Surfaces for electric mobility (part 1)

Electric mobility is becoming increasingly popular, although admittedly not as quickly as anticipated a few years ago. However, meanwhile everyone knows what the "E" at the end of a number plate means. The "E" plates for electric vehicles are becoming more and more common – or at least they seem to be – and that illustrates the shift away from combustion engines and fossil fuels towards alternative all-electric or hybrid drivetrains.

Surface finishing requirements changing

The change is also having an impact on automotive suppliers, including service providers in the electroplating and surface finishing sector. The electrification of vehicle drivetrains is calling for components and systems that are quite different to those used in conventional combustion engines. Battery casings, cable lugs, connectors, busbars and the like require coating processes that are different to pipes, pistons and valves, for example. Surface coating specifications are becoming increasingly complex. In addition to typical requirements such as corrosion protection, coatings are often expected to promote power transmission, for example in power electronics components such as connectors. The transmission of high electrical output in an electric vehicle places considerable demands on the contact components and their materials.

Complex surface finishing requirements due to lightweight construction

Although the topic of lightweight construction might almost be considered an "old hat" in this requirements scenario, it is still highly relevant. After all, the weight of the batteries, which is still quite significant, needs to be compensated by saving weight elsewhere. For example, light metals such as aluminium and magnesium are being increasingly used. That is why contact corrosion is often an issue when they are installed together with other materials. The light metals therefore not only need to be protected against inherent corrosion, but also require special coating solutions when installed with other materials. The specification profile of coatings for light metals ranges from protection against corrosion, wear and friction to the creating of functional characteristics that the base material does not provide, such as electrical conductivity. For example, increasingly used composite construction methods such as combinations of metal and plastic also require specially designed coating solutions to prevent contact corrosion.

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