The electric vehicle revolution is on the horizon, and Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont Co. is determined to meet the moment.
DuPont Mobility & Materials May 17 detailed plans to invest a total of $5 million into a pair of European facilities — in Schkopau, Germany, and Freienbach, Switzerland — to increase capacity of bonding adhesives and thermal management products targeted at the electric vehicle market.
Tina Wu, global vice president for advanced solutions and Asia-Pacific regional leader for DuPont Mobility & Materials, said the investment plans include the costs of building expansion and new equipment.
"At Schkopau, Germany, [the investment will] support the continued growth in the [Europe, Middle East and Africa] market — especially for electrification and lightweighting," Wu said in an exclusive interview with Rubber & Plastics News. "We are adding a newer part, expanding that facility to support growing demand."
DuPont opened the Schkopau facility in 2006 to support the European Union's growing demand for adhesive and bonding products, specifically the BetaMate structural and crash-durable adhesives and the BetaSeal glass bonding adhesives.
The Freienbach plant, meanwhile, has been manufacturing adhesive solutions for the automotive industry since the 1970s. In addition to making DuPont's BetaMate, BetaSeal and BetaTech products, the facility serves as a hub for product development.
Christophe van Herreweghe, global strategic marketing director for DuPont Mobility & Materials, noted the investment in the Freienbach facility will allow it to remain a hub of innovation and support for European EV customers.
"The Freienbach facility is really going to focus on offering our customers a holistic approach, so that we are able to help them to test our solutions in an overall battery pack," van Herreweghe said. "This is helping for that durability factor, but also to showcase and to prove that it will be key for thermal management and safety.
"So we are investing heavily in having the right test methods and helping our customers to find and approve the optimized designs for the future battery packs," van Herreweghe said.
Details about the DuPont Mobility & Materials' plans for the European sites come less than a month after the company said it would build a $30 million facility in China to manufacture adhesives for electric vehicles.
That's not a coincidence. The two markets — China and Europe — are growing very quickly, especially where the electric vehicle market is concerned.
"I think, from a growth rate perspective, Europe continues to lead on a lot of the core technology," Wu said. "Europe is also very sustainability conscious from government regulations to the top OEMs and their commitment to the EV. Europe is really going to be a huge market, too. You are just going to see a switch from the traditional vehicle to EV or electrification of some sort."
Wu said that DuPont has a strategic vision to meet the growing needs of a changing automotive industry, which is moving rapidly toward electrification. Governmental regulations and EV development by OEMs are driving the transition globally. But advances in battery technology are pushing EV technology closer to really breaking through.
"As you can imagine, maybe five years ago, making a battery was much more expensive than the much more mature technology of making a traditional engine," Wu said. "But the cost of the battery and the capability of the battery — meaning driving [more] kilometers or miles per charge or charging time — all of that has significantly improved. And the cost has significantly reduced."
Within the last 12 months in particular, the costs of building a traditional internal combustion engine vehicle and building an EV have narrowed considerably, and it won't be long before the industry achieves cost parity.
When that happens, it is likely that EVs will take off. And DuPont will be meeting the needs of the OEMs as they make the leap.
"Higher energy density batteries and also super-fast charging can create thermal management challenges in these new EVs," van Herreweghe said. DuPont's thermal management solutions "will help safely manage and control heat during charging and vehicle operations."