Detroit — With the automotive market trending toward increased adoption of electric vehicles, suppliers in the plastics space are looking for ways to support batteries with their technologies.
At the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Röchling Automotive showcased a composite battery cover designed to provide crash protection to vulnerable batteries, with an eye on maximizing the space available for the power source.
In some vehicles, such as General Motors' Chevrolet Volt, batteries are arranged in a T shape, providing a sort of built-in crumple zone in the case of a side impact. Röchling worked to develop a protective solution that would eliminate the need for a crumple zone, thereby enabling the use of a larger battery pack, said Richard Koehn, senior manager of Röchling's recently created New Business Green Car division, dedicated to products for electric vehicles.
“You want to protect the batteries, but the typical architecture of the vehicle is not designed in a way [to optimize space for batteries],” he said. “So we looked for possibilities how we can support and protect batteries with plastic materials, which is not easy because usually plastic materials are a bit too brittle to really support in an impact situation.”
Its design involves a rectangular aluminum frame reinforced with a hybrid cover made of the company's Stratura glass fiber composite sandwiched between two flat panels of aluminum. Röchling says the material will not split into pieces upon impact, and diffuses the energy from the impact into the frame to prevent the sides from bending and intruding into the battery space.
“If anything would penetrate the battery, the battery more or less may immediately ignite,” Koehn said.
The composite panel weighs less than a comparable all-steel or all-aluminum cover, and its thickness can be tailored to meet specific requirements.
“What we found out is by combining the aluminum with the plastic, we can actually have different hybrids, different compositions, which it turns out will change … how it reacts,” said Iric Bressler, product manager.
Röchling Automotive is also working to integrate wireless charging technology into underbody panels, a product area in which Röchling is already established. The company's integrated sandwich floor, which also uses the Stratura material, is designed to provide thermal and acoustic insulation at a lower weight than traditional floor construction, while also integrating carpet to streamline the manufacturing process
Röchling Automotive supplies a range of plastic auto systems related to aerodynamics and efficiency including underbody panels, active grille shutters and other lightweight technologies.