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Overcoming the e-mobility challenges with X-ray tomography

by Adrien on 24 Jan 2022 at 13h56
As the drive towards e-mobility continues the requirements for electric drives are changing. Governments and public bodies continue to press for cleaner transportation, e-mobility solutions are increasingly in demand. New Electric Vehicles (NEVs) offers new potential for sustainable and low emission transportation.
 
 
Scalable enough to operate in all kind of transportation from bikes and cars to trucks, buses and aircrafts, E-mobility components requires high-quality inspections at each step of the production life cycle. Manufacturers and OEMs of New Electric Vehicles and components such as FCEVs (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles) and BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) need to reinvent themselves to adapt the production and assembly of critical electric vehicle components.
 
 

E-MOBILITY IS FACING MANY CHALLENGEs

Extent range, reduce cost, increase safety are the main challenges of e-mobility technologies. These 3 challenges can be solved with the help of X-ray computed tomography.
 
 
 

EXTENT RANGE

The range refers to the distance an electric transportation system can travel before the battery needs to be recharge. FCEVs travel range is approximately the same than the one of a conventionnal combustion engine.
 
« Range anxiety » is no longer an issue with electric vehicles, as the charging infrastructure is growing fastly and the battery performances seriously grew in the last decade and is still under important R&D investments.
 

REDUCE COST

Electric technologies are still costly, especially batteries which are expensive to produce and recycle. The e-mobility market growth goes along with a drop in the price of e-technologies.
 
X-ray CT technology by reducing time-to-market and improving battery performance accompanies the market evolution. In addition, another X-ray CT benefit is the waste reduction by identifying in a non-destructive way complete batteries that can then be released on the market instead of being destructed.
 
Transitioning to EVs is a good way to make significant savings. Indeed, maintenance costs are reduced as Evs are inherently more reliable than internal combustion engine vehicles due to fewer mechanical parts prone to failure and often providing better data to enable preventive maintenance.
 

INCREASE SAFETY

Non-destructive testing enables the detection of structural flaws like cracks, porosities and inclusions during the manufacturing process. The investigation of such defects reveals critical physical features that reflect poorly on the component’s quality and performance aspects.
 
With early defect detection, you will avoid warranty & reclaim issues as well as a possible bad reputation on your market. By the way, you also increase safety while reducing maintenance and error proneness, making your product with highest quality increasing safety.
 

High-technology components that require deep insights

The 5 main NEVs components such batteries, fuel cells, electric motors, electric drive trains or power electronics differs significantly from a combustion engine.
 
RX Solutions X-ray CT portfolio brings the perfect solution for each of these components providing deep insights for quality assurance to assure reliability, efficiency and safety of your NEVs. For each of these components, X-ray CT bring a lot of added value to your manufacturing chain.
 

BATTERIES

Batteries are the key component of EVs for efficiency, performance and daily usability. Optimisez batteries. It’s also the most expensive component. As the material and production expenses involved in making an EV battery account for a major amount of the vehicle's total cost, getting the design right while limiting costs is above all very important in generating a price-competitive E-vehicle.
 
Manufacturing EV batteries require balancing the desire for high-charging capacity, low charging time and long travel range. The material needs to be carefully selected to be as purs as possibles. Every manufacturing step has to be perfectly handled for safety and reliability aspects.
  
Today, lithium-ion technology is set to be a standard for all-electric cars but while lithium-ion technology continues to improve, another battery technology seems to be the future of long travel range: solid-state batteries. This technology will increase both the storage capacity and the stability of the lithium-ion cells. A hydrogen fuel cell is another technology under high R&D investment.
 
X-ray Computed Tomography, especially X-ray Nano-tomography, also called the nano-CT play an important role in technology improvement. The use of laboratory microtomography has been validated for the analysis of the 3D microstructure in Li-ion cells with silicon electrodes, both for ex-situ analyses on an inert sample and for in situ experiments. This breakthrough enables laboratories and research centres to significantly accelerate their research and development. X-ray, as a non-destructive technology, give a way to inspect the external as well as internal structures of the electrodes, membranes or even a complete battery assembly without any consequence for the part.
 
Non-destructive technology, such as X-ray CT helps to speed up the development and implementation of new battery technologies. Thus, it contributes to reducing the cost of e-transportation technologies.
 
X-ray inspection can support each manufacturing step, from the development and optimization of new batteries to the final assembly line, to be sure to release a perfect stack.
 

Fuel-cells

On a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV), the fuel cell system provides all the energy needed to power the electric motor. X-ray CT helps to ensure the safety of fuel-cell technology, before being released on the market by giving a holistic inspection of the FCEVs main components. X-ray Micro-CT and Nano-CT are very efficient technologies for R&D enhancements of current technologies as well as inspection directly on FCEVs production lines.
 
The fuel cell system provides all the energy needed to power the electric motor. The fuel cell stack is the most important component. A single fuel cell generates a small amount of power, which is why engineers stack them in layers by bipolar plates. In a passenger car, a complete stack can go up to 400 fuel cells together. For higher power requirements, the number of stacks can be increased accordingly.
 
Fuel cells manufacturing is quite complex with always the need to comply with safety and reliability aspects. Manufacturing a system as complex as a fuel-cell stack on a massive scale is not an easy task. Each fuel cell stack needs to be perfectly efficient. X-ray CT, as a non-destructive technology, can be integrated at each step of the FCEVs life-cycle to strengthen the manufacturing process.
 

Electric motor

Electric motors operating principle is relatively simple, it is composed of an electric stator and a rotor with integrated hairpins to generate thrust from electrical energy provided by batteries. Each motor consists in a spinning rotor and a stator mounted in the housing which creates a magnetic field when current flows through the windings.
 
The current technologies have seen a difference in the hairpin conception than the previous generations. Hairpin stators completely replaced conventional round-wire windings in current e-vehicles. These high-precision hairpins ensure enhanced performance, continuous power flow, and high reproducibility.
Manufacturers of electric motors are ensuring the highest possible level of conductivity, which relies on hairpin welding quality with low porosities at critical points. X-ray CT hairpin inspection can be useful at several levels: hairpin precise positioning evaluation, welding points geometry and distances, internal voids and porosities that could damage the electrical current, the general hairpin positioning relative to the stator.
 
Hairpin X-ray CT inspection is not as easy as it seems, as hairpins weldings are always done after assembly thus hairpins are always scanned with the housing. The housing is a massive part quite difficult to scan that can create many artefacts on the hairpin scan.
 
Inline X-ray CT inspection can be very useful to accurately inspect hairpins and automatically look for porosities & defects inside the welding seam, in a non-destructive way.
 
 
 

Electric drivetrains

Electric powertrains are used in vehicles of all scales and exist in various configurations, from two driven wheels to four driven wheels, with motors between one and four as well as inverters and dynamometers. This complex assembly requires high accuracy and reliability to be able to provide all along the vehicle lifetime enough performance and meet the automotive manufacturer quality standards.
 
Components and sub-assemblies can be deeply inspected with X-ray CT to improve their efficiency and reliability.
 

Power electronics

Tomography is a powerful technology that can be used for a wide variety of applications, ranging from material analysis to assembly inspection and dimensional measurements.
 
In the context of failure analysis for embedded electronics, high-resolution tomography allows inspection of internal components without risking further damage to the offending part (which could lead to damage or loss of elements relevant to the conclusion).
 
Equipment such as the EasyTom CT portfolio from RX Solutions allows to work easily at several scales, going from a global observation of the component to a very high resolution targeted analysis, despite the large size of the part to be analyzed, which makes it a tool of choice for failure analysis in embedded electronics.
 
 

Benefits of inspecting EVs components with X-ray CT  

- From a single component to a complete assembly
 
- A technology that can be used at each step of your product life cycle
 
- A more efficient look inside: holistic inspection of hydrogen components, for the internal as well as external structures
 
- Only one scan for a wide range of analyses of all sorts
 
- Easy automation of repetitive tasks including easy replication of analyses across periodic object structures
 
- Inspection costs and times drastically reduced
 
 X-ray CT is a nondestructive evaluation technique that can generate detailed internal and external views of the full 3D microstructure, without the need for disassembling. X-ray CT is the best technology to get a fast, non-destructive and detailed examination of the internal and external structures or of an industrial component or assembly.
 
With just a quick CT scan, every structural and dimensional aspect of a workpiece can be assessed through a simple CT dataset. RX Solutions X-ray CT solutions bring innovations into your lab or manufacturing plants, to get all the insights of your EVs’ components and assemblies.
 
 
 

Our innovative X-ray CT solutions are suitable for product development, turning ideas into reality from brainstorming to the actual product ready for manufacturing. User-driven improvements are the core of our business, offering you optimal solutions with the right and powerful interface & components.
 
For a better understanding of X-ray CT, check our blog or contact an expert at www.rx-solutions.com