The project was funded under the call FP7-2011-GC-ELECTROCHEMICAL-STORAGE 'Advanced eco-design and manufacturing processes for batteries and electrical components'.
Further development and deployment of electrical vehicles call for large scale production of batteries and electrical components with good performances and at the lowest possible cost. Research shall address the whole value chain including the eco-design, assembly/integration and production of batteries and electrical components (motors, battery management systems, etc.). Eco-design should properly account for the relevant dismantling, recycling/disposal, and health and safety aspects of critical materials.
The goal of the OPERA4FEV project is to develop thermoplastic battery racks on two functional demonstrators: one for a large scale vehicle from FIAT and one for a 'niche' car, the F-City from FAM. To improve deployment of electrical vehicles in Europe, large scale production processes for rack and electrical components need to be developed.
OPERA4FEV will integrate electrical, hydraulic connections, and component housing in a thermoplastic approach to reduce costs, weight, and assembly time.
In order to demonstrate the relevance of the solution and meet strong industrial benefits, the two thermoplastic racks will be manufactured and assembled industrially. The whole value chain will be addressed, including the eco-design (dismantling and recycling of critical materials), assembly and integration of cells and electrical components.
As safety of the on-board battery in electric, hybrid, and plug-in vehicles is of paramount importance to the international auto industry, OPERA4FEV will pay particular attention to evaluating the effects of the rack characteristics with regard to vehicle crash safety, and will focus on the potential risks for the vehicle and its occupants in case of failure of one or more batteries.
Using recycled plastics in electric cars
An EU-funded project seeks to boost the development of cheaper and lighter electric vehicles (EVs) by using thermoplastic solutions for battery racks.
To improve deployment of EVs in Europe, large-scale production processes for rack and associated electrical components need to be developed. EU-funding of the 'Operating rack for full-electric vehicle' (OPERA4FEV) project is enabling researchers to improve these manufacturing processes and obtain a cost-effective innovative thermoplastic battery rack with better integration characteristics.
Project members will develop sophisticated battery racks based on lithium–ion technology for two demonstrator cars. One will be a mass-produced vehicle from Fiat, and the other a niche model. The racks should integrate electrical and hydraulic connections as well as components, and also be simpler, safer and quicker to manufacture than current options. The racks will also be 30 % lighter and more eco-friendly thanks to the use of recycled components. The proposed features will mean a 25 % cost saving.
Except for rack weight reduction as well as easier mounting and faster connection of cells, the proposed solution will feature pultruded reinforcements and infrared welding for plastic parts. Focus is also placed on improving heat transfer.
A life-cycle assessment analysis is being used to evaluate the impact of the newly developed rack technology on the environment. Furthermore, the whole value chain for the power battery rack is being addressed, including assembly and integration of cells and electric components.
As safety of on-board batteries is important for automakers, OPERA4FEV is taking crash and safety regulations into account. It is also evaluating the potential risks for the vehicle itself as well as its occupants in case of failure of one or more batteries.
Project partners have already designed the first rack prototype, which is being thoroughly assessed through crash simulation and vehicle testing. Work on verifying the rack, its modules and cells is ongoing.
By promoting green thermoplastic composites, OPERA4FEV is presenting an alternative solution to the present metal-based technology used in power battery racks. The project concept is fully in line with the European Commission's Directive on end-of-life vehicles.