Flexibility Meets Performance – Insulation for the Future of Zero-Emissions Transport

There’s no escaping the fact that the world is gradually moving away from the combustion engine in favour of vehicles that produce zero CO2 emissions. The most common technology in the zero-emission market right now is battery power. In road transport, projections indicate that over half of all new cars sold in Europe after 2030 will be BEV, with a complete phase out of ICE expected by 2035.

In addition to automotive, the aerospace sector is also working on electrification. Although this has not yet made the same progress as automotive, the switch to battery propulsion offers opportunities beyond traditional commercial airliners, with the possibility to introduce smaller vehicles suited for shorter distances without being constrained to long runways, i.e. eVTOL (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) also known as drones.

The move to fully electric vehicles brings different requirements to the wiring systems on board, and to achieve the operating power and time required to truly replace fossil fuel propulsion requires larger batteries with increased voltages, which increases the strain on associated cables. High-voltage cables in new mobility can be 800V and higher, so the electrical properties of the insulating materials must be robust.

AGC has developed a range of flexible fluoropolymers called Fluon+™ AR-ETFE, which can be processed as a thermoplastic yet achieving flexibility more like a rubber. Based on its Fluon® ETFE, this range of products incorporates a proprietary elastomer that allows for the same thermal and electrical performance of a fluoropolymer without the difficulty of processing a rubber.

Fig. 1 – Comparison of flexibility of Fluon+™ AR-ETFE vs other fluoropolymers

The properties of Fluon+™ AR-ETFE allow it to take up some spaces that conventional fluoropolymers and flexible THV fluoropolymers cannot. Specifically, the combination of superior electrical performance and relatively low specific gravity offers weight savings and potentially lower costs associated with the materials of construction.

Fig. 2 – Typical properties of some fluoropolymers commonly used in cable applications

With the increasing adoption of electric vehicles, the demand for better performing cables is higher. Fluon+™ AR-ETFE could be very beneficial to new mobility due to its enhanced properties.

High-Voltage Cable Insulation for Frequent Bending

AR-ETFE is particularly well-suited for high-voltage cable insulation in electric vehicles and aircraft. These cables can deal with frequent bending through 90-180-270°. The flexibility of AR-ETFE allows it to handle such frequent bending without compromising its electrical performance. This is crucial in ensuring the reliability and safety of electrical systems in these vehicles.

Cross-Linked Cable for Toughness

AR-ETFE can be cross-linked to improve its physical properties, which enables it to maintain toughness against vibration wear or cut through. Electric vehicles and eVTOL aircraft may experience high levels of vibration during operation, and the cables must be robust enough to endure these conditions without losing their integrity.

Retention of Mechanical Performance at High Temperature

Another key application is the use of AR-ETFE in components or cables that operate at high temperatures. The material offers superior thermal resistance compared to standard ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene). This feature is essential in electric vehicles and aircraft where components can be exposed to elevated temperatures during operation, ensuring that the insulation material retains its mechanical properties under such conditions.

Weight Savings and Cost Reduction

The unique properties of AR-ETFE, including its superior electrical performance and relatively low specific gravity, allow for weight savings and potentially lower material costs. This can be advantageous in designing lightweight and efficient electric vehicles and aircraft, contributing to improved energy efficiency and performance.

If you have a project that you think could benefit from a truly flexible thermoplastic that performs under difficult conditions, please contact us / call our office.