SABIC committed to high-performance polymer solutions for safer, sustainable, scalable and efficient e-mobility and energy storage

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SABIC committed to high-performance polymer solutions for safer, sustainable, scalable and efficient e-mobility and energy storage

SABIC’s theme at this year’s Battery Show in Stuttgart approaches the industry with a bold claim of ‘Powering Excellence in Batteries and Energy Storage’ across mobile and stationary application areas with one of the broadest offerings of thermoplastic polymers, technology focus and design expertise for battery customers. With concepts, pilot and commercial solutions on display and in key visuals, the exhibit aims to inspire the battery value chain to leverage the wide innovation potential of thermoplastic materials and help manufacturers solve major challenges in the battery space: safety, scalable manufacturing, energy efficiency and durability. Dhanendra Nagwanshi, Global Marketing Leader, EV Batteries & Electricals from SABIC Petrochemicals, and Luc Govaerts, Technology Director SABIC Specialties, share the company’s vision and strategy for the market.

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What is SABIC’s perspective of the battery industry and your company’s role in addressing the challenges of a world whose demand for energy is rising steeply while facing climate change?
At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, 197 countries have pledged to phase out fossil-fired energy production and become carbon neutral over the next few decades. The implementation of these ambitious goals requires a major increase in harvesting renewable energy, such as wind, solar and water power, along with significant improvements in safe and efficient energy storage solutions for use in all segments of human society. The future is electric, and SABIC is firmly committed to supporting the battery industry with our materials and design expertise to help accelerate this energy transition.

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When you speak of significant improvements, which are some of the key challenges in battery design where your thermoplastic materials can make a significant difference?
One of the most critical challenges in automotive and e-mobility is to enhance the resistance of EV battery components to fire. We have all seen those few but highly publicized cases when electrical vehicles catch fire and how long it can take to put out the flames fueled by the battery packs. However, the real safety issue here is that EVs, in contrast to traditional combustion vehicles, don’t go to sleep when they’re not in use, but are normally charged over hours and unattended. The fire safety of batteries, therefore, must be maximized to prevent thermal runaway situations and the spreading of flames not just on the road, but also when charging.

From our SABIC® PP FR and STAMAX FR to NORYL NHP and VALOX FR resins, we offer a wide range of halogen-free flame retardant compounds that show unique intumescent and char-forming properties, stopping the propagation of flames in the case of a fire and eliminating the need for additional thermal blankets, such as required when using metal designs. These FR materials have an excellent fit in safe battery module housings, EV charging connectors, brackets and frames, for example. At our booth, we’re showing 12 x 12 inch test plates underscoring the superior fire shielding performance of STAMAX FR resin vs. aluminum when exposed to a flame temperature of 1,000°C over 5 minutes.

Speaking of metals, what about weight reduction?
Thermoplastics provide an inherently greater strength to weight ratio than metals, but not just on a component by component basis. More significant benefits can be derived by using their design flexibility to consolidate and create more compact battery designs by integrating features and reducing the number of individual parts. Beyond lightweighting, which is instrumental in increasing the reach of EVs, this approach can also increase the reliability and integrity of designs, save assembly steps and reduce overall manufacturing costs.

The high degree of integration possible is illustrated by an industry-first, lightweighting pHEV battery tray cover using a halogen-free flame-retardant (HFFR) SABIC PP compound. Other outstanding examples are a prototype EV battery pack with key components in various SABIC polymers for part consolidation, up to 12% weight savings, integrated impact protection and excellent electrical insulation compared to existing EV aluminum battery packs; and two prototype honeycomb structures of metal plastic hybrid with NORYL GTX as well as an all-plastic battery pack side impact protection in XENOY HTX resin for significant weight and costs savings vs. metals.

Your portfolio of thermoplastic resins for the battery industry appears to be differentiated into polymers marketed as part of your Petrochemicals portfolio and advanced engineering plastics offered by your Specialties business. How will the market distinguish your offerings?
The two business units shared space at the Battery Show to show how they can complement each other and align to best meet market and customer specifications. The particular application fit of a material may depend on the particular market segment and production volume as well as on the desired design integration etc. This is where our dedicated application and design support comes into play, assisting customers in identifying the best suitable material and maximizing its benefits.

What are some of your more specific engineering plastic innovations on display for the battery market?
We are proudly introducing new NORYL NHP 6011 and 6012 resins, which combine robust flame retardancy with high impact strength and can be used in battery components. Our NORYL GTX technology, which has an excellent fit in battery top covers, corner support plates and other demanding structural parts, is also opening new opportunities as part of honeycomb laminates for superior lightweight side crash protection components of battery units, offering excellent dimensional stability and lower water absorption compared to other incumbent materials. We’re also showing selected pilot and commercial applications using advanced LNP copolymer compounds which deliver low temperature ductility, good flow, flame retardancy and laser weldability.

Two other highlights are the award winning ELCRES HTV 150 dielectric film to support the transition from conventional silicon (Si) based semiconductors to next-generation, wide-band-gap technologies based on silicon carbide (SiC) for high-efficiency EV inverter modules, and certified bio-renewable ULTEM resins with 10% lower carbon footprint compared to fossil-based incumbent materials for use in gaskets and insulation plates of high-performance industrial batteries.

Apart from materials and applications in e-mobility, how is SABIC contributing to the growing market segment of stationary energy storage?
We envision a considerable number of future stationary energy storage systems to rely on second-life former EV batteries as the circular economy of plastics evolves. Moreover, EVs themselves can serve as temporary stationary energy suppliers e.g. in remote areas or as emergency power units. In another area, our Everflow joint venture is actively working on implementing the next generation vanadium redox flow (VRF) long-duration batteries designed to help generators in power plants manage large surges in demand or balance the variable availability of power from renewable sources.

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