As the electric vehicle market demands higher performance, longer range and faster charging, improved thermal management becomes absolutely key. The technologies to the high energy density lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries that most commonly powered battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are evolving all the time.
With that in mind, we’ve put together some of the most important considerations when it comes to thermal management for electric vehicle batteries.
Minimising the effects of thermal runaway
One of the most significant aspects of thermal management in electric vehicles is the risk of thermal runaway. Thermal runaway is a reaction that occurs when a battery cell breaks down, reaches a critical temperature and causes an unstoppable chain reaction resulting in fire and usually explosion. As electric vehicles have become more prominent in the global marketplace, the risk of thermal runaway has been a growing concern. Thermal runaway cannot be prevented, but the effects can be mitigated. The right solution is needed to slow down the reaction and buy the driver and passengers more time to safely exit the vehicle in the event it does occur. Using high- temperature insulation between the cells of the battery pack and surrounding the pack is key in this process.
Constant temperature changes throughout its lifecycle have an effect on the performance and range of an electric vehicle battery. The correct thermal management is key to extending the battery lifecycle and ensuring maximum effectiveness throughout its lifespan. Batteries can generate as much as 250% more heat after 10 years of use when compared to the start of their lifecycle – as this assuming consistent driving conditions and regular charge-discharge cycles. Further study is yet to be done into variable conditions around the use of an electric vehicle and the effects on the battery over its lifetime – and continued development in thermal management will be key in combating the effects of ageing on a battery.
Temperature and performance
As much as the battery “ageing process” has an effect on thermal management, the temperature can also have a direct impact on the lifecycle and performance of the battery. The service life of an electric vehicle battery begins to decreases faster at operating temperatures of 40°C or higher. Efficiency and output are much lower at temperatures below -10°C. High outside temperatures as well as momentary or temporary peaks caused by high current flow from things like recharging and boosting put the battery at risk of surpassing the critical 40°C.
At Elmelin, we’re working closely with the automotive sector to develop and produce solutions to support better thermal management in electric vehicles and for electric vehicle batteries. If you’d like to find out more about our solutions, get in touch.
The foundry industry is one which is directly and indirectly affected by an incredibly diverse range of industries in the global economy – from automotive to hospitality, there is a requirement somewhere in the supply chain for the products and materials produced in foundries.
After an incredibly challenging period for industries and organisations worldwide, we look to be heading towards the “next normal”. With additional geopolitical pressures and massive global issues like climate change adding more complex challenges, the foundry industry will require investment and development over the next few years to remain sustainable and profitable.
In this article, we take a look at the trends and challenges in the foundry industry in 2021, and where we might go from here.
The foundry industry in 2021
Although we’re not quite in the position to be declaring we’re in a post-COVID world, we’re certainly in a very different landscape to where we were this time last year – and signs of recovery are showing in many industries.
The European Foundry Association’s monthly report on their Foundry Industry Sentiment Indicator (FISI) for May shows 108.3 index points, 1.1 points above the previous month’s – continuing a steady increase which has been occurring for 6 months, something they refer to as a “robust recovery”.
Despite the optimistic picture that these indicators present, there is still concern around continued problems in the industrial supply chain and material bottlenecks exacerbated by international restrictions which could cause further disruption and hinder any significant development.
The foundry industry relies heavily on the automotive sector – and lower demand caused massive losses last year. The semiconductor shortage earlier this year which had a massive impact on the automotive industry could have had a knock-on effect in some corners of the foundry industry, leading to lower demand from a sector they heavily rely on.
That being said, the easing of contact restrictions in Europe is having a positive effect on hospitality and tourism, and as a result of a more buoyant economy, consumer spending is increasing – which will no doubt lead to an increase in demand for the foundry sector.
We are another year closer to the 2050 deadline of net zero-carbon in the UK. Heavy industry accounted for around 60% of emissions in 2019. The extremely high temperatures at which foundries operate mostly require the burning of fossil fuels – and the industry is expecting to face challenges in this area in the coming years and decades as the need to move away from this and towards alternatives becomes stronger.
Businesses in the foundry industry will need to significantly scale up their focus on lowering carbon emissions in order to meet the government’s targets. As we covered in our previous blog post, alternative methods of generating heat are being explored, including electricity and renewables, but further development is required to make the implementation and usage of this technology sustainable. Other options include implementing measures to offset the carbon emissions produced by the foundry industry – including carbon capture, utilisation and storage.
Elmelin are working closely with customers in the foundry industry to develop innovative solutions for a sustainable future. If you’d like to find out more – get in touch.
Throughout Elmelin’s history, we have always had to innovate and evolve our products and processes to adapt to the ever-changing challenges of our customers. Although our core expertise has remained in thermal and high voltage applications in the main, we’ve had to adapt our approach to incorporate innovative materials that solve new problems.
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, that new challenge was the asbestos crisis – around that time, we developed a range of products for the foundry industry to replace the asbestos lining they would use in furnaces.
Now, at the advent of net-zero, the challenges our customers are facing and the projects that we are involved with look very different – and as such, we have had to again innovate and evolve our capabilities to match these new challenges.
The more capabilities and innovative processes and products we develop, the more opportunities we have to work on projects that will help to combat the effects of climate change.
For us, it’s not enough just to know that we have to be innovative – we need to ensure that we have frameworks in place that ensure we are constantly evolving. Our innovation process involves weekly product and process experimentation which drives towards quarterly targets around bringing things into the development pipeline.
With a significant area of focus of the push for net-zero being the use of electric vehicles, our focus has also shifted towards creating more sustainable and efficient insulation solutions for the automotive sector.
In 2016, we developed CNC machining of our microporous insulation – enabling us to make one of our first solutions for battery electric vehicles (BEVs). We commissioned a second CNC machining facility in 2018, enabling us to meet the increasing demand for more BEV solutions. As the needs and challenges of our customers have evolved, we are now looking at laser cutting technology as well as different lamination techniques – all focused around making the processes more scalable to the required volumes of the market.
As well as investing in new machinery and developing new processes, we are also looking at upgrading and further modernising our existing machinery by looking at PLC and control systems to create further efficiencies.
We are heading into an exciting new phase for our industry and for Elmelin – and we’re committed to continuing to stay innovative and always be looking for ways to make our solutions more sustainable and efficient in order to support our customers in tackling climate change.
If you’d like to find out more about our capabilities or processes – get in touch.
From automotive to construction, many different industries and sectors, wheels are in motion to bring in legislation and new standards that will help us push towards the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Currently under review is the Future Homes Standard – updates to Building Regulations for new dwellings which will impose stricter material standards and set emissions targets.
In this post, we’ll give you a summary of the Future Homes Standard and what it will mean for the industry. …
Although the concept of electric vehicles is not a new one, our understanding of the technology surrounding them and what makes for better, more sustainable, safer and higher performing vehicles is evolving all the time. Obviously, a key component of an electric vehicle (EV) is its battery – this is quite literally what powers the car – so constant development in this area is key in making EVs suitable for the mass market.
Here’s a quick look at where we currently are with electric vehicle battery technology – and where we ideally need to be.
Currently, the leading battery type in electric vehicles is lithium-ion. Early EVs ran on lead-acid batteries due to their high availability and low cost, but as they require frequent maintenance and have a short lifecycle, they are not sustainable as an option if EVs are going to tackle the mass market. In addition, in order to make a lead-acid battery-powered EV comparable with the range and performance of an ICE vehicle, the battery would have to take up 25-50% of the vehicle.
Lithium-ion batteries were originally developed for use in consumer electronics such as laptops. They combine high energy density with a relatively long life cycle, and are relatively low profile compared to the alternatives. There have been previous challenges with li-ion batteries surrounding their response to high temperatures, and the risk of thermal runaway – but more recently, EV battery manufacturers have been working with variations on li-ion such as phosphates, titanates and spinels, that sacrifice specific power (Wh/kg) and specific energy (W/kg) in favour of providing more sustainable features – fire resistance, ecological efficiency, rapid charging and longer lifespans.
Despite the impetus behind the move to electric vehicles being the environmental gains, there is still some concern around the products and byproducts of their manufacture and the impact of those. In 10-15 years, with increased numbers of EVs on the roads, many EV batteries will be coming to the end of their useful lifecycle and will be ready to be replaced. This means that the old li-ion battery will need to be disposed over. Currently, it’s estimated that just 5% of li-ion batteries are recycled – and in some countries, it’s even less. Much of the substance that’s recovered when recycling a battery is what’s known as black mass – a mixture of lithium, manganese, cobalt and nickel – that needs energy-intensive processing to become usable again. It’s vital that manufacturers and the industry, in general, consider how to improve the recyclability of li-ion batteries.
Extending the useful lifecycle of EV batteries
Though li-ion EV batteries tend to have longer lifecycles when compared with alternatives, the lifecycle is still a challenge. EV batteries are reportedly designed to last for around 1500-2000 discharge cycles. Depending on the usage of the vehicle, this could represent anything from 10 to 20 years. Rapid charging, while a convenient concept during day-to-day use, can affect the overall lifecycle and the range that you get from the vehicle over time.
For that reason, it’s important to consider ways in which we can extend the useful life of EV batteries so that things like rapid charging can still be used without having long term effects.
Compression pads can be used to apply physical pressure on the battery pack whilst maintaining thermal and electrical connections, allowing for tolerance and expansion during charging and discharging, or when exposed to external factors such as high temperatures.
Elmelin EV battery solutions
We’re working closely with manufacturers in the battery and automotive markets to develop solutions that will help to improve the lifecycle, efficiency and performance of EV batteries. If you’d like to find out more, get in touch.
We will also be exhibiting at the Cenex-LCV 2021 event, 22nd-23rd September, at Millbrook Proving Ground – showcasing our latest innovations in insulation for automotive and battery technology. Find out more here.
Especially when dealt with on a global scale, differences in terminology and semantics can cause confusion and misinterpretation – so it’s best to assess what each term means and how they are applied in initiatives to reach a common goal – combating climate change and protecting the future of our planet.
Carbon neutral vs net-zero – what’s the difference?
Fundamentally, there is no difference between the two terms. Carbon neutrality is the act of achieving net-zero emissions. Net-zero may have become a more popular term on a geopolitical scale as it represents more of a “quantitative” target. Some countries have misinterpreted carbon neutrality to mean stabilising carbon emissions at a certain “accepted” level, rather than offsetting them completely.
So, whatever you want to call it, let’s dig a little deeper into what achieving net-zero actually means.
What is “net-zero”?
Net zero, in its broadest sense, means that you are offsetting your carbon emissions and capturing enough carbon from the atmosphere to keep the total carbon footprint at zero. This is achieved by 1) reducing emissions and 2) carbon offsetting. Reducing emissions to zero is a little unrealistic (this would be “gross zero”) – so efforts to reduce emissions must be supported by efforts to remove CO2 from the atmosphere to make up for emissions elsewhere. This is where the “offsetting” comes in.
Generally speaking, we use “net zero” to refer to what is actually “net zero carbon” – meaning that for every ton of anthropogenic emissions (carbon emissions caused or influenced by humans), the equivalent amount of CO2 must be removed from the atmosphere. Net-zero GHG refers to the balancing of all greenhouse gas emissions, taking into account all other anthropogenic emissions which are harmful to the environment in abundance such as methane and nitrous oxide. This is also referred to as “climate neutral”.
That being said, the focus tends to be on carbon dioxide, as it accounts for the large majority of anthropogenic emissions.
What net zero means for us
In 2019, the UK government was the first major economy to pass into law the target of net zero emissions by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advises this step in order to keep the UK on track with commitments made as part of the Paris Agreement in 2016, to keep global warming under 2 degrees. What this means in practice is a little unclear – it imposes a legal obligation on the government to reach this target, but how it will be enforced is still largely unknown. Currently, the UK is not on track to meet its previous target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050 – so drastic measures and vital work needs to be undertaken to push us towards that goal.
The four highest emitting sectors, being transportation, energy supply, business and residential, will be the focus of initiatives and additional legislation being brought in to curb emissions.
At Elmelin, we recognise that beyond semantics and politics, climate change is a pressing global issue that needs to be addressed through the collective efforts of entire industries. We’re working closely with our clients to develop solutions that will help them create products to aid the net zero initiative. If you’d like to find out more, get in touch.
40% of the UK’s emissions come from domestic households. The majority of these emissions are generated by the use of gas boilers. For that reason, looking at alternatives for domestic energy storage is vital to reaching the goal of net zero by 2050. In pursuit of this, the government are targeting no gas in new homes by 2025. …
As more industries and applications turn to battery technology in order to create sustainable energy solutions, ongoing research and development into making them safer is vital.
A significant risk to safety which is present particularly in high energy density batteries is thermal runaway. Thermal runaway can cause an unstoppable reaction that leads to incredibly high temperatures and fire which can be difficult if not impossible to extinguish by conventional methods.
So, the ongoing challenge and question is – can thermal runaway be prevented?
Despite a 5.8% drop in global carbon emissions in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, emissions are still at critical levels. Global CO2 emissions were 31.5Gt – an increase of 54% since 1990.
With that in mind, the quest to find a viable alternative to carbon-based fuel and energy production processes is continually accelerating. From passenger vehicles to domestic energy, those at the forefront of alternative fuel and energy storage technology are exploring options.
One of these options is hydrogen fuel cells – an efficient energy source with low emissions. In this article, we’re looking at the pros and cons of the widespread use of hydrogen fuel cells.
Pro: Low emissions and higher efficiency
Hydrogen fuel cells work by combining hydrogen and oxygen to produce electrical energy. The only emissions that result from this process are water (H20) and hot air – meaning that no harmful gases are released into the atmosphere, in contrast to the 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide a typical passenger vehicle emits each year. In addition, hydrogen fuel is more efficient – internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles convert fuel into kinetic energy at 25% efficiency. Hydrogen fuel cells do so at 60% efficiency.
Pro: Relatively low barrier to entry
Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have low barriers to entry in terms of societal change.
They operate and perform very similarly to the conventional ICE vehicles we are used to, allowing you to refuel at a station within minutes, as opposed to having to wait for an electric vehicle (EV) to charge. An electric vehicle typically has a range of around 230 miles, whereas FCEVs can reach 310-370 miles range without having to be refuelled. In addition, an EV can take up to 8 hours to charge from empty to full – it takes roughly 5 minutes to refuel a hydrogen tank.
Potential challenge: Storage
High-density hydrogen storage is a challenge for both portable and stationary applications. The storage solutions we have available currently typically require the storage of large volumes of hydrogen in gaseous form. To reach the performance and efficiency goals for light-duty FCEVs, large-volume, high-pressure compressed gas tanks would need to be used, which can have a significant footprint.
Pro: Effective in stationary and heavy-duty applications
While this is a challenge for “light-duty” FCEVs, it is less so for larger, heavy-duty vehicles and stationary applications, where the footprint of the gas tank is less of an issue. Bulkier vehicles that need to travel long distances, carry heavy loads and refuel with minimal downtime are good candidates. For that reason, hydrogen fuel has been tested in vehicles such as trucks, boats, trains and planes.
In addition, hydrogen could also be used to replace the compressed natural gas used in some domestic applications. A study by Swansea University found that up to 30% of domestic gas could be safely replaced with hydrogen without requiring changes to boilers or ovens.
Con: Less efficient than batteries
When comparing hydrogen fuel cells to other potential alternatives to hydrocarbon power, the picture becomes slightly less positive. The viability of FCEVs is being threatened by the continued development of more cost-effective battery technology and lowering costs of electricity-based transport systems. EV and hybrid vehicles overall offer better efficiency than FCEVs. Electric batteries lose only 17% of their initial input of energy through inefficiencies when charging and discharging. The cycle used to create electrical energy within a hydrogen fuel cell wastes more than 50% of its energy efficiency.
Hydrogen fuel cells and insulation
Just like batteries, hydrogen fuel cells produce electrical energy, and present their own unique safety and efficiency challenges – so there needs to be careful consideration in how the cells are insulated.
We’re committing ourselves to help our customers contribute towards the net-zero initiative. We’re currently working on a number of projects and solutions which will help to increase the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of alternative fuel. If you’d like to find out more about our solutions, get in touch.