As EV Technology Matures, its Looking More Like the Internal Combustion Engine it Replaces

Battery electric vehicles may yet kill the internal combustion engine, but not the key technologies that support it.

Episode Summary:

One of the addicted impacts of the global shift to electric vehicles is the death of the major internal combustion engine related technologies. Plain bearings, pistons, connecting rods, crankshafts engine blocks will disappear, along with valves, timing year and fuel delivery systems. But if you work in powertrain engineering, will still find familiar technology in the EV space. Jim Anderton describes an example.

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Transcript of this week’s show:

“The internal combustion engine is dead”. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this from hard core electric vehicle enthusiasts, who repeat it like a mantra. Climate change notwithstanding, I think that those predictions are a little premature. It took 50 years for the last horses to leave American city streets after the automobile was invented, and I estimate that it will take about 30 before EV’s push the last piston powered vehicle into a museum. But what if I’m wrong? What will engineers with years of experience in powertrain development do with their careers? Well, a recent press release crossed my desk that suggests what many engineers already know: that the laws of physics are inescapable and relentless, and they apply to all machines, regardless the power source. Take automotive cooling systems for example. Thermal management in combustion engines is an industry in itself, and successful careers have been built around everything from impeller design to gasket material development. But the radiator, water pump, thermostat and hoses seen on combustion engines for a century are simply not needed with electric motors. Or are they? Xing (zing) Mobility, a manufacturer of electric vehicle battery packs, and petroleum industry stalwart Castrol have announced a line of what the firm calls thermal management fluid to support Xing’s immersion battery technology. Why a special fluid? Well, it turns out that electric vehicle battery packs get hot, damned hot and that he has serious performance and safety implications if that heat isn’t rejected to ambient. And it’s a fundamental of engineering that you can move heat by conduction, convection, radiation or some mixture of the three, but you can’t wish it away. As it turns out, the current state-of-the-art is to circulate a working fluid through the battery pack using a pump and header tank then flow it through a radiator, where the fluid rejects the heat to ambient. Sound familiar? And like automotive engine coolants, the new thermal management fluid is a highly engineered product that not only transports heat but carries an additive package for corrosion inhibition and long drain intervals. If you’re an engineer working with coolant pumps, hoses, fittings, heat exchangers, sealing materials, thermal efficiency and testing, what you’re doing right now will translate perfectly into the electric vehicle space. And if you think that your future electric vehicle will eliminate the cost of flushing the Dexcool out of your old Chevy, think again. But don’t call it coolant or antifreeze, it’s thermal management fluid. It will serve the same function, but I expect that with a name like that, it should sell at your local AutoZone for 10 or 15 bucks more per gallon.  

Written by

James Anderton

Jim Anderton is the Director of Content for Mr. Anderton was formerly editor of Canadian Metalworking Magazine and has contributed to a wide range of print and on-line publications, including Design Engineering, Canadian Plastics, Service Station and Garage Management, Autovision, and the National Post. He also brings prior industry experience in quality and part design for a Tier One automotive supplier.