Automotive: Electric vehicle market on the uptrend

PP compounds growth from EVs

The shift towards electric and hybrid electric vehicles, while threatening some existing under-the-hood applications, is creating major new opportunities for PP compounds in lightweighting and power management, according to industry consultants AMI Consulting’s report. It adds that market penetration for PP compounds is rising despite a slowdown in demand in 2020 triggered by Covid-19.

Underway in the automotive industry are major changes in the supply-chain with many businesses facing existential threats even before the impact of Covid-19. The shift to electric vehicles (EVs) and the prospect of autonomous vehicles puts pressure on OEMs as never before and opens doors for new entrants such as Tesla but with others following.

PP compounds bring some inherent benefits such as low density but also have seen sufficient technical development to enable them better to compete in semi-structural applications. In 2019, Asia accounted for 51% of global demand compared with 26% in Europe and 23% in the Americas, against the back of increasing demand for EVs and the need for lightweight and robust battery casings.

Meanwhile, taking this cue for growth, South Korean chemical firm LG Chem plans to spin off its EV battery business into a separate entity by December, as it is seeking to capitalise on rising interest in the sector as global demand rises. The new subsidiary will be named LG Energy Solution and aims to achieve a revenue of US$25.5 billion or more by 2024, said the firm.

The global EV battery market is expanding quickly, according to consultancy McKinsey, which has projected that by 2040 battery demand from EVs produced in Europe will reach 1,200 gigawatt-hours/year, compared with 25.5Gw/h last year.

Automotive: Electric vehicle market on the uptrend

LG Chem is a leading player in the EV battery market, accounting for around 25% of market share. The company supplies many global automotive makers including Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, GM, Ford, Volkswagen, Renault and Volvo.

Saving costs with multi-material battery casing

An international consortium consisting of Audi and suppliers along the value chain, including Asahi Kasei, Covestro, EconCore, IPTE and Johns Manville, will start the joint product development of a multi-material battery casing together with German engineering consultant AZL Aachen. The multi-material component concept is to save costs and weight compared to conventional component concepts made of aluminium and steel.

The eight-month product development will start with an international market analysis as well as a concept study in which different multi-material component concepts including production scenarios will be developed and evaluated with regard to their costs. Finally, a final multi-material battery casing is designed in detail, which will be manufactured as a prototype in a follow-up project. Interested companies can initiate their participation in the project until 22 October 2020.

The demand for EVs is increasing and with it the need for lightweight and robust battery casings. A large number of different battery casings with very different component concepts already exist on the market. However, these battery casings, which are usually made of aluminium and steel, cannot offer the optimal solution for each of the numerous requirements. The project that emerged from the AZL Partnership instead pursues a multi-material approach that uses the right material at the right place for each specific requirement.

Florian Meyer

According to Florian Meyer, project management mentor from the Technical Development department of Audi, the partners are looking at how to save weight and costs by using plastic-based multi-material solutions versus status quo solutions made of metals.

AZL will initially draw up a market overview with the industrial consortium that includes existing series components and concepts and identifies the relevant manufacturers, users, suppliers and supply chains on the market. Standards and requirements for battery casings will be derived from the existing components and the advantages of multi-material approaches will be evaluated.

On the basis of a detailed data sheet, various product concepts will be worked out and associated production scenarios for multi-material battery casings will be established.

The participants can select component concepts for which CAD models, FEM analyses and process chains are developed and finally evaluated with regard to their production costs.

A final multi-material battery casing will be worked out in detail and will be manufactured as a real battery casing prototype after the development project.


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