THI study examines the optimum material mix for electric vehicles
by Hans Diederichs
Emissions in electromobility can be reduced not only by the right mix of electricity, but also by the appropriate use of materials during vehicle manufacture. Manuel Schweizer, a student at Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt (THI) in the master's degree programme Applied Research in Engineering Sciences, has analysed this in a research project. The surprising result: In contrast to vehicles with combustion engines, lightweight construction in electric vehicles has no advantage over steel in terms of total energy and total emissions.
In his work, Schweizer compared the effects of lightweight construction measures for vehicles with combustion engines and electric vehicles in terms of resource efficiency and emissions. The aim was to determine the optimum material mix for both types of vehicle. Initially, Schweizer modelled one vehicle each of both types of drive for the lower middle class and the upper class. In his subsequent calculations, he included the manufacturing energy and emissions of various materials, including aluminium and steel.
The comparative calculations showed that over its entire life cycle, the lightweight design variant both requires more energy and emits more emissions than steel designs in the same vehicle class. The additional weight does not have a negative impact to the same extent as vehicles with internal combustion engines, as the electric motor not only has a higher efficiency but also the ability to recover energy during braking.
Schweizer's result: A resource-efficient choice of materials can save nine to 13 percent of the emissions that occur during battery production in a vehicle in the lower mid-range segment, and 19 to 24 percent in an upper mid-range vehicle. According to Schweizer, these energy and emission savings could produce more battery capacity and thus increase the range of electric vehicles. In his research work, he was supervised by Prof. Dr. Martin Bednarz, Professor of Innovative Manufacturing Processes and Digitization in Production.
Source: THI Photo: Fotolia