As the automotive industry increasingly designs and produces more sustainable, electronically-powered vehicles, manufacturers will need to adapt by converting traditionally ICE-compliant parts to be compliant with EV parts—this means higher voltage batteries, more efficient heatsinks, lighter weight components, and sustainably sourced materials. And with more and more automotive players moving to offer their customers hybrid and EV technology, now is the time to re-think part designs and effective materials to keep up with the automotive trends.
Although the events of 2020 significantly decreased demand for EVs and other automotive vehicles temporarily, the global electric vehicle market demand is expected to rise at a CAGR of 41.5% from 2022 to 2027 -- with the market size expected to surpass US $718 billion by 2030.
For years, industry experts have been projecting a stark rise in the electronification of vehicles. According to one study, a more competitive retail price will be the most apparent tipping point for EV sales over traditional ICE vehicles. And to do that, whole-of-life costs, reliability, improved convenience models (more accessible charging stations), legislative incentives, and more recently, demand-side sustainability awareness will need to be closely examined. Each of these factors are continuously growing in favor of electric vehicles. Major players like Volkswagen, Ford, Chrysler, and BMW are investing heavily in electrification technologies.
The importance of reducing component weight in automotive and EV designs
Benefits of aluminum in auto applications
Aside from these factors, one major roadblock to widespread electrification is that it increases the vehicle’s curb weight—a development that needs to be countered by the use of lightweighting techniques. Lighter components make for lighter vehicles, which in turn improves energy efficiency for both electric and hybrid vehicles. Considering the rapid pace of development in electric powertrain, batteries, charge ports, and transmissions of electric vehicles and their impact on the weight of the vehicle, the need for suppliers with extensive experience and capabilities for lightweight manufacturing is on the rise.
That’s where aluminum comes in. Aluminum’s strength, corrosion resistance, low weight and heat dissipating properties offer mechanical designers significant advantages. Thin-walled aluminum castings are also able to withstand the highest operating temperatures of all die cast alloys. Specifically for the automotive industry, choosing alloys with these properties improves fuel efficiency of hybrid vehicles and allows both hybrid and electric cars to accelerate faster, brake quicker and handle better.
Zinc as an alternative weight saving solution
And in parts where weight is not a factor, zinc can be a great alternative. Because most engineers focus heavily on the weight of the actual material, zinc is often overlooked when it comes to lightweight die casting applications, when really, zinc could be a more economical choice.
Because of zinc’s greater fluidity, die castings can be made thinner, more intricate, and more complex, eliminating the need for secondary operations that are almost always necessary for aluminum and magnesium alloys. With less material being used in thin-wall applications, parts automatically become lighter, creating savings in material cost and energy—when melting and recycling.
Another benefit of zinc is the extended die life it provides. Due to the low melting temperature of zinc die casting alloys, dies for zinc parts can last up to 10 times longer than dies used for aluminum and about five times longer than dies used for magnesium. When designing high-volume, complex components, zinc becomes extremely cost effective when considering the tooling investment.
Read about additional benefits of zinc.
Die casting vital shielding components for increased electronic features
Another roadblock in the EV industry is the need to handle the ever-increasing number of electronic sensors. Precisely cast, thin-walled housings are needed to position electronic componentry and other parts, like heat sinks, within a net-shape design. Die casting allows designs with internal features to be manufactured into the part without the need for additional operations, significantly increasing accuracy and saving on costly secondary processes.
As autonomous vehicles rise in popularity, sensors, radars, and cameras become increasingly advanced and critical to the function of the car. Alloys like zinc, with high wear resistance and structural integrity, make it perfect for the creation of the multi-faceted, highly complex shapes used in automotive safety and electronics components. Whereas alloys like aluminum, with high thermal conductivity and lightweight capabilities, make it the ideal material for battery packs, motor housings, and heat sink systems.
Processes and alloys matter
As the EV and hybrid vehicle industry continue to rapidly grow, the importance of choosing the right manufacturing process and alloy are critical to not only the safety and performance of the vehicle, but also to the success and budget of the project. Lightweighting has many benefits, including reducing the energy consumption needed to propel heavy vehicles, and die cast alloys can also provide solutions for the increase in electronic components in vehicles with their net-shaped designs and thermal qualities. Contact our team on skilled engineers to embark on the design for manufacturing journey.
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