New Consortium to Study Advanced Fluids for Electrified Vehicles

Photo courtesy of SwRI.

As electrified and hybrid vehicles become increasingly common on roads and highways around the world, the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) (San Antonio, Texas, USA) is launching a new industry consortium. Known as Advanced Fluids for Electrified Vehicles (AFEV), the group’s mission is to expand the industry’s understanding of the stressors placed on electric vehicle fluids, or “e-fluids.”

Original equipment manufacturers, lubricant manufacturers, and suppliers are invited to join the consortium, which kicks off May 18, aimed at moving electric vehicle powertrain advancements forward.

“Having the best lubricant for an application can allow for significant advancements in hardware technology for the future,” says Peter Morgan, a program manager in SwRI’s powertrain engineering division. “However, the wrong lubricant can result in very expensive design decisions. As electrified vehicles continue to diverge from conventional internal combustion style powertrains, lubricant requirements will also change. To optimize the system as a whole, we need to know more about the lubricants’ role.”

The consortium will apply a multidisciplinary approach to help solve the challenges posed by e-fluids. In addition to powertrain specialists, experts in fuels, lubricants and chemistry will round out the management team.

“Like all automotive applications, lubricants and hardware work together to form a complete system,” says Rebecca Warden, a manager in the fuels and lubricants research division. “As the hardware changes, the requirements from the lubricant will also change. Electrified vehicle fluids place a stronger importance on heat transfer properties, corrosion resistance, electrical conductivity, and performance under high-speed conditions. The variety of architectures and diversity in design on the market and in development will require a different emphasis on fluid performance.”

Industry consortia programs are an economical method for companies to maximize their research dollars, according to SwRI. Members pay an annual fee for each year of the three-year term, leveraging limited resources to create a larger research and development (R&D) budget.

In this arrangement, SwRI says it will suggest research topics for consideration and provide monthly presentations and progress reports. Potential areas of research include durability, oxidation control, aeration, heat transfer, electrical conductivity, and fluid aging.

SwRI-funded internal research projects may also complement the consortium’s research. Recent projects have focused on electrified drivetrain fluids, optimization of e-machine controls, and stock inverter control. SwRI retains the rights to intellectual property developed by the consortium; however, members receive a royalty-free license to use the developments in their own applications.

Over the past decade, SwRI says it has conducted applied research, development and testing on cutting-edge lithium-ion battery and electric vehicle technology through a related group, now called the Electrified Vehicle and Energy Storage Evaluation (EVESE) consortium. The program focuses on evaluating the performance and life of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, while also conducting research on topics such as fast charging, lithium plating, advanced thermal management, and unique control strategies to aid in the advancement and adoption of electric vehicles.

Staff members have decades of experience in the transportation industry, including extensive expertise with electric powertrain systems. This includes research, testing, and modeling for light- and heavy-duty markets. Similarly, SwRI has evaluated fuels and lubricants used in air, rail, road, and marine applications for almost 75 years. It operates one of the largest automotive fluid test facilities in the United States and has helped develop an array of industry fluid test procedures.

Source: SwRI,