Technology advancements and carbon-neutral strategies are driving the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), with the market to grow at a CAGR of 22% from 2018-2025 with a value of US$567 billion, according to Allied Market Research, especially in China, the US and Nordic countries. Thus, the long term prospects for EVs are expected to bode well for the automotive industry, says Angelica Buan in this report.

Cutting down on carbon emissions

Transportation is implicated to be the largest contributor to the carbon dioxide (CO2) build-up. In 2016, in the US, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) detailed that transport accounts for 28% of total global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of which, CO2 is one of the primary gases.

total global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)

Road vehicles, which account for two-thirds of the GHG emissions contributed by transport, are reported to grow twice as fast as overall CO2 emissions and by 2050, transport emissions would be between 30% to 50% of the total global emissions.

Growing preference to switch to EVs

The global drive to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution, as well as a shift to renewable energies, is increasing the take-up of electric vehicles (EVs). With the need to reduce CO2 emissions, EVs are favourable since they use batteries instead of petrol or diesel, with countries like France, home to Europe’s second-biggest car industry after Germany, planning to end sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, as part of an ambitious plan to meet its targets under the Paris climate accord.

It is no surprise that electric car sales around the world rose by 54% in 2017, according to the International Environmental Agency (IEA).

China is the world’s biggest market for EVs, with sales growing about 50% but with a small market share at 2.2%. Elsewhere in Norway, EVs have by far the world’s highest market share, but even there it is still only 6.4%, according to the IEA. Nonetheless, the Parisbased agency is optimistic about the future, adding that supportive policies and cost reductions will likely to lead to significant growth in the outlook period to 2030, when it says is expected to triple to 125 million EVs.

Nissan’s commissioned study shows a growing trend for EVs

Meanwhile, a study by car maker Nissan and Frost & Sullivan provided an interesting insight on how Southeast Asian consumers are starting to be receptive to buying EVs.

According to the report, Future of Electric Vehicles in Southeast Asia, covering Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, 37% of prospective buyers are open to owning an EV.

Customers in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia are most keen about electric cars, if government incentives such as taxes are waived, the research showed. Other incentives that would motivate customers include more charging infrastructure in buildings, priority lanes for EVs and free parking. As well, policies geared towards the adoption and manufacture of EVs play a key role in reducing the purchase cost of the vehicle and the cost of batteries, as well as improving road performance.

Companies take a shot at EVs, ramp up investments in Asia

Meanwhile, Nissan is taking a leap into the EV market in China. It recently launched its Sylphy & Sylphy Zero Emission in Hainan, the first Chinese province committed to having only new EVs on its roads by 2030. The Japanese firm says the new car is the result of more than 70 years of EV R&D, and more than 25 years of battery R&D, as well as its sale of 320,000 Leaf mass-produced EVs worldwide. The firm launched its second generation Leaf in Australia, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Thailand this year.

In China, Nissan’s partner, Dongfeng Motor Company Ltd, plans to introduce 20 electrified vehicles, including EV and e-POWER, across its four brands: Nissan, Infiniti, Venucia and Dongfeng in China.


Also in China, SAIC Volkswagen is building its first factory in Shanghai, equipped with over 1,400 Industry 4.0-standard robots, as well as a range of technologies including AI, AR and VR, delivering an intelligent and digitalised production plant.

Together with the newly opened FAW-Volkswagen factory in Foshan, SAIC Volkswagen’s plant will produce Volkswagen-factory e-cars using the Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB), a platform designed for mass production of electric drives, directly after the first worldwide MEB production starts in Zwickau, Germany. With a planned capacity of 300,000 vehicles/year, it will produce various new EVs, including medium and large-sized electric SUVs, as well as battery systems. The first model that will be produced in 2020 will be a Volkswagen SUV.

So lucrative is the EV market that British appliance manufacturer Dyson is developing its own electric car and has selected Singapore as its manufacturing site. The plant is scheduled to be completed in 2020, with its first EV to be launched in 2021.


Dyson plans to invest US$3.6 billion, with half of this going into battery technology and the rest into the development and construction of the vehicle. The vacuum cleaner maker first set up in Singapore 11 years ago with a small engineering team and now has 1,100 employees. It noted that the availability of engineering talent, regional supply chains and proximity to some key target markets was a consideration for setting up the EV facility in Singapore, which is one of the world’s most expensive places to do business.

Dyson has also invested £200 million in new buildings and testing facilities for EVs at its campus at Hullavington Airfield, UK, and reiterated that the decision to locate production in Asia, rather than the UK, had nothing to do with Brexit.

In terms of EV infrastructure, Singapore made moves as early as 2010 when it partnered with Germany’s Bosch to build charging stations. Then, this year, energy utilities provider SP Group said it would build 500 charging points by 2020.

Materials as enablers of EV technology

Material innovation is a salient factor in the development of EVs. On the other hand, EVs are disrupting how materials are utilised to enable light weighting, connectivity, and improved functionality and performance.


DowDuPont Specialty Products, a division of US-based chemicals company DowDuPont, has introduced an initiative known as the Accelerating Hybrid-Electric Autonomous Driving (AHEAD) to provide solutions for light weighting; battery pack components and assembly; thermal management/ safety; electric motors; powertrain/chassis; electrical/ electronic applications for improved automation including driver assists and self-driving capabilities; and support infrastructure (eg., plug-in and induction charging stations, etc). It will undertake this initiative utilising its products.


In a related development, DuPont Transportation & Advanced Polymers (T&AP) a newly formed business segment within DowDuPont’s Specialty Products Division, has introduced new PBT resins for high-voltage EV/hybrid EV connectors. Two grades are offered: a 25% glass-reinforced Crastin FR684NH1 OR162 and 30% glass-reinforced high-flow Crastin HR5330HFS OR516, which are hydrolysis-resistant, flame-retardant, nonhalogenated, and can be coloured orange for use in highvoltage connectors.

Belgium chemical firm Solvay Performance Polyamides has introduced a new advanced Technyl family of electro-friendly low-corroding materials, developed to meet the needs of car manufacturers. The range comprises six Technyl and Technyl Star grades offering reliable purity based on dedicated formulation and clean compounding. Two of these grades use bio-based, eco-friendly Technyl eXten technology for applications needing high temperature combined with glycol resistance. The range will be commercially available early 2019.

Automotive applications requiring these solutions include electrified cooling systems, sensors and connectors, as well as high-power EV chargers.

For fuel cell stack components, Technyl One has emerged as a preferred material choice, offering more value to customers when compared to polyphtalamide (PPA) compounds in terms of both in-use performance and processability, says Solvay. This material combines a near-zero ion migration potential with heat resistance, dimensional stability against hydrogen leakage, electrical insulation, high surface aspect and weldability.

According to Solvay, this is the first and unique PA66- based offer on the market specifically designed for fuel cell technology, for critical safety applications such as hydrogen manifolds, heater plates, humidifiers and water traps.

Laser welding materials

Laser transmission welding is an important joining technology in the manufacture of EV batteries. Thus, German specialty chemicals company Lanxess has expanded its range of laser-transparent PA6, PA66 as well as PBT compounds for laser transmission welding, to meet the growing demand for housings for sensors, needed for electrification of vehicle drives and for applications in driver assistance systems through to autonomous driving. Lanxess says the new compounds are characterised by a high degree of transparency for the light from the near infrared range that is commonly used in laser transmission welding.


Among these new compounds is the halogen-free flameretardant Durethan AKV30FN04LT, boasting a high light transmission for laser welding at wall thicknesses of up to 1.5 mm. Three other new PAs have also been optimised for a low tendency to electro-corrosion, namely glassreinforced Durethan AKV25H3.0LT, which is suitable for components with high short-term thermal loads. Durethan B31SKH3.0LT, an unreinforced PA6, is predestined for components with high toughness requirements while Durethan BG30XH3.0LT is ideal for components that need to be particularly low in distortion and shrinkage – such as filigree electronics housings or connector strips.

Meanwhile, polyester innovations include Pocan C1202LT and C3230LT, PBT/PC blends that feature ideal proportions of amorphous PC for laser transparency, even with thicker walls. Pocan C1202LT is already being used in the production of a tailgate handle system with waterproof sealed electronics; while a 30% glass-reinforced Pocan C3230LT is designed for as electronic housings. Despite the glass fibre reinforcement, it has low distortion and produces good surface qualities, says Lanxess.

Moreover, new laser-transparent PBT grades with good hydrolysis stabilisation are well advanced in development. According to Lanxess, these materials are a challenge because additives for hydrolysis stabilisation usually reduce laser light transparency. Potential applications for the new products are geometrically complex housings of sensors and control units in the engine compartment that are exposed to moist heat.

German materials maker Covestro and Leister Technologies, a specialist in plastic welding equipment, have partnered up to offer solutions for EV battery enclosures used in EVs such as new passenger vehicles, electric buses, trucks and other utility vehicles.


The partners explained that batteries used in EVs must be actively cooled to function properly and retain their life span. Thus, the fluid cooling process requires airtight seals to keep fluids contained and avoid spills. While several joining methods can be used to weld plastic battery packaging components, those that do not require external agents are less complex and more cost-efficient.

Of these techniques, manufacturers often turn to laser welding as it allows for larger parts, does not require a pre-treatment and offers high-precision, repeatability and control. Traditionally, laser welding is only used with translucent or optically clear plastics.

However, Covestro and Leister have extended use of this joining technique to include opaque flame-retardant Bayblend PC+ABS blend from Covestro, while achieving the same level of weld strength. Flame-retardant plastics are preferred and often required for battery enclosures as they can help prevent or delay the spread of fires, they said. Covestro says its Bayblend FR3010 PC+ABS material offers the advantages of high-impact strength, chemical and hydrolysis resistance, thermal stability, and a good balance of high-heat distortion and physical performance.

Success of market pinned on support

For electric cars to be successful, Nissan has reiterated the need for collaboration among automotive makers, governments, and other stakeholders as key to accelerating electrification in Asia.

According to the Head of Nissan’s electric vehicle business unit Nicholas Thomas, creating the right environment to enable customers to switch to EVs is of importance. “What we are going to see is a crossover – a point very soon where battery electric vehicles are going to cross over with internal combustion engine vehicles, and battery electric vehicles are going to become cheaper,” Thomas was quoted as having said recently

Thus, it can be seen that the market is on a growth trajectory.

Even so, commercial vehicles will continue to run on diesel for the foreseeable future, according to new research from business information provider IHS Markit. It says that 60% of new medium and heavy commercial vehicles sold in the US will be fueled by diesel (diesel and diesel hybrid) in 2040, compared to nearly 80% today.

It expects that increases in fuel economy will play a major role in keeping diesel competitive versus alternative powertrains.

However, the report on trucks indicates a 15% CAGR for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the US, as adoption rates increase in medium-duty trucks, driven by advancements in battery technology allowing for more mainstream adoption.

The study also says regulations banning diesel use inside of city centres will allow for more rapid adoption of BEV, hybrid and fuel cell trucks, with European markets to experience faster adoption.

Overall sales of medium and heavy-duty trucks in China will begin to taper to 2040 as the industry becomes more organised and mature. Adoption rates of alternative powertrains will start a bit slower than in Japan, US, and the EU, but will grow quickly as the technology is proven, says IHS.


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