CORDIS - EU research results

Wear Resistant Lightweight Aluminium Brakes for Vehicles

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RELIABLE (Wear Resistant Lightweight Aluminium Brakes for Vehicles)

Reporting period: 2016-06-01 to 2016-11-30

Weight-reduction efforts in the automotive industry have increased significantly in recent years, in an effort to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. As a result, manufacturers are moving to aluminium based material solutions to help reduce vehicle weight, provide for better fuel economy and improve overall sustainability credentials. Adopting aluminium brake discs would reduce weight by up to 15kg for an mid sized ICE car and deliver considerable fuel savings across the life of a vehicle (~200litres). Furthermore, reducing rotational inertia through lighter discs, leads to better handling performance, improved acceleration, and shorter braking distances. Of potentially greater importance, particulates from brakes are now the largest source of emissions from cars. Nanoparticles of copper and iron oxide from brake discs and pads are of particular health and environmental concern. Hard-wearing ceramic-coated aluminium discs would eliminate iron oxide particulates from the disc and also could be used in conjunction with copper-free brake pads.

Lightweight high performance carbon fibre reinforced ceramic (CFRC) disc brakes are available, however their high cost makes them an unviable option outside of the high performance car and motor racing markets. Without a cost-effective lightweight alternative to heavy cast iron brakes - which have seen relatively little innovation since their introduction over 50 years ago - fuel efficiency, range and drive handling needs of the customer will continue to be significantly compromised.

Keronite Limited has developed RELIABLE, a wear resistant lightweight aluminium brake disc for use across the automotive sector that addresses the current limitations of aluminium alloys and ceramic coatings. Objectives of the overall innovation project are to refine, scale-up and bring to market readiness our novel RELIABLE brake disc. RELIABLE will be a “market first”, fully satisfying the need for a cost-effective lightweight brake disk and deliver a wide-range of end-user benefits.

The Phase 1 Feasibility Study is an important step in achieving our overall Innovation Project objectives. The specific objectives of the Phase 1 study were
FS1 Risk assessment: To identify, assess and mitigate against any project risks that could impinge upon our ability to fully develop and commercialise our RELIABLE technology. Risk areas that will be assessed include: technical, legislative/regulatory, financial, commercial and political factors.
FS2 User Engagement: To undertake further engagement in order to validate the market needs & design specifications that we have already established.
FS3 Innovation strategy development: To develop our innovation strategy, part of which includes future work plans, potential collaborative partners, roadmap of future enhancements and novel developments etc.
FS4 Detailed Market Study: To validate our understanding of the market size, dynamics, and design considerations. We will establish the most appropriate routes to market such as acting as a “Tier 2” organisation, supplying to “Tier 1” braking system providers.
FS5 IP Management: Whilst we already have patents in place for both our process technology and coating material, we will seek advice on enhanced protection specifically for the automotive sector.
FS6 Business plan: To elaborate our initial business plan, incorporating the data gained from the feasibility study.
The work performed in the 6 month (entire) period of the project followed the objectives listed above. Namely:
FS1 Risk assessment: risks were assessed via a SWOT and an FMEA-style risk assessment covering technical, commercial, social, environmental and regulatory risks. It was felt that the main technical risks of using aluminium discs (thermal management, wear resistance and corrosion) could be reduced or overcome by the introduction of RELIABLE ceramic coatings. Furthermore, RELIABLE would eliminate the risk of iron oxide particulate emissions from the discs, unlike other lightweight solutions that are being considered currently.
FS2 User Engagement: During the study we engaged with OEMs and Tier 1 brake suppliers who helped to inform the specification and future development of the technology. An active interest was shown in the RELIABLE solution and a wish to evaluate it further.
FS3 Innovation strategy development: A future work plan was developed incorporating work packages for technical refinement, validation on a target vehicle and development of production scale technology. We also have identified potential partners wishing to collaborate with us.
FS4 Detailed Market Study: The study has shown that there is an accessible market for aluminium brake discs in the 2-4 year time frame. Specifically, a target market of approximately 9M vehicles in 2024 was estimated based on the findings of the primary and secondary research conducted during the study.
FS5 IP Management: Approximately 400 patents, patent applications and utility models were reviewed during the feasibility study. This confirmed that there is freedom to operate the RELIABLE technology based on Keronite's existing patent portfolio. Furthermore, it showed that RELIABLE has advantages over alternative light-weighting methods, which appear to have problems such as high cost, low recyclability, poor corrosion resistance and/or adhesion issues.
FS6 Business plan: A business plan was constructed based on the data gained from the feasibility study. Specifically, it included the time and investment from the work plan and scale up outlined in FS3 and assumed sales to a very small fraction of the addressable market identified in FS4 .
The current state of the art for automotive brake discs is cast iron and has changed very little since their widespread adoption over 50 years ago. With CO2 and fuel economy targets playing an increasing role in the design of modern vehicles, it is one of the few heavyweight components that has not been addressed, other than through high-cost carbon ceramic discs used in low volume applications such as high-end performance and racing vehicles. There is a renewed and growing interest from OEM’s in reducing weight on unsprung mass via more economical means through the use of aluminium brake discs for automobiles. Fear of change could play a role in preventing OEMs from adopting aluminium discs. The main technical risks to the project surround thermal and corrosion resistance of aluminium, both problems that RELIABLE can help to solve.

More recently, a new potential benefit has come to light. Brakes, especially nano-particulates from cast Fe discs and Cu-containing brake pads, are now the major source of emissions from automobiles, and these are seen as a major health and environmental concern. This further fuels the demand for wear-resistant brake discs. Adopting RELIABLE would eliminate iron oxide emissions from the discs and could be used with Cu-free brake pads to reduce Cu emissions also.

Because of its high adhesion, chemical passivity, proven scalability and reasonable application cost using standard aluminium alloys, RELIABLE shows advantages over alternative light-weighting methods seeking to employ aluminium, which appear to have problems such as high cost, low recyclability, poor corrosion resistance and/or adhesion issues.