The LEVIS development of innovative materials is currently in full-steam mode. They are at the heart of LEVIS’s consortium strategy to demonstrate EV lightening without sacrificing neither cost nor performance. Three lightweight prototype components will be manufactured from them: a suspension control arm, a battery holding set and a cross car beam carrier group. CANOE is leading these materials developments, in close cooperation with the design team led by LEARTIKER and industrial partners Marelli, TOFAŞ, Yeşilova and Mersen. CANOE is backed by the expertise of ITAINNOVA, AIMEN, and RISE in materials simulation, processing, and characterization, and by CENEX NL in lifecycle analysis (LCA) and eco-design. Each demonstrator presents specific challenges, but the goals are the same: lighter, more sustainable materials with acceptable price and performance for the automotive industry.
Lighter materials without sacrificing neither cost nor performance
Lowering weight in transportation applications – especially automotive – is of utmost importance to reduce energy consumption during use. It is even more crucial in EVs since batteries are heavy. Carbon fibre (CF)-based composite materials are one of the foremost solutions when it comes to lightening. The LEVIS demonstrators all aim at cleverly introducing CF-based composites in otherwise fully metallic parts.
The materials used need to fit the market reality: industry uptake is key. The automotive field needs high-throughput production processes so that composite materials solutions can be cost-competitive. The materials developed in LEVIS are adapted to one-shot resin transfer moulding (RTM) overmoulding, injection, or pultrusion processes. For instance, thermoplastic acrylic pultruded parts will act as reinforcing beams of the battery case.
Performance is of course critical, both from a vehicle safety and a marketing standpoint. CF-reinforced thermoplastic (TP) tapes are being developed with the aim of placing them in a controlled and precise way. This will help to withstand mechanical loads while keeping the whole structure light. The first kilometre of these TP tapes has already been produced during the project LEVIS!
Performance also means managing to combine metallic parts with CF-composites, and taking the best of both worlds by implementing multi-material solutions. Thus, an innovative thermoplastic acrylic matrix designed for composite-metal bonding is being developed, as well as a structural adhesive able to bond metal and composites, and that can be debonded on demand to ease dismantling.
Eco-design is not optional
This last example of an on-demand debondable adhesive, with the repairing, reusing, or recycling of parts in mind, illustrates clearly why eco-design is not optional. Sustainability and end-of-life must be considered right from the start, and the materials used are a big part of this.
Addressing the big challenge of composite parts’ end-of-life is also why the LEVIS demonstrators are only based on TP matrices for the composite parts: it makes them fully recyclable (contrary to traditional thermosetting composite matrices).
LEVIS aims at fostering sustainability not only by considering end-of-life, or by lowering energy consumption during use through lightening EV components. Using more environmentally friendly materials is another way to do so. This is illustrated by the development of a CF both bio-based and affordable for the automotive industry.