In May 2016, the German government announced an Electric Mobility funding programme. Anyone who chooses to purchase an electric vehicle will receive an ‘environmental bonus’ of EUR 3000 or 4000. Now, one year later the topic is still in the news and it is still gaining in relevance! We spoke to Dr Michael Harenbrock, Business Development Manager Electric Mobility at MANN+HUMMEL in Ludwigsburg, about the opportunities that Electric Mobility offers MANN+HUMMEL.

Dr Harenbrock, the Electric Mobility funding programme for Germany has been announced in May 2016: what is the government hoping to achieve?

Dr Harenbrock: This funding should sufficiently reduce the current price difference between electric vehicles and conventional passenger cars to raise demand for e-vehicles. With a higher rate of production, manufacturing costs will fall, meaning that in a few years’ time the funding will no longer be necessary. The funding will also facilitate the deployment of a charging infrastructure to ensure that even long journeys can be undertaken without running out of power.

Are there similar initiatives in other countries?

Dr Harenbrock: There are funding programmes already in place. In Norway, for example, the proportion of e-vehicles among new registrations was already at 12% back in 2014, caused by tax exemptions which made electric vehicles cheaper. China, too, is pouring funding into Electric Mobility, with the main aim of improving air quality: two million electric vehicles are to be produced there in 2020.

Are there any laws that are also pushing Electric Mobility?

Dr Harenbrock: Yes there are. From 2021, passenger cars within the EU have to emit more than 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre, and OEMs risk substantial fines if they do not comply. Similar regulations are in preparation or in place in other countries, too. For large, heavy vehicles, such as SUVs, the required emission values cannot be reached without the electrification of the powertrain. Of course the power used for vehicle charging must be generated from renewable energy sources if the desired CO2 emission reduction should be achieved.

MANN+HUMMEL is the leading parter to the automotive industry in the filtration sector. How do leadership in filtration and Electric Mobility work together?

Dr Harenbrock: From my perspective, very well. MANN+HUMMEL products protect not only combustion engines against particles and damaging environmental influences, but also the electrified powertrains of e-vehicles, especially the valuable HV Battery System. Our products help to ensure that battery systems reach the required lifetime.

How does MANN+HUMMEL approach Electric Mobility?

Dr Harenbrock: Our approach is to use our existing competencies –filtration and separation, plastics technology and functional integration – to protect high voltage batteries against high temperatures, contamination by particles and liquids, overpressure, mechanical damage and moisture. In other words, we create a ‘comfortable environment’ for the batteries to help to retain their performance and lifetime.

How is this achieved?

Dr Harenbrock: Air-cooled battery systems require clean air. This is where our air filter elements come in, using materials from cabin air filtration.

plastic-frames-for-high-voltage-battery

Which other technologies can be converted for the purposes of Electric Mobility?

Dr Harenbrock: Let’s take our drying agent boxes for pneumatic braking systems as an example. They remove moisture from the air in order to ensure the functioning of the braking system. High moisture levels in the air also pose a safety risk for battery systems as moisture could condense on cold surfaces in the battery system. To avoid this, we have developed air dryer cartridges which keep the air in battery systems dry and mitigate condensation.

Can you give us any further examples?

Dr Harenbrock: Certainly. In order to protect the battery housing against mechanical damage, we provide pressure compensation and emergency degassing. For this purpose, we use a gas-permeable membrane, which reliably holds back particles and fluids. This membrane tears if there is excessive over-pressure in the system, reducing the negative effects on the vehicle and its passengers in the event of damage. Our battery frames provide stability for pouch battery cells and ensure equal distribution of cooling fluid to the cooling plates. In order to be able to precisely manufacture these parts, we have expanded our plastics competency. All of these products are in series production for major European and North American OEMs.

What are you currently working on? 

Dr Harenbrock: We are currently seeing a strong trend towards liquid-cooled high-voltage battery systems. Here, too, lies the possibility of adapting current thermal management products for engines to the Electric Mobility sector. In the future, there is also a good potential for applying our plastics technologies in battery systems.

How would you summarise the situation?

Dr Harenbrock: Electric Mobility offers an opportunity to MANN+HUMMEL for a consequent extension of our product portfolio. There are many applications and competencies that could be converted for electrified vehicles.

Final question: What is your perspective on the future of fuel cell vehicles? Toyota has just launched the first vehicle in series production on the market – the ‘Mirai’.

Dr Harenbrock: That is a very interesting question, and one that we will cover in our next blog post. Stay tuned!

What do you think? We would love to hear your opinion!