SwRI forms research consortium for electric vehicle fluids
Photo courtesy of SwRI

SwRI forms research consortium for electric vehicle fluids

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), based in San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A., is launching a new industry research consortium to expand the industry’s understanding of electric vehicle fluid requirements. The consortium, entitled “Advanced Fluids for Electrified Vehicles (AFEV),” will be launched on 18 May 2021. SwRI is inviting original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), lubricant manufacturers and suppliers to join the consortium.

“Having the best lubricant for an application can allow for significant advancements in hardware technology for the future,” said 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 with expertise in automotive hardware, experts in fuels, lubricants and chemistry will round out the consortium management team.

“Like all automotive applications, lubricants and hardware work together to form a complete system,” said Rebecca Warden, a manager in SwRI’s 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. 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.

SwRI 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 has conducted applied research, development and testing on cutting-edge lithium-ion battery and electric vehicle technology through a related consortium, 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. 

For more information on the AFEV consortium, visit https://www.swri.org/industry/electric-mobility-solutions/advanced-fluids-electrified-vehicles-afev-consortium.