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The trend of electrification that has taken the auto industry by storm has caught the fancy of the engineering plastics industry as well, and manufacturers are scanning new opportunities in this area. Engineered thermoplastics, for instance, can be used in a range of electrical parts, such as start/stop components, electromotor components of hybrid and electrical vehicles, battery components of hybrid and electrical vehicles, inverter/converter and ECU components, high-voltage cables for batteries and electromotors, electrical subsystem components as electrical Ac compressors and electrical water pumps and charging station components.
While standard start-stop systems have been designed for only 60.000 starts/stops, the new systems in this category should have the capability of withstanding over 300.000 starts/stops. This implies that materials, such as PA46 offering extremely high wear and abrasion resistance, coupled with exceptional high temperature and fatigue resistance, become the materials of choice for starter gears, particularly for motors with high starter powers. PA46 can also be applied in the solenoid system of the starters and in the bearing cages of the alternators, in addition to a range of insulation components, such as stator insulator, rotor overmolding and diode carrier, among others, as well as in mechanical and structural parts that predominantly fabricated from metals.
The electric motors, batteries, inverters/converters and high voltage cables in hybrid cars and electric vehicles are subsystems, for which engineering plastics and other high performance plastics can be potentially used, primarily in insulation components. Since electric motors operate at high temperatures, the coil insulation entails the use of high temperature resistant materials that include PA46, PA4T, PPS or LCP. Among these, a PA46-based system is the least expensive, since wall thickness can potentially be reduced by 20%-40% with greater ease in processing, when compared to PPS and low material cost against LCP. The various insulation parts can also be integrated into a single part for further reducing system costs.
Engineering Thermoplastics and thermosets can be used for a range of potential battery components, including PVC or TPC cable insulation, PET cooling fans, PA66 cooling tubes, PA46, PPS, LCP, PBT or PA connector parts, PA6, PBT or PP insulation and ECUs, and PA66 and thermoset battery trays, in addition to PP, PA or thermoset covers/boxes. Components of inverters/converters, including the ECU, can also be fabricated using plastics, such as PP, PBT and PA.
While hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles enable in cutting down fuel consumption and CO2 emissions to a large extent, the extra weight of the battery packs, which can be as high as 300 kg on a mid-sized car, can be a damaging factor for any environmental advantages on offer. Hence, replacing steel with engineering plastics for reducing vehicle weight in a variety of applications, such as battery housings, is an alternative that has already been adopted by major automotive manufacturers.