Smithers engineers pivot with pipe and belt industry pressures


Pivot points in the global automotive market, such as the transition to electric vehicles, have forced other changes in the hose and fluid transfer industry.

Electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles rely on many of the same fluid transfer systems, such as brake lines and air conditioning, Andrasik said.

There are also a number of dramatic differences, “largely related to how the vehicle is powered and how that affects the service environment of the hose,” he said.

Electric vehicles are powered by large batteries that generate a lot of heat, making thermal management a critical issue for manufacturers.

“Most manufacturers use complex hose assemblies that wrap around the battery and its compartment,” Andrasik said. “These pipes are typically much longer and narrower than those found in a traditional ICE vehicle, with lots of twists and turns.”

This presents a unique challenge, as the assembly must be able to maintain constant flow, pressure and temperature so that the battery pack remains at its most efficient operating temperature.

ICE hoses are typically under higher pressure than EV coolant hoses, requiring product design changes in this regard. And because EVs don’t have an engine compartment, they aren’t subject to the same high outside temperatures as ICE pipes, which are tested at around 130C, Andrasik said.

There are also similarities in pipe components between the two vehicle types.

“Many Tier 1 suppliers that (now) make EV hoses have been making traditional ICE hoses for years, even decades,” Andrasik said. “ICE pipes are often made from EPDM due to their excellent heat and weather resistance properties, and it is not uncommon to see EV pipes made with EPDM as well, especially pipes designed for cool the EV battery.”

“Lightweight” has become a buzzword in the electric vehicle industry, and it’s also impacted the hose and fluid transfer space, Andrasik said.

“Because EV hoses typically operate in a much less severe service environment, some manufacturers are experimenting with different materials, with a particular focus on lightweight materials,” Andrasik said.

With the seemingly inevitable heaviness of an EV battery, automakers are looking to reduce weight elsewhere in the vehicle.

“This shift towards lightweighting has affected material choices for EV hoses, especially those that run the full length of the vehicle,” he said. “Many of these hoses are made with nylon or thermoplastic elastomers to reduce overall weight.”

Testing a fluid transfer system that spans the length of a vehicle can be challenging, depending on the size of test equipment a company may have.

Andrasik said Smithers was able to customize its testing protocols to address these challenges.

“Each product’s testing … will be customized to its service environment and any critical industry or OEM specifications,” Andrasik said, adding that virtually all fluid transfer hoses and systems undergo some type of testing. of pressure, vibration and temperature – generally referred to as “PVT”.

Other common test methods at Smithers include burst testing, fluid compatibility testing, and accelerated aging. Abrasion, corrosion, flex, twist, tear and puncture resistance, and chemical characterization are other types of hose testing.

Like ICE drivers, EV drivers tend to be creatures of habit, with average trips accounting for the majority of driving time.

But since some EV markets (especially those in other countries) are dominated by ride-sharing vehicles, hose makers need to consider longer run times when developing products “to ensure that every vehicle component can sustain many consecutive hours of operation without showing premature signs of wear,” Andrasik said.


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