Andrew Marsh, FIMI, Engineering at Ezi-Methods provides us with a review of his presentation, ‘EVs – you ain’t seen nothing yet’ which he made at one of our recent webinars for vehicle recyclers.
There is a very strong campaign which gives the view that autonomy is a given and those vehicles are all going to be powered by electricity. If one takes this at face value, it means forgetting any recycling of internal combustion engines and investing wholesale in the recycling of electric vehicles. Let’s look a little deeper.
The core protection
The body shell is the carrier for all vehicle systems, and the revolution of electrification has led to two distinct developments – offsetting the weight of a pure electric vehicle battery pack (typically weighing between 300kg and 600kg) as well as more ultra-high-strength steel than ever before in the body side to protect large underfloor packs.
Consider two vehicles:
- Porsche Taycan (J1 platform), 4wd pure EV – 2.295 tonnes with a 93.8 kWh battery
- Polestar 2 (CMA platform), 4wd pure EV – 2.123 tonnes with an 80 kWh battery
The bottom line is most body shells are gaining weight due to protection for new sub-systems, and that applies to pure electric vehicles as well as plug-in hybrids. For example, Volkswagen Golf VIII GTE uses the MQB Evo platform, which accommodates petrol, diesel, and a PHEV with a 13 kWh battery (50% bigger than the previous GTE).
Selection of the body materials is related to the planned model production volume and intended profit margin as well as investment:
- Use of carbon fibre is fraught with recycling issues as well as initial cost, even though the material grades used in automotive have become significantly cheaper. End of life usually means crushing the components to powder to re-use as filler.
- Aluminium more energy-intensive than steel unless it is recycled. Equalising the energy used to create virgin aluminium alloy with the energy saved by recycling takes around 20 cycles. Further, the automotive external skin panels can have two alloy layers. So, recycled aluminium alloy ends up as ‘soup’ to be re-processed, requiring more recycling for energy parity.
- Stronger aluminium alloys typically found in aerospace are not used due to automotive production cycle constraints – so steel alloys are selectively used instead.
- For the manufacturers who can justify it, hot-formed ultra-high-strength steel alloy gives parity to aluminium alloy by weight with significantly greater strength, with non-ferrous skin for pure marketing.
The headache: Power
The EU drove a tailpipe emission regulation agenda which included taxing vehicle manufacturers who do not meet the ‘fleet average CO2’ targets from 2020 onwards. Each vehicle sold which is over that target is taxed at €95 per gramme per vehicle. That got a lot of attention.
The phrase ‘electrification’ was born since electricity does not count in the tailpipe emissions calculation. Vehicle manufacturers know full well that an internal combustion engine even with the addition of a parallel electric drive assist system is cheaper than a pure electric vehicle with a huge on-board battery. The result is a lot of conversion work as new electric systems had to be housed with components literally everywhere. No order, no standard.
For example, the second-generation Range Rover Evoque (PTA platform) has:
- Mild electric hybrid, with an underfloor module containing the 48V battery and power control module, providing regenerative braking as well as acceleration assist.
- Plug-in electric hybrid with all the MHEV functions and larger underfloor module containing an 11.3 kWh battery, with mechanical front-drive and pure electric rear-drive.
In both cases, the system is connected to the powertrain by the harness routing around subframes, the exhaust system and more. These are typical constraints of a fully built-in ‘conversion’, making extraction more complex.
The challenge: HGV / PSV
The move towards electrification has caused huge issues for commercial vehicles. Typically, the internal combustion engine is diesel, converts more than 40% of the available energy to mechanical drive (among the most efficient of all automotive powertrains) and weighs in at around 1000kg. Replacing that is a huge challenge.
Mercedes-Benz spent 4 years developing a pure electric bus and truck, which have just started serial production. The truck is powered by a 208 kWh battery fitted around the ladder chassis, has a range of 200km and weighs up to 25 tonnes with a payload of circa 11 tonnes. Useful for inner-city deliveries, but useless for anything else.
Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz (along with many others) are exploring hydrogen fuel cell technology, with low volume production/prototype vehicles already in service. Volume production should start by 2025, by which time hydrogen fuel supply will be more plentiful than now. Is this efficient? Not really. Is it cheap? No. Does it allow zero emissions with re-fuelling in a matter of minutes? Yes. Bingo!
Then there is the overhead electric supply gantry idea, which means the efficient transmission of energy. The truck engages with the system on the autoroute/autobahn/motorway. Getting to this point and indeed the destination will use hybrid/electric/fuel cell power, as the operator decides. The issue is the system needs Government investment to become reality….
What does this mean for us?
- Vehicles will continue to be made from more material combinations than ever before.
- Powertrain system components will be scattered throughout the vehicle, and not in ‘standard’ locations
- Mainstream will be MHEV, but around 2% of the car / LCV population will be pure EVs. Bottom line is the internal combustion engine is not dead yet.
- Recycling electric traction motors and power controllers is a fast way to more profit – recycling batteries is more difficult, more specialised.
- Big questions arise about which business owns what in each vehicle…. does the owner have the right to recycle as they wish or are there pre-existing contractual obligations? If so, how on earth do we find out?
The biggest question is how we get through this period of chaos. In essence, the greater the confusion, the greater the profit opportunity.