3 considerations for low-carbon vehicle technology

3 considerations for low-carbon vehicle technology

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. 

 

Energy density 

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. 

 

Energy efficiency

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

Electric Vehicle Market Update 2021

Electric Vehicle Market Update 2021

Ostensibly, 2020 was a bit of an anomaly year for many global markets and industries. The global vehicle market was no exception – taking a hit of 15% compared to 2019. Despite this, the share of the market occupied by electric vehicles (EVs) increased, and is showing no signs of slowing.

With a full picture of the market in 2020 and a clearer view of a world post-pandemic, how does the EV market look so far in 2021 and beyond?

 

Rounding up 2020 in EVs

2020 was a landmark year for electric vehicle sales. As the overall vehicle market experienced a dip, the EV share of the market increased by 70% to a record 4.6%. In Europe, market share increased from 3.2% in 2019 to 10%, and overall EV sales more than doubled – putting Europe head and shoulders above the rest of the world in terms of market growth. This rapid growth is most likely down to policy – 2020 was a target year for the EU’s emission standards, limiting the amount of CO2 per kilometer for new cars. Also, many European governments increased subsidy schemes for EVs as part of stimulus packages bought in to counteract the effects of the pandemic. This uplift in the market was also reflected in demand for EV batteries – automotive lithium-ion battery production increased 33% in 2020 to 160 gigawatt-hours.

 

2021 so far

Year-to-date, the market shows no sign of slowing down its rapid growth. In the UK, 31,800 EVs were sold in the first 3 months of 2021, accounting for 7.5% of new car sales. As of June, new registrations of plug-in electric vehicles have increased 131% year-on-year. The number of diesel car registrations has dropped by 21.7%, and the market share of petrol vehicles has decreased from 60.1% to 48.6%. Globally, interest in buying EVs has increased from on average 40% in 2019 to 55% at the start of 2021.

 

Future outlook

In 2021, 18 of the 20 largest OEMs have announced plans to reconfigure their product lines and processes to shift to only selling electric vehicles within the next decade. These include Volvo and Ford, who have committed to only selling EVs by 2030, and Volkswagen, who have targeted 70% EV sales in Europe. This aligns with the plans of several countries to ban the sale of non-electric vehicles by as early as 2025. This gauntlet thrown down by some of the market’s major players has driven a projection of a significant 55-72 million global electric vehicle sales in 2025 – to put that growth into perspective, the current projection for 2021 is 16-22 million vehicles.

 

Challenges and opportunities

The continued growth of the EV market is dependent on continued development in the technology surrounding it. In 2020, the average range of a BEV showed the signs of a plateau – increasing just 2km from 336 to 338km compared to 2019, whereas the average range increased from 304km in 2018. The average range of a petrol vehicle is 482km, so further improvements are likely required in order to make purchasing an EV an attractive prospect for some consumers. That being said, the lithium-ion battery market is expected to increase from $41.1bn to $116.6 by 2030, as production picks up again post-COVID-19. This growth in the market would lead to declining costs, helping to bring down the costs of producing EVs, and therefore bringing down the cost to the consumer.

 

Elmelin are currently working with a number of automotive manufacturers to solve insulation challenges that help make electric and hybrid vehicles safer, more efficient and a more viable option for the mass market. If you’d like to find out more about our solutions for electric vehicles, get in touch.

 

Thermal management for electrical vehicles – what you need to know

Thermal management for electrical vehicles – what you need to know

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.

 

Battery lifecycle

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.

 

Electric vehicle battery technology – where are we now?

Electric vehicle battery technology – where are we now?

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.

 

Materials

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.

 

Environmental impact

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.

 

 

Thermal runaway reaction – can it be prevented?

Thermal runaway reaction – can it be prevented?

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?

Compression pads for batteries – why are they useful?

Compression pads for batteries – why are they useful?

As the electric vehicle (EV) market gains momentum, and we creep ever closer to the 2030 deadline for an end to the sale of fossil fuel vehicles in the UK, innovation in the field of EV batteries is happening at a rapid pace. 

Even closer deadlines include 2025 for Norway, meaning manufacturers must work to increase the storage capacity and life cycle of battery packs whilst balancing performance, cost and safety. 

In this article, we’re going to examine why compression pads for electric vehicle batteries are useful in ensuring optimal performance, extending the life of the battery pack and increasing the safety of the vehicle occupants. 

How will COVID affect the electric vehicle market?

How will COVID affect the electric vehicle market?

As part of the global initiative to combat climate change, the sale of non-electric vehicles will be banned in 9 countries by 2030. In the UK, where the date is currently 2035, there has been talk of bringing this forward to 2030. Some countries have plans for earlier bans – such as Norway, which plans to phase them out by 2025, and Austria, who planned to stop the sale of them this year. These initiatives and benchmarks have proven to be the impetus behind legislation, innovation and movement in the electric vehicle market over the last couple of years.

Electric vehicle safety concerns and how they can be addressed

Electric vehicle safety concerns and how they can be addressed

The probability of an electric vehicle (EV) catching fire is significantly lower than that of an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, between 1993 and 2013 in the US, fires occurred in 2.6% of EVs, and in 4.4% of ICE vehicles. However, over the last few years as EVs have become more prominent, there have been well-publicised issues with fire occurring in electric vehicles – with Tesla being the worst hit. 

Risk is abundant in any motor vehicle – but it’s essential to understand the unique risks involved with manufacturing and operating EVs, and how they can be mitigated. 

Here are some electric vehicle safety concerns around battery damage and fire risk and how they can be addressed.

3 ways mica can be adapted and used for various applications

3 ways mica can be adapted and used for various applications

Mica is an incredibly versatile and flexible material. Due to its unique physical, electrical and thermal properties, it makes an ideal insulation material. Across the broad requirements of industry, there are billions of machines, components and products that need to be insulated – all requiring a slightly different approach, and slightly different material. Because mica is so versatile, it can be adapted into various applications through cutting, shaping and combining with other substances to create unique insulation solutions.

Here are 3 ways in which mica is commonly adapted for use in various applications.