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How Do OEMs Manage Heat in their EV Design?

( 07/09/2020 ) Written by: Nick Cupelli

Electric vehicles (EVs) had a banner year in 2019. According to Quartz, EV automakers grabbed 2.2 percent of the global vehicle market during the first 10 months of 2019, meaning that EVs were selling even while the automobile market dipped. This trend has not been lost on EV manufacturers, who have invested billions of dollars in electrification for the coming years.

By now, most automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have already ventured into the EV market; therefore, it is no surprise that they are interested in smaller and lighter components to save space and reduce cost, while still boosting power efficiency and increasing vehicle range. One way this is accomplished is through the improvements in batteries. Today, these battery improvements take form in longer life, higher performance, smaller size, safer use, and better value.

These same features that the newer batteries provide, however, can increase heat production. To protect the batteries and surrounding elements from the associated heat, thermal management is necessary in EVs. Thermal management materials are comprised of heat transfer technologies designed to quickly expel heat and increase the limits of product power density. Our CoolTherm® products help EVs travel farther, charge faster, and increase reliability by managing heat in batteries, chargers, motors, and power electronics.

Potting and Encapsulation

Potting and encapsulation materials are used to manage heat and contain electronics in a housing. These materials improve performance by optimizing heat dissipation with high thermal conductivity and low viscosity. They protect components from the environment, like dust and moisture, and help to reduce vibration. An example of one of our potting materials is CoolTherm® SC-324 Thermally Conductive Silicone Encapsulant which helps electronic components with:

  • thermal management
  • structural assembly
  • flame retardation
  • improved reliability and product life
  • protection from harmful conditions and environments.

Potting materials are also available as epoxies or urethanes.

Gap Fillers and Adhesives

Gap fillers are thermally-conductive, paste-like materials designed to manage heat through electronic components with varying or uneven surfaces, which also assist in component stability, mitigating environmental conditions, and electrical insulation to the device. Adhesives can take this one step further and provide the aforementioned properties plus high bond strength.

Electronics manufacturers use gap fillers, such as CoolTherm® SC-1600 Thermally Conductive Silicone Gap Filler, and adhesives for:

  • heat removal
  • stability of final structural assembly
  • cosmetic or design appeal
  • improved reliability and product life
  • protection from harmful conditions and environments – such as temperature control, shock and vibration mitigation, electrical insulation, water protection, and chemical protection.
Additional Heat Management Methods

Departure Time: EVs have become more efficient in saving battery power. Heating and cooling functions can take place while a car is charging – known as “departure time.” For example, the car’s cabin and seats can begin to cool or warm before the car is unplugged from the charging station, so none of the battery power is used in advance for those functions.

Acceleration Patterns: Quick, hard acceleration can be tough on battery life. Batteries tend to become hottest during acceleration, so more quick accelerations lead to faster battery degradation. Pushing the vehicle to its top speed also quickly heats the battery and ages it prematurely. To better manage heat in the battery pack and thereby extend the life, drivers can be more careful by gradually accelerating and follow the speed limit.

Lightweighting the Design: One of the recommended ways to help a battery operate at its optimal level is through vehicle lightweighting. The heavier the vehicle, the harder the powertrain works, and that affects the range of the battery. To increase the range and lessen the stress on the battery, manufacturers are employing more aluminum, and even glass, thus eliminating more dense metals. Additionally, using a structural adhesive like CoolTherm® TC-2002 Thermally Conductive Structural Adhesive, allows the battery cells to bond directly to the cooling attachment, saving parts and weight.

The advantages of using thermal management materials for EV batteries can result in increased vehicle performance as well as great cost savings for OEMs. Learn more at LORD.com/cooltherm.

Nick Cupelli

Applications Engineer, Electronic Materials for LORD Corporation, started his professional career with LORD in 2015 after graduating from Pennsylvania State University. Nick began in the LORD Career Foundations Program and has held manufacturing, sourcing, business development, and research positions at LORD prior to his current position as an Applications Engineer.

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