Electric freight battery project wins funding

Innovate UK has awarded almost £250,000 to a collaborative project aiming to develop a lightweight, fire-safe battery enclosure for electric freight vehicles.

The nine-month project will see manufacturer Composites Evolution Ltd collaborate with Wolverhampton University’s School of Engineering, MEP Technologies Ltd and Carr Reinforcements Ltd to produce a new high-temperature composite material suitable for large battery enclosures for zero-emission trucks.

The resulting battery pack aims to be lighter and safer than those currently available, addressing road freight sector concerns regarding range/payload and lithium-ion battery safety. 

“Lithium-ion batteries present a substantial fire risk in the event of a thermal runway caused, for example, by overcharging, short-circuits, impacts or collisions,” said Stuart Morrison, founder and CEO at MEP Technology. “Therefore, electric trucks with large battery tractions present a potential risk of severe fire and injury, particularly when in urban areas and/or carrying hazardous cargo.”

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According to Dr Klaudio Bari, principal lecturer in composite engineering at Wolverhampton University, the novel battery module design’s new lightweight material will work with C-rated power cells, passive thermal and cell management systems. He added that the university will be using its VFE autoclave for the first time to produce and customise the prototype.

The three business partners said the project will create new, highly-skilled jobs and generate value stream revenues throughout the wider UK supply chain with high potential for exports.

Carr Reinforcement’s Eric Taylor said that ‘great weaving skills’ will be required by the company, which will weave a hybrid carbon/Filava fabric twill 2×2 12K with longitudinal strength due to Filava’s carbon and lateral impact strength. 

Belgium-based fibre manufacturer ISOMATEX Ltd is partnering with the team and has investigated a range of chemical etching for the Filava fibres. The company will support the project by adjusting its surface treatment to suit the wettability of polysiloxane resin.