Adhesives Will Help Shape a Low-Emission Future for Mobility
According to a study by the European Federation for Transport and Environment, the transport sector is responsible for 27% of all CO2 emissions in Europe, making it the biggest contributor overall. That's why the development of innovative electrical mobility solutions is expected to rise in the next five years and adhesive technology has a central role to play.
The Paris Agreement aims to limit the worldwide increase in temperatures to significantly below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The transition to zero-emission electric vehicles is an important step in this process, as well as a huge challenge for the automotive industry. The emission reduction targets that come into force in 2020 and the norms for EU cars also require car manufacturers to reduce the CO2 emissions of all new cars by 15% by 2025 and by 37.5% by 2030. Adhesive technology plays an important role in low-emission drive solutions.
Adhesives for electric car batteries: stable, flexible and conductive
Future electric vehicles will need millions of kilowatt hours from lithium-ion batteries, which are set to be produced in Europe in greater numbers in the near future. They are after all the beating heart of every electric car, responsible for the car's power and range. This is where adhesives carry out a range of roles. "They not only join battery cells and housings but also have various additional functions," said Frank Kerstan, Global Business Development Manager for E-Mobility in Adhesive Technologies at Henkel. "In electric cars, one such function is thermal management." In order to ensure optimum ranges and a long service life, the operating temperature of a battery must be between 25 and 35°C, otherwise the average service life of the battery and the range are reduced. Thermally conductive technologies, known as gap fillers, conduct the heat produced by the batteries and protect them, even against possible overheating, which can happen during charging. In addition, adhesives and sealants protect and seal the entire battery housing, thereby providing maximum safety. Polyurethane adhesives between the individual battery cells provide stability and strength whilst also being slightly elastic. This is important because batteries 'breathe', meaning they expand and contract, including during charging. Flexible adhesives allow them the necessary space to do so.
Decreased weight, increased range
Adhesive joining technology also plays a key role in body manufacturing as it can join a wide range of lightweight materials such as aluminium or fibre-reinforced plastics with steel without affecting the materials' properties. This makes lightweight designs a reality, helping to compensate for the heavy lithium-ion batteries, which can weigh up to 700 kg, and to increase performance and range. Reducing the weight of electric vehicles and thereby saving energy throughout their service life ultimately contributes to a reduction in their carbon footprint.
Gluing and sealing in the automotive industry is nowadays largely done by fully automated processes. For example, the 6000 round cells of a typical battery in a purely electric vehicle can be fixed in only a few seconds with the help of UV curing adhesives. This results in a more efficient and quicker manufacturing process which in turn reduces costs and increases sustainability.
Key technology for future mobility
In addition to electric vehicles, it is important that other alternative and environmentally friendly mobility concepts are not left unexplored. These include hybrid and hydrogen-powered models. The former can reduce CO2 emissions on short journeys and in built-up areas through energy recuperation. Hydrogen vehicles are not yet widespread but have the significant benefit of being emission-free when they are powered by carbon-neutral hydrogen. This is also an area where adhesives can ensure maximum safety with secure and long-lasting joints and reliable seals.
Be it battery-powered cars, hybrid models or hydrogen vehicles, there is unlikely to be only one solution. Many different types of drive are expected to be used in an effort to reduce CO2 emissions and meet individual needs. "Whatever direction the automotive industry takes in the coming decades, thermal materials as well as adhesives and sealants will play an essential role in enabling innovative solutions for greater safety, efficiency and sustainability," concluded Frank Kerstan.