Ultimate Protection!

New materials from Röchling protect sensitive components in electric cars and guarantee a light weight

In the discussion about the sustainable mobility of the future, electric mobility is one of the most promising concepts out there. It offers the prospect of CO2-free transport, making it an important element of the energy revolution. However, progress has been slow – especially in Germany. Persistence and patience are required.

Based solely on the sales figures, electric mobility is still a niche concept in the vast majority of countries. But many people think that electric cars have been replacing diesel and gasoline engine-powered vehicles for a long time now. Despite all the gloomy predictions with regard to the scarcity of raw materials required to produce the batteries and the inadequate charging infrastructure, the number of electric cars is constantly on the rise. The International Energy Agency (IEA) deems electric vehicles to be one of the four prevailing propulsion technologies that reduce emissions and achieve long-term sustainability goals.

Sales Incentives and Driving Restrictions
According to the IEA, the growth of electric mobility is primarily being driven by government schemes, which include sales incentives, local driving restrictions for cars with combustion engines, or CO2 emission specifications. The IEA believes that the progress made in recent years in terms of reducing the costs of batteries and increasing their capacity has also acted as an incentive to purchase electric cars. If enough people are courageous enough to take this step, the market will continue to pick up speed.

Röchling is striving to stay on the ball in this movement and is contributing to developments and research that will help to further establish electric mobility. The company got involved in the field of e-mobility at an early stage, for example with its participation in the “StreetScooter” project, a commercially organized research initiative at RWTH Aachen University, Germany. When the first short distance vehicle – an affordable and sustainable electric vehicle for short-distance journeys – was being developed at the university in 2001, Röchling made an important contribution to the vehicle floor concept with its material Stratura®. The special feature was that the underbody and internal floor were merged to form a single unit. The thermoplastic composite material Stratura® provides the perfect combination of heat insulation, noise reduction, and stability. Its special thermal insulation properties help to keep the interior warm. “This is an interesting feature, especially for electric vehicles, because less energy is required to heat up the interior, meaning the range of battery-powered electric cars is extended,” explains Markus Sattel, Head of Product Line Structural Lightweight.

Röchling Automotive has now further developed the material and created a stable hybrid solution by integrating aluminum layers. Stratura® Hybrid is a multilayer material marvel for a wide range of application areas. The hybrid material combines acoustically effective, and thermally insulating glass fiber lightweight reinforced thermoplastics (LWRT) created using pressing technology and microperforated aluminum layers. One way the material is being used is for the multilayer Integrated Sandwich Floor, which is replacing the conventional car body floor. The material reduces the floor weight and thickness by up to 50 percent in comparison to conventional car body designs. “The high rigidity and the acoustic absorption behavior of the material in particular offer significant advantages for electric mobility,” says Sattel.

Battery Reliability Is a Crucial Factor
Another application of the material is to protect battery systems in electric vehicles. As vehicles are being fitted with increasingly powerful electrical systems that require energy, battery reliability has become a critical factor during the vehicle design. Where previously metal housing was used to protect the battery, it is plausible to use plastic-based housing materials to reduce costs and weight. This is where Stratura® Hybrid comes in: the material demonstrates a high degree of elasticity and a large elongation at break to absorb the amount of energy generated during a crash. The result: no rupturing, no splitting.

Protection Against Electromagnetic Effects
Stratura® Hybrid also protects the electrical components in electric vehicles against interference from unwanted electrical or electromagnetic effects. Stratura® Hybrid achieves this EMC protection by using aluminum foils as a mechanical strengthening layer.

Röchling Automotive has been systematically accelerating the development and production of various plastic components specifically for electric cars, and it will continue to do so. Battery housing uppers manufactured from the material SMC (sheet molding compound), covers, cell frames, and insulation plates have already been put into series production by some well-known car manufacturers.

Electric Cars Around the World

1.05 million
1.05 million electric cars were sold in China in 2018. That is 82 percent more than in the previous year – and around 60 percent of the electric cars sold worldwide. The market share of these vehicles in terms of total registrations in China rose to 4.4 percent. The proportion of purely electric vehicles was 75 percent, while the rest were plug-in hybrids. Around 95 percent of the Chinese automotive market is dominated by Chinese car manufacturers.

+ 86 %
In the USA, the sales figures for electric vehicles rose by 86 percent to 361,000 cars in 2018 in comparison to the previous year. The country is therefore the second most important electric mobility market after China by quite some distance. In total, the market share of electric cars in the USA has almost doubled from 1.1 percent to 2.1 percent.

49.1 %
73,000 electric cars were newly registered in Norway in 2018. This is an increase of 18 percent. The country further confirmed its exceptional position with a market share of electric vehicles that climbed from 39.3 percent in 2017 to 49.1 percent in 2018. According to sales figures and market shares, Norway remains the most important country in Europe when it comes to electric mobility.

In Germany, new registrations of electric cars rose to around 68,000 cars in 2018 – an increase of 24 percent compared to 2017. The market share increased from 1.6 percent to 2.0 percent, which is low compared to the major automotive countries. The proportion of purely electric cars increased to 53 percent, while 47 percent were plug-in hybrids.

+ 24 %
Great Britain has seen an increase of 24 percent with 60,000 electric vehicles sold. In France, 46,000 electric cars were newly registered – 23 percent more than in 2017. In Sweden, sales of electric vehicles rose to just under 29,000 units, which brought the market share to 8.1 percent. In the Netherlands, sales figures of electric vehicles tripled to around 27,000. The market share also rose to 6.0 percent.