On 14 June 2017, a fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block of flats in North Kensington, West London, and rapidly spread up the building’s exterior due to the cladding, the external insulation and the air gap. There were 72 fatalities, many of which were children, and many others were injured, making it the deadliest structural fire in the UK since World War II.
A subsequent government enquiry determined that under the building regulations at that time, the disaster should not have happened and this resulted in changes to the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2018, including an extension of the combustible materials ban.
On 26 November 2020 further changes to the Building Regulations: Fire safety – Approved Document B also came into effect as part of the on-going response to the Grenfell Tower fire. These changes mean that relevant buildings must comply with stricter standards. As a result, the construction industry and wider engineering industry have been looking at ways of resolving issues around fire protection of buildings, and greatly improving the techniques used to improve safety and avoid tragedies like Grenfell ever happening again.
Elmelin has been active in projects related to high heat applications since 1912, with a specialism in producing solutions that protect and extend the life of the lining of furnaces and kilns. It was natural sidestep for us to look at how our mica-based products could be used to benefit the construction industry.
For many years, the manufacturing industry has been discussing the skills shortage and the overall lack of new, young talent coming through. An issue widely debated across manufacturing and engineering sectors, businesses are clearly struggling to inform young people of the benefits and prospects related to a career in manufacturing and STEM.
Although we are faced with recruitment challenges due to a limited talent pool, not to mention the irregularity of the market fuelled by the pandemic, as a business, we are making great strides with our Internship and Apprenticeship program.
Following the latest global climate summit, COP26, many nations have pledged to conclude the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2040. Some countries have committed to earlier deadlines; the UK, for instance, is working towards 2035, and Norway is even working towards 2025. Although this is a highly positive and ambitious target, we’re faced with several hurdles in the battery electric vehicle manufacturing supply chain.
As a naturally occurring mineral, Mica is a durable material that retains its form when exposed to high temperatures, electrical charges, and light and water. Due to its versatility and thermal resistance, it is used across various industries and in a range of products. In fact, almost every individual will use several products that contain Mica components before leaving the house in the morning.
We have spoken extensively about the properties of Mica, of which there are many! See our previous blog on‘The Benefits of Mica’. However, due to the growing demand for Mica across developing countries and increased demands from the electrical and automotive industry, we are concerned that global regulations on mining such material will not mirror the pace of change.
It’s well documented by now that fossil fuel vehicles are a significant contributor to carbon emissions – one passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. To save our planet, we have to explore alternatives, and make these alternatives the mainstream on roads in the next 20-30 years. This is why it becomes increasingly important to explore fuel cell vs battery electric vehicles.
The main contenders as it stands are fuel cell vehicles and battery-operated electric vehicles – but how do they compare? …
After a number of postponements, we are thrilled to be attending and exhibiting at the Battery Show Europe in Stuttgart, Germany from 30th November – 2nd December, 2021.
Our capabilities and products are a fantastic fit for this sector, we have been involved in projects used in a range of battery applications. We’re particularly excited to be doing innovative work in the automotive industry, helping leading manufacturers devise safer solutions that protect those travelling in electric cars. …
The two primary types of low carbon vehicle that are currently available to the mass market are those powered by electricity (battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, extended-range electric vehicles) and those powered by hydrogen fuel cells (FCEVs). Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) operate purely on electricity, whereas plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and extended-range electric vehicles (E-REVs) use internal combustion engines to power the vehicle some of the time. There are several considerations to be taken into account when it comes to each type of technology, the impact on the environment, and the implications for the manufacturer and the end-user.
LCVs and emissions
Although EVs and PHEVs (in electric mode) operate with zero tailpipe emissions, there are some emissions from the source of their electrical power. So until the global infrastructure transitions towards clean electricity, EVs can’t truly be seen as a “zero emission solution”. Despite this, research has found that over their lifetime, EVs in countries such as Sweden and France have average emissions around 70% than ICE vehicles (as their electrical power comes mainly from nuclear and renewables), and in the UK, emissions around 30% lower. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (or FCEVs), emit only water and air, so again emit zero carbon from the tailpipe. However, there is a similar challenge – currently, hydrogen fuel is produced and transported to pumps using fossil fuels, but as demand rises and investment in the technology increases, the infrastructure will be able to develop and we will be able to reduce emissions in the supply chain.
Ostensibly, a major concern in consumer vehicles is their range. Manufacturers working on LCV projects are continually trying to find ways to extend the range of alternative fuel vehicles. Currently, the BEV with the longest range is the Tesla Model 3, which has a 405-mile range on one charge (although this is currently only an estimate), which is longer than the average for ICE vehicles, with most having a 250-300 mile range. PHEVs and E-REVs can match or exceed the range of an ICE vehicle, but only a part of this range is powered purely by electricity. E-REVs have a range of around 150 miles after which the onboard ICE generator kicks in to charge it. PHEV batteries usually have a range of around 20-30 miles. BEVs are able to achieve increasingly longer ranges because of the high energy density of the large lithium-ion battery packs that are used within them (around 100-265 Wh/kg).
Hydrogen fuel cells vehicles can achieve ranges of around 300 miles to match the average of current consumer vehicles, however, this comes with an additional challenge. Hydrogen’s energy density is significantly lower than that of both li-ion batteries and gasoline, at around 8 mJ/L. To meet the current standards and range of consumer vehicles, a significant amount of hydrogen would need to be stored on-board, with tank capacities for around 5-13 kg of hydrogen. While the hydrogen storage weighs less than li-ion delivering the same amount of range, the concern is the volume of these tanks and the space that they would need to take up. Therefore, thus far it’s been proposed that hydrogen fuel is primarily a solution suitable for larger vehicles, not necessarily passenger vehicles.
Of course, when it comes to powering a vehicle, it’s not just about how much energy you can store, it’s about what you can do with it. A study by Volkswagen found that the energy efficiency losses suffered by hydrogen from “well-to-tank” (from production to use within the vehicle) are significantly higher than those suffered by li-ion batteries. The overall efficiency rate of electric vehicles is around 76%, compared to hydrogen, which is 30%. This is due to all the ways in which the hydrogen has to be processed in order for it to power a vehicle – from generating the energy, it goes through electrolysis, then compression and liquefaction, then transportation and filling, then into the fuel cell, then into a low capacity battery, then into the engine. By contrast, electrical energy is generated, transported and stored, transferred into a high capacity battery then into the engine.
Elmelin are working closely with automotive manufacturers to develop innovative insulation solutions that will help them to address challenges with safety, performance and efficiency in battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles. If you’d like to find out more about our solutions, get in touch.
A few weeks ago, we attended the Cenex LCV 2021 exhibition at the UTAC Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedford. The exhibition was the first live event we have attended since 2019 – and we were very glad to be back!…