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Researchers aim to produce a safe battery-powered truck

Researchers to investigate ways to produce a lightweight, fire-safe battery enclosure for zero-emission trucks. 

The nine-month project will be driven by Composites Evolution in collaboration with the University of Wolverhampton and will aim to develop a new high-temperature composite material that is suitable for large battery enclosures for electric freight vehicles. 

The project has secured £183,000 worth of funding from the Department for Transport under a scheme aimed at boosting the UK’s zero-emission road freight. 

Brendon Weager, technical director at Composites Evolution Ltd, said: ‘Freight accounts for around 20% of road vehicle emissions so there is substantial interest in switching to zero-emission trucks to help meet the UK’s target of net-zero carbon by 2050. However, these trucks will need large, heavy batteries to provide sufficient range.

‘Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) present a fire hazard in the event of a thermal runaway caused, for example, by overheating, short-circuits, impacts or collisions. Therefore, electric trucks with large LIBs present a potential risk of severe fire and injury, particularly when in urban areas, and/or carrying hazardous cargo.

‘Current lightweight solutions struggle to withstand the high temperatures of such fires. This project will develop a new lightweight high-temperature composite material suitable for large battery enclosures.

‘It will also prototype a battery module for an electric/hybrid truck with the aim being to develop a pack that is significantly lighter than current solutions whilst remaining fire-safe.’

white and red truck on road during daytime

Dr Klaudio Bari, principal lecturer in Composite Engineering in the University’s School of Engineering, added: ‘The novel battery module design will incorporate new lightweight, high-power cells, embedded cooling tubes and electronics, and high C-rate capability, making it ideally suited for large battery systems in electric delivery trucks or hybrid powertrain systems. 

‘The composite will be impact resistant (protecting battery cells from damage), electrically insulating (reducing the risk of electric shock from these large, high voltage battery packs), vibration absorbing (reducing the risk of damage to electronics), corrosion-resistant and have low embodied CO2. 

‘The University has investigated a range of candidate materials for truck battery boxes and has identified a novel composite with a 750°C service temperature.’

In related news, in October 2020, Air Quality News investigated the true risks surrounding electric vehicle fires. 

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