Firms develop plastics for voltage shielding, insulation in EVs

Al Greenwood


MEXICO CITY (ICIS)–Chemical companies are developing new grades of plastic to address voltage shielding and insulation that electric vehicles (EVs) need to protect their components.

The stakes are high.

Solvay has a pipeline of new developments that it is betting will have a high potential for growth in 2026-2030, said Francisco Cifuentes, sales manager, specialty polymers Mexico, Solvay Mexicana. He made his comments on the sidelines of the Plastimagen plastics trade show in Mexico.

Solvay recently launched two new grades of plastics that target automobiles.

Ascend Performance Materials recently did a study of nylon 6,6, also known as polyamide 6,6 (PA 6,6), said Steven Manning, global business director, engineering plastics, Ascend Performance Materials. He made his comments on the sidelines of Plastimagen.

That study found that 75% of the nylon 6,6 used in vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (ICE) was either significantly redesigned or eliminated when applied to EVs.

Despite the findings from the study, nylon can still be used in EVs, and Ascend has estimated that it sells 25-30% more materials by volume into EVs versus traditional ICEs.

Last month, Solvay launched Ryton Supreme, a new grade of polyphenyl sulphide (PPS), Cifuentes said. This grade of PPS has a high comparative tracking index (CTI), meaning that it has better insulating properties than a material with a lower CTI.

Many applications in EVs need plastics that transmit little – if any – electricity, while still maintaining other critical properties.

This is becoming more important because auto producers want to develop EVs with faster charging times, Cifuentes said.

Earlier, Solvay introduced Amodel Supreme polyphthalamide (PPA), which has enhanced electrical properties as well as much higher thermal transition temperature than typical grades of the resin, Cifuentes said. The material could be used in connectors.

Other grades of PPA are used in battery holders.

Meanwhile, Solvay has been increasing capacity of polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) to meet growing demand from electric vehicles (EVs) and other applications.

Recently it formed a joint venture with Orbia’s Koura business to build PVDF plants in North American for batteries.

PVDF is used as a lithium-ion binder and separator.

Not only is nylon being used in EVs, it can replace other materials, Manning said.

Ascend has spent a lot of time developing nylon grades that can tolerate the high voltages in EVs, he said.

Ascend displayed the results at its booth in Plastimagen. The nylon used in those parts were bright orange to warn people of high voltages. The parts also have flame retardants.

It contrasts with the traditional black, glass-filled nylons found in ICE vehicles, he said.

One potential application for nylon is to shield components from electro-magnetic interference (EMI).

Currently EVs are using metals for EMI shielding, Manning said. He sees an opening for nylon, which would reduce the weight of the vehicle and allow it to go farther on the same battery charge.

Earlier, Ascend unveiled Starflam X-Protect flame retardant nylon 6,6 that can withstand exposure to 1,100°C direct flame for 15 minutes to protect against thermal runaway, according to the company.

It also introduced Vydyne AVS made from nylon 6,6, which dampens high-frequency vibration from motors and compressors, reducing cabin sound pressure by 80%.

Manning noted that in a traditional ICE vehicle, water pumps, the air conditioner and other components are driven by the engine. In EVs, those components are driven by dedicated motors. Each of those motors needs to be mounted with a bracket.

Those brackets vibrate, and their sounds are magnified by the chassis of the EV, he said.

The right nylon can go a long ways in deadening the noise caused by those vibrating brackets.

Ford is already building its Mach-E EVs at adjusted line in Mexico, said Cifuentes of Solvay Mexicana.

Audi and Volkswagen are also adjusting existing lines to produce EVs in Mexico, he said.

Tesla plans to build a new EV plant in Mexico.

Plastimagen runs through Friday.

Additional reporting by Joseph Chang

Thumbnail shows electric vehicles. Image by Shutterstock.

Focus article by Al Greenwood


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