New electric vehicle E-Motive aims for steel renaissance
The amount of steel used in cars has dropped like a rock in recent years, and steelmakers are looking for a lifeline. They may have found it in the Steel E-Motive, a new fully autonomous electric vehicle designed through a collaboration between trade organization WorldAutoSteel and environmental engineering company Ricardo.
Steel and the light autonomous electric vehicle of the future
Steel may not seem like the best choice for the electric vehicle of the future, mainly due to its weight. Indeed, the global auto industry is pivoting towards advanced materials, driven in part by the search for lightweight auto parts. Lighter weight and improved strength improve fuel efficiency in gasoline motorcycles. The electric vehicle version of it has a longer battery life.
This leaves the steel on the outside. The Center for Automotive Research has carried out extensive research on the weight loss trend, and in a recent report, CAR listed the drivers:
Material systems: low novel–Cost, high–high-performance composite sandwich construction with honeycomb cores, Following–low generation–cost of carbon fibers, aluminum 7xxx series, gen–3 steels, graphene, and nano–based composites.
Manufacturing: significantly lower–high cost–volume up–automated polymer composite manufacturing methods (for example, HP–RTM, Spray Transfer Molding (STM), straight and curved pultrusion, tool-free manufacturing, and high–volume additive manufacturing.
Facilitators: multi–material (different material) assembly for assembly and disassembly, and predictive calculation and design optimization tools.
Ouch! Ultra-long battery life comes up against the amount of time a driver can spend behind the wheel on any given day, but fleet vehicles and autonomous driving come into play, and the sky is the limit. An autonomous shuttle, for example, could carry passengers for 24 straight hours without needing to recharge.
Steel takes up the challenge of the autonomous electric vehicle
That leaves out the steel, the even stranger person, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t light at the end of the tunnel for steel.
WorldAutoSteel is the automotive industry arm of the World Steel Association, whose membership includes a range of 20 heavyweights, including ArcelorMittal, Hyundai-Steel Company, Tata Steel, ThyssenKrupp Steel and United States Steel Corporation.
If you see an overlap between steelmaking and automaking, it is not an illusion. For example, Hyundai has been making its own virgin steel for auto parts since 2006, and Tata has harnessed the appetite for steel cars in India.
This brings us to the E-Motive steel electric vehicle. WorldAutoSteel has teamed up with Ricardo to create the Steel E-Motive, a futuristic autonomous machine that seems to have escaped from a sci-fi movie.
The steel-gray palette of the new electric vehicle would suit the dystopian side of the genre perfectly, but in color, the E-Motive could stand out against dull city backgrounds, which would be a plus for fleet vehicles that also act as advertisements. mobile. .
The autonomous electric vehicle of the future
The idea behind the E-Motive electric vehicle is partly strategy and partly technology.
A clock ticking is the driving force behind the strategy as the window for effective action on climate change closes and governments (finally) start to take action. So, E-Motive is designed around workable technologies that will be available on a large scale by 2030. For WorldAutoSteel, that means steel and more steel.
Here, let E-Motive explain itself:
“The steel will enable the engineering team to meet the operational, safety and environmental requirements of Mobility as a Service: for example, its strength and formability supports a single battery box without a cover.” and integrated low-rise, and a flat-floor interior – which also contributes to better accessibility.
âA unique rocker arm design provides superior crushing force and protection not only to the occupant, but also to the internal components of the high-voltage battery.
âSteel also offers advantages in terms of cost, weight and durability over a conventional battery using alternative materials, while meeting all current and planned future safety standards and legislation. “
As for the autonomous driving angle, they are talking about level 5.
How durable is steel really?
Ricardo is listening to the Science Based Targets initiative, so the company has contributed to the effort of an evidence-based life cycle emissions analysis.
âThe life cycle analysis of a vehicle covers the extraction of raw materials, manufacture, use and end of life of the product. It also includes an assessment of the energy source used to power the vehicle, âsays Ricardo.
Steel has won the emissions race for structural materials used in cars so far, according to WorldAutoSteel.
âSteel has the lowest carbon footprint of any material used in automotive structures. Primary steel production emits 7 to 20 times less greenhouse gases than other materials, âthey say.
They might be on to something, at least for now. Carbon fiber, for example, is very energy intensive to manufacture and more difficult to recycle than steel. The lightness and longevity of the material might even score points for automotive uses, but that case has yet to be definitely made.
The case for an all-steel battery electric vehicle
Fans of hydrogen fuel cell cars may be disappointed to learn that the E-Motive electric vehicle will run on battery, not fuel cell.
Still, there’s a hydrogen twist in E-Motive’s story, and that could settle the question of which is better: primary or secondary steelmaking?
Primary steelmaking is the most common method used today. This involves pushing oxygen into molten iron, which lowers its carbon content. Secondary steelmaking is not as ubiquitous, but the process is still quite common. It deploys an electric arc to liquefy iron.
And this is where it gets interesting. ArcelorMittal has developed a new arc flash system that runs on green hydrogen instead of coal, and it’s not the only steelmaker to switch to green hydrogen (read more about the green hydrogen trend here and here).
Hyundai also worked on a hydrogen powered electric arc system with green hydrogen. Apparently the whole steel industry is pivoting in that direction, so keep an eye out for it.
In the meantime, E-Motive does not aim to settle the count of battery electric vehicles versus fuel cell electric vehicles. It’s about deploying technology at your fingertips to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars. A case is underway for the use of fuel cells in trucks, locomotives and other heavy-duty applications, but the industry consensus appears to be that the car buying public is not quite ready to adopt fuel cell cars. en masse.
With that in mind, let’s note what Owain Davies, head of vehicle architecture for the E-Motive project, says about the new vehicle’s battery.
Davies notes that a fully autonomous electric vehicle can and should adopt different battery designs focused on the MaaS (Mobility as a Service) model.
Specifically, the E-Motive is designed as a walk-in vehicle with a flat floor, so it looks more like stepping into a subway car than sliding into a sedan.
The E-Motive leverages the advanced high strength steel (AHSS) of the global steel industry to meet the demands of this particular approach to automotive design, Davies explains.
“AHSS solutions for high voltage battery packaging minimize warping in the battery box volume, protecting modules and power electronics from damage and reducing the risk of thermal runaway by providing better thermal containment.” He said. âAdditionally, the use of AHSS allows us a greater level of flexibility when making battery design decisions around the unique vehicle architecture for stand-alone MaaS applications.â
Among safety and performance considerations, Davies lists “many options for the architecture and integration of the packs” and “reduced manufacturing cycle times for the assembly of the pack from the airframe to the vehicle (the cycle refers to high volume manufacturing that meets consumer demand).
It all sounds very interesting, but don’t hold your breath for the E-Motive to hit the mass market. WorldAutoSteel is banking on additional battery upgrades and other technology tweaks to be released before the target launch year of 2030.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: Courtesy of WorldAutoSteel.
Appreciate the originality of CleanTechnica? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician or Ambassador – or Patreon Patron.