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An Automotive IQ exclusive interview with Mr. Ferraris, Thermal Systems Development at Centro Ricerche Fiat, discussing the main challenges and future prospects when it comes to batteries and drive systems for EVs.
What are the main challenges when it comes to thermal management optimisation?
I think that the vehicle integration of such a complex systems and the holistic control strategies development will be the biggest challenge and the solution at the same time for targets achievement in terms of temperatures for the batteries but also in terms of cabin comfort. These are the two main topics for thermal management in this kind of vehicle (BEVs and HEVs). The other important devices which have to be considered in terms of optimization are the PTC heater for cabin and HV heater for battery. In the BEV there isn’t any kind of heat source available, so actually, electric heaters are extremely diffused; but range extension will be achievable thinking mainly on these components and trying to avoid to use them. So, in my opinion, all the solutions have to be focused on this direction: trying to achieve the heating temperature targets through other more efficient systems.
In your opinion, how does the future of thermal management in batteries look like?
I’m not really a specialist about the batteries, but I think that the materials will play a key role. Gap fillers will maybe help to achieve homogeneity of the temperature inside the batteries as well as all the solution useful to reduce the effort that we have to provide with the additional cooling or heating systems which have to be connected with the batteries themselves. I think that there will be also space for heat pipes - this is an amazing technology already diffused in aerospace applications and in small electronic devices, laptops, smartphones, and so on - the batteries will be, of course, bigger and heavier but the architecture will be simplified.
How has the demand of system from OEMs changed, now that the majority of them have announced going either fully-electric or hybrid by 2025?
First of all, the OEMs have to understand the market trends and decide what kind of business will give more profits; so I’m figuring out that if you want to go, for example, in the direction of a small car, car-sharing, city cars, this segment maybe can use a different approach comparing this solutions with hybrid vehicles or long-range cars. The demand is different. This aspect will have impact also on the subsystems design and solutions. I’m quite convinced that the different application will drive different design approaches. The way to achieve the targets will be the simplification, so as much as you can design and develop such a system simplified, you can achieve the cost targets together with the performance requirement achievement. For the OEMs this is the main target.