The range of the vehicle is the king, especially for the Indian market. By reducing the vehicle’s weight, the manufacturers reduce the pressure on their already stressed battery packs, giving them better mileage. The optimum temperature of a lithium-ion battery is between 20-30oC. In India, this temperature range remains only for a few months; hence it has become almost compulsory for EV makers to keep their vehicles lightweighted to give their customers the best range possible.
According to the Material Technologies Shaping the Future of Electric Vehicles research by Frost & Sullivan, a typical powertrain electric motor is 125% heavier than a combustion engine. As a result, the battery is one of the fattiest parts of an electric vehicle. Global automotive and environmentalists are researching how to reduce the size and weight of a standard lithium-ion battery pack. Apart from the usual benefits of lowering the vehicle’s weight like better acceleration, research suggests that reducing the weight by just 10% for electric cars can improve the battery and vehicle performance by at least 6%. There have been a few developments in this respect, but none have been used in the Indian market yet. Reducing the size of a battery pack is a matter of cellular chemistry level R&D. Hence, vehicle manufacturers have come up with new ways to reduce the weight of their vehicles.
Ways to reduce an EV’s weight
The first way to reduce the weight of an electric vehicle is by simply cutting down on the overall body framework. Rather than using the standard auto-grade iron, replace it with aluminium. Aluminium is an EV manufacturer’s dream metal, as it has a higher strength-to-weight ratio compared to other metals. It also can soak up the energy coming out of the battery, and last and most importantly, it costs less without any throwback to safety. The chassis size in the upcoming electric options is getting leaner. This reduces the vehicle’s weight and makes the vehicle easy to handle and suitable for different terrains. Along with aluminium, automotive players are also researching other components like carbon fibre reinforced polymer. However, the research is at a very nascent stage.
The result of these studies might sound good but reducing the weight of an electric vehicle comes with its challenges. Government of India is very supportive of the mission to electrify vehicles. Still, the truth is to lighten the weight of the vehicle, the alternative materials are difficult to source and cost a lot. So, if we build a lightweight EV with good range, but it costs a fortune to the end consumer, it somehow defeats the primary purpose.
Along with this, trying and adopting new materials will bring quality control challenges, and some of these materials might even be unrecyclable as they bond and sync with other materials. The complex chemistry of material will make adopting any new lightweight material difficult.
India stands at a crucial automotive manufacturing stage, which will pivot and challenge the traditional structure, but this is what the electric revolution is all about.