Heavy metal: The battle to lose weight in EV engines

A key strategy in driving greater adoption of electric vehicles is using more lightweight materials in the manufacture of engines, according to a new report.

The study from analysts at Frost & Sullivan finds that both battery manufacturers and OEMs are adopting direct and indirect ‘lightweighting’ strategies that will help achieve smaller, lighter, and more powerful electric drive mechanisms.EV engine

“The transition from internal combustion engines to electric drivetrain increases the total kerb weight of the vehicle as battery packs are up to three times heavier than an ICE engine,” said Isaac Premsingh, Senior Research Analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “This weight issue stemming from the battery pack has given rise to new weight reduction targets for other subsystems.”

The study suggests that materials manufacturers should take advantage of the growing demand for materials with specific properties that aid lightweighting while ensuring durability and safety.

EV manufacturers are driving demand for any material that can reduce the weight of their cars. Currently, the powertrain of a full-battery EV with a 35.8 kWh battery pack and 100kW electric motor is nearly 125 per cent heavier than a standard internal combustion engine vehicle powertrain.

The report states that to make alternative powertrain technologies economical and practically competent with internal combustion engine performance, OEMs and battery manufacturers are exploring rare-earth-free Mg-Alloys with improved processability and heat stability; all-aluminum body to enable battery downsizing without compromising on range; and advanced high-strength steel grades to improve crash resistance with weight savings.

They are also looking into developing battery technologies to close the gap between theoretical and practical gravimetric energy densities, especially for lithium-air; Solid-state polymer electrolytes to improve ionic conductivity at ambient temperatures using biodegradable variants; and focusing on material recyclability for battery components.

“Polymer composite manufacturers have realized the need to transition from being a supplier of niche products to being a product development partner to expedite the shift toward sustainable mobility,” said Premsingh. “The consequent surge in strategic partnerships and joint ventures has enabled the vertical integration of the value chain, particularly for high-volume automotive components, battery electrodes, and electrolytes.”

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