Battery housings improve CO2 balance, performance

Battery housings improve CO2 balance, performance

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Range and charging performance are key factors in the acceptance of electromobility and determine the competitiveness of the manufacturing companies. Important elements of a battery system for electric cars are not only the battery module itself with its cells, but also the housing with structures for load distribution and temperature regulation, frames, lids and base plates, which in their entirety must protect against overheating and prevent damage to the battery core in the event of accidents.

There is still a lot of optimisation potential for function-integrated lightweight construction and resource efficiency in battery housings commonly used today, finds Rico Schmerler, research assistant at the Fraunhofer IWU at the Fraunhofer Project Centre Wolfsburg and coordinator of ‘CoolBat’. “That is why we have set our sights on this assembly. We want to develop and test CO2-saving solutions for next-generation housings.” The research results will later be transferred to other applications and industries where large batteries are used.

One of the development goals of the project partners is to integrate more functions in a smaller installation space with fewer interfaces. To achieve this, individual systems are combined into functionally integrated structures that combine thermal and mechanical tasks. For example, load-bearing structures have temperature control channels cast directly into them and the function of the cooling unit is combined with that of crash protection in floor panels. The researchers achieve this with aluminium foam. The lightweight material absorbs a lot of impact energy in the event of an accident. In combination with phase change material (PCM), it also reduces the energy required to cool the battery. Fraunhofer IWU has two decades of experience in the development and application of metallic foams.

The institute also contributes its expertise in the use of lightweight materials and technologies to the design and production of the load-path-optimised battery housing cover. In addition, new heat conducting materials are being developed and tested in the research project. They replace previously complex, ecologically harmful and cost-intensive thermal conductive pastes. The materials development in the project also includes new materials for sustainable fire protection.

“Every development step in the project is considered and evaluated under the aspect of CO2 saving and CO2 binding. This starts with the design, continues with the CO2-reduced material, technology and production selection and leads up to the sustainable product performance over the entire life cycle,” Rico Schmerler explains the holistic approach to life cycle analysis and CO2 balancing. In total, about 15 per cent CO2 savings per enclosure are possible.

The ‘CoolBat’ partners have also calculated other positive effects from the function-integrated lightweight solutions: higher performance per mass in the battery system, faster charging as well as more range – all weighty arguments to further boost electromobility. The results of the project should be available in April 2024.

The ‘CoolBat’ project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Under the overall coordination of the Fraunhofer IWU, the other Fraunhofer Institutes IFAM, IST and WKI integrated at the Fraunhofer Project Center Wolfsburg are involved as research partners. Other participants are Daimler AG and around a dozen companies from industry.

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