Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Thermoplastic racks for electric car batteries

Electric vehicles (EVs) rely on more than just their batteries – the racks they sit in are important too. An EU-funded project brought new innovations in rack design to make the cars more efficient.
Thermoplastic racks for electric car batteries
The era of EVs seems to be dawning upon us, and this may not be ending anytime soon. Electric cars are great for eliminating oil from transportation, thus cutting carbon emissions and improving urban air quality.

Despite the environmental benefits they offer, EVs remain more expensive than combustion-engine equivalents, largely because of their battery costs and small production rates that do not allow sufficient economies of scale.

Besides decreasing cost and improving battery safety, other relevant challenges need to be addressed to reduce their weight and volume. The main innovation in the battery rack design brought about by the EU-funded project OPERA4FEV (Operating rack for full-electric vehicle) was to directly include cells without any intermediate housing in a robust plastic envelope that can be manufactured more cheaply.

Supported by an 11-member consortium, the project improved manufacturing processes for battery racks and associated electrical components. The team developed sophisticated thermoplastic battery racks for a mass-produced vehicle from Fiat. The main innovation in the racks was the integration of electrical and hydraulic connections as well as components in a thermoplastic housing solution. This reduces cost, weight and assembly time.

Compared to its metallic counterpart, the new thermoplastic housing is 30 % lighter, five times less expensive (if produced in large numbers), safer and eco-friendlier, thanks to the use of recycled components. Its versatile design allows it to be adapted to complicated vehicle shapes and configurations. This means that the vehicle can carry more energy onboard as more batteries can be added.

Project partners also focused on evaluating the effects of the rack characteristics regarding vehicle crash safety and on the potential risks for the vehicle and passengers in case one or more batteries fail.

The project developed manufacturing techniques to facilitate adoption of high-tech thermoplastic racks for batteries of electric cars. The work should contribute to the environmental advantages of Evs, while also making them cheaper. This way, Evs are more likely to become a much more common sight in the near future.

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Thermoplastic, racks, batteries, electric vehicles, OPERA4FEV, housing
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