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Designing for Safety at the Dawn of the EV Age: From Design to Thermal Management

    October 3, 2019

By Sanjay Misra, Sr., Scientific Principal, Henkel & Robert Kokx, RLE

Safety is of critical importance in any vehicle, regardless of propulsion system. While electric vehicles (EVs) are required to meet the same Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as conventional vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs), they present new safety challenges. To mitigate these emerging risks, the automotive industry is working to design-in technologies that ensure the highest level of active and passive safety protection, such as:

  • Optimizing battery safety design
  • Thermal technologies for thermal management and to prevent overheating

Optimizing Design: Engineering

As the automotive industry continues to address megatrends, such as electromobility, car sharing and autonomous driving, new engineering challenges arise. New material and design solutions are required to reduce weight, increase safety and meet increasingly strict environmental regulations. The growing number of electronic systems in today’s vehicles, as well as the integration and protection of batteries in EVs, play a crucial role in product development and manufacturing.

Lightweighting remains a continuing challenge for automotive manufacturers. Even one-tenth of a millimeter in body part thickness can save a lot of weight, which adds to fuel efficiency for ICEs and extends range for EVs. In many cases, battery pack trays are positioned across the entire vehicle underbody, between the A-pillars and C-pillars, and they must be protected against impact and intrusion from all sides.

To address these vehicle design challenges, Henkel and RLE International formed a strategic partnership: The Mobility Alliance. This strategic initiative is targeted at boosting the car development process by addressing customer engineering needs from the earliest design and simulation phases, uniquely combining the material science competence of Henkel with the engineering expertise of RLE International.

In a collaborative study conducted by Henkel and RLE International, it was observed that crash protection for EV battery packs can be optimized by using hybrid structural parts based on a combination of fiber reinforced plastics (FRP) and specially developed high-performance structural foam. This material combination offers significant weight savings and added measures of protection for the battery pack by enabling it to be located away from the vehicle’s crumple zones. Additionally, in several studies targeted at optimizing the performance of existing and future vehicle concepts, The Mobility Alliance has proven that the combination of innovative hybrid structural design using advanced material science and engineering expertise can enable significant weight savings while maintaining structural integrity and safety.

Optimizing Design: Material Solutions – Thermal Management

In addition to design engineering considerations, material solutions play an important role in battery performance. For example, battery core temperature can reach up to 113°F, and this high degree of heat can have a significant negative impact on battery life, performance, safety and maintenance costs. Heat generated by electric components affect system reliability and performance, and limit design advances:

[1] John P. Rugh, Ahmad Pesaran, Kandler Smith, 2011, “Electric Vehicle Battery Thermal Issues and Thermal Management Techniques”, SAE 2011 Alternative Refrigerant and System Efficiency Symposium, Scottsdale, AZ, Sept 27-29, 2011. [2] Ahmad Pesaran, 2013, “Tools for Designing Thermal Management of Batteries in Electric Drive Vehicles”, Large Lithium Ion Battery Technology & Application Symposia Advanced Automotive Battery Conference, Pasadena, CA, February 4-8, 2013

To address extreme temperature concerns, Thermal Interface Materials (TIMs) are used in batteries to minimize surface deviations and enable consistent heat tranfer.

The right thermal product improves the performance and life of EVs. Henkel offers thermal solutions in a variety of forms, including 1K & 2K liquids, gasketing materials, sealants and coatings, pre-cured pads, films & tapes, grease, gap pads to fit any application, including:

  • Gap Pads: Eliminate air gaps; reduces thermal resistance
    • Silicone or non-silicone
    • Reduces interfacial resistance
    • High durability – puncture, shear, and tear resistant
    • High electrical isolation
    • Easy to apply
  • Gap Filler (Liquid):
    • TC up to 4.0 W/mK
    • Silicone, low volatile silicone & non-silicone options Higher performance levels
    • Allows for automated dispensing for consistency in a variety of configurations
    • Available options with varying degrees of viscosity and slump resistance: High flow rate = high throughout

To view the robust Henkel thermal management product portfolio, click here

Providing for the safety of battery electric vehicles requires a combination of electrical, mechanical and chemical considerations. To learn more, join Henkel and other industry experts, at the Oct. 10 Automotive News Shift event:

Register today:


About the Author, Sanjay Misra

Sanjay Misra is a Senior Scientific Principal with Henkel Adhesive Technologies. He has 20 years of experience in thermal materials technology, including 14 years as Head of R&D at Bergquist and Henkel. In addition, Sanjay has experience in Strategy and Market Management. He is the author of 40 US and international patents co-authored 60 peer reviewed and conference papers. Sanjay obtained BS in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Master’s and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering for the University of Toledo and did postdoctoral work at the University of Michigan, University of Akron and University of Minnesota.

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