Electric motors and light design: the European congress on Sustainable Materials for Future Mobility focuses on the transition towards Zero Emission mobility, relying on sustainable raw materials and innovative materials, with a limited carbon footprint
by Giuseppe Giordano
During the congress “Sustainable Materials for Future Mobility. Electrification & Lightweight Design”, held in Turin from October 7th to the 9th, more than seventy speakers developed the great strategic themes inherent to electrical mobility and the simultaneous lightweighting of means of transport. The congress was organized by EIT RawMaterials.
EIT RM is part of The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), an EU body created by the European Union in 2008 to strengthen the ability of countries in the Union to innovate and increase the technological level of industries and services. Currently the EIT is an integral part of Horizon 2020, the EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
Today EIT can count on a network with over 1000 partners and it is therefore the largest network in Europe for R&D activity. Through EIT, new ideas are supported and the best way is found to turn them into products and services, and consequently into jobs and growth. EIT’s institutional objectives include job creation in the various countries of the Union.
In order to reach these objectives, EIT’s activity is structured in several Innovation Communities dedicated to innovation in specific sectors, from the food industry to health, from climate to energy. Particularly, in 2015 the community was defined which deals with raw materials, aptly called EIT RawMaterials and headquartered in Berlin. The community soon became the world’s largest consortium in the raw materials segment and it principally acts as a support to the European industry for all aspects related to the availability of raw materials in Europe. This support also results in research and training activity mainly addressed to the development of circular economy in the EU.
The EIT RawMaterials network includes more than 120 core and associate partners and roughly 200 project partners from leading industry in various sectors of raw materials, universities and research institutions from more than 20 EU countries.
EIT RM was recently structured in six regional Innovation Hubs in Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Poland and Sweden, called Co-Location Centres (CLCs), that represent different regional ecosystems connecting industry, research and education.
Three days of works on materials for the car of the future
The first day of the congress was dedicated to the definition of the general role of raw materials in the creation of a sustainable mobility system. Sustainable raw materials may become the “oil of the future”, that is, a great wealth for those organizations like the EU capable of developing a policy for this industry which will take into account the needs of the transportation industry. Particularly, the need of new materials for the automotive industry and its outlook from now to 2030 was presented, as well as the distribution of the different raw materials among the main global industrial players.
The second day of the congress was dedicated to electric mobility and speeches were divided into four sessions, respectively dedicated to the analysis of sustainability of the sources of raw materials and the definition of the relative standards; to the development of batteries and their recycling; to the role of magnets in electrical traction systems; to fuel cell batteries based on hydrogen technology.
The challenge of lightweighting
The third day of the congress was dedicated to the lightweighting of means of transport and the presentation of memoirs was subdivided into three sessions: steel; aluminium alloys; composite materials.
In the light alloy session, the memoir by Claudio Mus, R&D Director of Endurance Overseas, brought attention to the possible attribution of costs to various materials in cars. According to Mus, the sum of the different types of steel will keep on representing the main material with a value greater than 55% in the car of the future before the electric car. In Figure 2 a possible subdivision among different materials is shown, identifying the steel and aluminium compartments. The percentage of aluminium, equal to 11%, is subdivided among structural castings (2%) and other types of products made out of light alloys. Aluminium ranks second after steels and ahead of polymeric materials.
Besides the comparison on the percentage of use of the different materials, Claudio Mus also provides an economic comparison. If the cost of a particular steel is considered equal to 100, figure 3 shows the increase due to the realization of the same detail with different materials.
The memoir includes an evaluation of the effect of the reduction of weight on the runtime of an electric car. If all other factors are kept constant, a reduction in the vehicle’s weight of 100 kg increases the range of the electric car by about 11 km. A similar increase in range may be obtained by increasing the capacity of the batteries from 1.1 to 1.2 kWh. A cost comparison is therefore necessary between the increase in battery capacity and reduction in weight to obtain the desired range value.
Aluminium and circular economy
Gino Schiona, one of the greatest Italian experts in circular economy and former general manager of CiAl-Consorzio imballaggi Alluminio, examined in depth the emerging trends linked to circular economy with special reference to aluminium and its life cycle. While the current economic model based on the extraction of raw materials and their processing right up to manufacturing with a consequent generation of waste is considered linear, using scraps and recycling products at the end of their life cycle represents the economic stream as being circular.
The speech also included a brief overview of the European scenario as regards vehicles at the end of their life cycle and European legal instruments which regulate the flow of scraps produced. Every year the end of the life cycle of vehicles generates between 8 and 9 million tons of waste in the various EU countries. Directive 200/53/EC was recently emended by Directive 2018/849. This legal tool compels vehicle manufacturers to take specific action to reduce scraps and reuse and recycle the materials used. Starting from 2015, manufacturers pledge to guarantee the recovery of 95% of various components of vehicles at the end of their life cycle and the recycling of a minimum of 85% of materials. For 2020 a raise of these targets is already foreseen.
Roberta Niboli, managing director of Raffmetal and Vice Chairman of European Aluminium, presented her paper “High performance recycled aluminium alloy“, the last Italian contribution to the Congress, and explained the standpoint of Raffmetal, one of the main European players in the industrial compartment of the production of aluminium alloy ingots through the remelting of scraps. Thanks to aluminium’s well-known properties, such as, the strong energy saving which favours remelting against primary and the great reduction in CO2 emission linked to using secondary rather than primary aluminium, industries manufacturing secondary aluminium during the next two decades should be able to produce up to 8 million tons of light metal to respond to the increase in the European demand of aluminium without increasing the imports of primary metal, which should become stable at the current level of roughly 4.2 million tons per year (Figure 5). Effective policies are therefore needed to improve the recovery of aluminium scraps and their recycling within the Union. Current European production of aluminium scrap totals about 8.9 million tons, but 10% of this quantity is exported.
To obtain positive environmental results, the secondary aluminium industry must develop along with traditional products, new ones allowing the use of secondary alloys for sophisticated applications. This, for instance, is the case of the SilvAL 10® alloy developed by Raffmetal and destined to the OEM segment of the automotive industry. SilvAL 10® is a heat treatment alloy. The values of the tensile properties of the alloy in its T7 and T5 temper are reported in figure 6, as opposed to the values usually required for automotive applications for this class if alloys.