Electromobility is another sector requiring lightweight automotive construction solutions and reliable suppliers. With its pioneering technologies and outstanding expertise, voestalpine occupies an important position in today’s vehicle production.
Lightweight construction in the electromobility sector demands complex approaches involving a combination of materials, technologies, and construction methods. The innovative developments at technology group voestalpine allow it to adopt such approaches and position itself as a reliable partner to the automotive construction industry, especially for electric vehicles.
Hot forming as the basis for lightweight construction
At voestalpine innovative phs®-hot forming technologies go hand-in-hand with developments in ultra high-strength steels. They combine highly effective forming processes with increased component strength for reliable corrosion-protected vehicle components. This is hugely significant when it comes to the construction of safe battery cases, for example. phs-rollform® allows sections and tubes to be hardened precisely in the areas which will be subjected to particular stresses. The phs-ultraform®, phs-directform®, and phs-rollform® family of technologies have allowed voestalpine to establish itself as a premium supplier of complex vehicle components with outstanding performance properties.
"phs-ultraform® has paved the way for us to internationalize, and has catapulted us into a whole new league within the automotive supply industry. Today we are amongst the top five suppliers in Europe, and the top three in the USA."
With phs facilities in China, the USA, and Germany, voestalpine is excellently positioned in its key markets. Application of the technology continues to be expanded, and the 14th phs facility will soon be opened.
Hollow construction and sections to minimize weight
At voestalpine Tubulars GmbH & Co KG, the advantages of high-strength materials are paired with weight-saving construction methods. The magic formula here is “hollow shafts.” Used in place of steel bars, hollow shafts offer at least the same degree of strength while simultaneously generating considerable weight and material savings: “By manufacturing the hollow shaft in high-strength steels we save around 15 to 18 percent of the weight,” explains Jürgen Klarner, Head of R&D at voestalpine Tubulars GmbH.
The geometrically highly-sophisticated sections manufactured by the forming specialists at voestalpine Krems GmbH are most commonly used for safety-relevant components in battery casings. The intelligent forming design allows the experts in Krems to ensure that their vehicle components offer excellent performance. Where roll forming is used to manufacture high strength steels, bars and contours are produced which form complex sections consisting of several chambers. This allows them to absorb large forces in the event of a crash.
"Offering the same crash performance and weighing no more than aluminum extrusion profiles, multi-chamber sections also offer the advantage of lower cost."
Combining low weight with strength
Lightweight, composite construction in the automotive sector is a driving force in the development of mechanical joining technologies, particularly for efficiently joining different materials whilst working from only one side—when assembling battery cases, for example. As vehicle transport becomes increasingly electrified, it becomes more important that drive batteries are securely and efficiently installed.
For that reason, voestalpine Wire Technology GmbH is offering tailor-made material solutions for fixing elements. The company’s wire pre-materials are used to produce so-called flow hole screws: these screws drill their own holes, simultaneously forming their own thread and reliably connecting the components needing to be joined. This technology depends upon a high degree of materials expertise combined with constant or improved flowability in the manufacturing process. In future, the high-strength steels used in lightweight construction will be able to withstand pressures of up to 2,000 MPa. Furthermore, the connecting elements, such as screws and rivets used to fix battery cases to the car body, must demonstrate a high level of both fatigue strength and hydrogen resistance.
"In order to meet the demands of new construction methods, especially in electromobility, we are focusing our research activities on tailor-made customer solutions. This includes materials modeling and simulation, as well as alloys developed and produced in laboratories, and special tests to verify hydrogen resistance and fatigue strength."
voestalpine in demand as supplier for e-vehicles
Effectively applying state-of-the-art technologies and continuing to build up expertise is a matter of course for voestalpine companies. It allows them to strengthen their positions within OEM supply chains worldwide.
"For decades voestalpine Rotec has been a reliable supplier of high-quality vehicle components. This is equally true for electric models, and drive concepts for combustion engines. That’s why voestalpine Rotec products are present worldwide in the electric vehicle ranges produced by renowned manufacturers."
For example, voestalpine Rotec GmbH & Co. KG ships the so-called guide boxes used in electric vehicle steering to the USA from its German site in Sülzfeld. The focus at the Annweiler site includes the high precision manufacture of components for air spring systems. Serial production of compressed air reservoirs for air spring systems on a premium class electric SUV is already underway for delivery to an English customer. Roll pistons, responsible for the spring behavior of an air sprung vehicle, are also used in Chinese electric vehicles, and the selection of this voestalpine site for follow-on projects is evidence of its outstanding technological expertise. Once again, voestalpine underscores its role as an electromobility supplier.