With environmentally progressive hybrid electric vehicles projected to capture a significant share of the global automotive industry by 2015, many companies are dedicating significant research and investment into materials to support the growth of this market.
At NPE 2012, SABIC’s Innovative Plastics business exhibited its portfolio of Noryl and Valox automotive resins designed to help customers create alternative power train solutions by displacing weight and increasing performance for hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and battery electric vehicles (BEV).
Leanne Taylor spoke to V. Umamaheswaran (UV), SABIC’s Automotive Marketing Director, at the show to find out more about the company’s investment in this area.
LT: How is SABIC addressing the trend for electric vehicles in its materials portfolio?
UV: With the electrification of vehicles, we are looking at both on-board and off-board infrastructure in the type of application. One highlight of our efforts in this space is our work with Leviton, who specialise in electrical devices and systems, to develop home chargers that can either be installed in the user’s garage, as well as high-powered chargers that charge a vehicle in a matter of hours as opposed to ones that take all night.
Our Valox iQ resin is being used for the housing of the chargers. The resin contains up-cycled post-consumer PET from water bottles, contributing to the environmental efficiency of the product. These are applications where we started with the enclosures as well as developing materials specifically for the connecting device to comply with the flame-retardant requirements for the electro properties in terms of shielding.
LT: Lightweighting is critically important in electric vehicles, how do SABIC’s materials contribute to this?
UV: In electric vehicles, lightweighting is important to maximise environmental efficiency. To reduce weight, plastics can replace steel in applications such as the battery housings. SABIC’s Noryl PPO resin battery enclosures offer significant weight reductions, as well as chemical resistance, dimensional stability, being inherently flame retardant and having a low specific gravity. All of these combined make it an ideal fit and a great default material for battery housings.
LT: Is the electrification of vehicles an important area for growth?
UV: We are looking at the whole range of electric vehicles as a strategic growth area. We offer a variety of different products for invertors, for example our LNP line of products are ideal for electrical shielding and thermal conductivity to keep the vehicle environment cool and the battery at a constant temperature. Going forward we are looking at developing products for lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries in terms of membranes and separators. This is a clear example of organic investment being made in R&D activities in areas where SABIC expects to see growth.
LT: Will the trend for electric vehicles continue?
UV: In the automotive world we tend to look at 5-, 10- and 15-year horizons as that’s what you need to think about in terms of influencing the ways cars are built and the materials and processes that will be used in the future. I think electromobility will be a continuing trend. I think we’ll start to see new materials and formulations being developed specifically for the e-mobility sector that will improve the performance, as well as the safety, of an electric vehicle. We’ll also see continuous lightweighting as the industry strives to offset the additional weight that is typically found in electrically powered vehicles.