PLYMOUTH, Mich.—When Freudenberg Sealing Technologies promises that the battery electric vehicle seals it manufactures will deliver under the most taxing of circumstances, it's not just talk. It's data-driven science.
And it turns out, FST is bringing an awful lot of science and data to the table.
To push the limits of the materials and products it brings to the EV market, the sealing solutions provider has invested an undisclosed six-figure amount in special lab and testing capabilities at its Plymouth Central Laboratory.
At the heart of FST's investment is a specially designed isolation and containment chamber (IsoC), measuring 6-by-3-by-3 feet. The two-chambered, glass and steel enclosure allows for materials and products to be tested safely against the lithium electrolytic solutions found in lithium-ion battery cells.
Joe Walker, global technology director of materials and laboratories for Freudenberg Sealing Technologies, believes that FST is the only one among its competitors—and one of only a handful of testing labs nationwide—to provide this type of testing. One major reason for that is the cost involved. Just one gallon of the solution needed for testing could cost thousands of dollars.
"To my knowledge, none of our competitors have these testing capabilities," Walker said, noting that most independent laboratories don't either. "They can test battery pack assemblies, but it's too late at that point. If you have something that is not going to seal and provide the necessary functions in that battery, you should have known before you made the battery pack assembly."
Two electrolytic solutions are used in the testing—one commonly found in the lithium-ion batteries and one developed as a control. Families of materials developed by FST will be tested first, and commercially available materials used in the batteries will be examined next.
Some renovation had to be done to accommodate the IsoC at the Plymouth facility, but very little was required.
"We had one of these multipurpose rooms that we were able to make some upgrades on, and all we had to do was really just make some changes to the ventilation system hook-ups for this device," Walker said. "There are some different requirements for power, but those required only slight modifications, not anything huge."
Walker said FST began exploring opportunities to expand its testing capabilities several years ago, keeping a close eye on the automotive market and the technology developments in that space.
Projected demand of battery electric vehicles is a main driver of growth in the lithium-ion battery market, but it's not the only factor. Within the next five years, FST said, the market may see double-digit growth with a number of sectors—automotive, construction, agriculture, mining, commercial truck, ship and trains, and electronics—embracing the technology.