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    ESI Automotive: The Biggest Elephant Convoying the EV Whirl

    The global automotive shift towards EV is the plugin that the automotive industry has needed since a long time ago. Climate demands an alternative to the traditional combustion engine though this elevating industry is bombarded with loads of challenges since its inception. ESI Automotive is using its knowledge and experience to help manufacturers overcome challenges such as extending power range and efficiency in EVs.

    They believe that power electronics are the key to achieving the balance between improving the energy density of an EV battery and limiting vehicle performance. Their technology enables the electronic designs of automotive OEMs to be more efficient and reliable.

    ESI automotive has been in the industry for more than 60 years and glancing in the same with its innovations in safety systems (ADAS), EV/powertrain, exterior and interior of Automotive to quality systems and light weighing material used in automotive. Being a pioneer in the industry, their contribution to the industry has been massive.

    It is said that a member of the team will always know the details better than an outsider. ELE Times Sub Editor and correspondent Sheeba Chauhan managed to get the internal insights of ESI automotive from Sharan Aiyappa, Regional OEM Manager (India). Excerpt:

    TimesEV: Working with the maestro of the automotive industry, your journey must have been exceptional. Please tell us more about your endeavors with ESI automotive.

    Sharan Aiyappa: Yes, it has been quite a journey! We know that the Indian automotive industry is at a turning point, not only with the steady rise of electric vehicles but also with the elevated level of automation and the quality of interior / exterior trim that consumers have come to expect.

    ESI Automotive focuses on applications such as extending power, range, and efficiency in electric vehicles, safety in radar and vision systems for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and braking systems, displays, and in-mold electronic structures (in particular integrated touchscreen films), high-performance fasteners and decorative trim.

    Our ability to do this is built on more than 60 years’ experience in providing integrated advanced circuitry, joining materials, and surface finishing technology into the automotive supply chain. Through collaboration with dedicated automotive OEMs and Tier 1s, we help the supply chain to meet growing industry challenges in reliability, form factor, and performance”.

    TimesEV: How does Electrolube acquisition enable ESI Automotive to expand EV capabilities?

    Sharan Aiyappa: Electrolube, based in the UK, is a specialist in thermal gap filler technology. These gap fillers are applied to EV battery packs to dissipate heat and improve overall efficiency. We know this is a contemporary topic in India today as multiple incidents of fires in electric scooters are being reported in the press.

    With our Electrolube materials, we can now work with OEMs at every stage of the electric powertrain value chain to make significant efficiency gains through the use of new materials and considered materials integration. This enables makers of both 4, 3 and 2 wheelers to bring more efficient and reliable electric vehicles to market.”

    TimesEV: ADAS is rewiring the user experience, what is your thought on the safety & security of ADAS? What ESI Automotive have to offer for the same?

    Sharan Aiyappa: This is a very pertinent topic as we know that there are at least 20 autonomous vehicles startups in India alone. We will give a paper ‘Materials to Improve ADAS Hardware Reliability to Reduce Warranty & Liability Costs’ at the Car Symposium (Germany) in May 2022. Let me explain more as this is relevant for Indian OEMs.

    Few predicaments can cause quite the damage to any automaker as a warranty-related recall. A reputation for safety can promote a positive company image, improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. However, ultimately, it is the carmaker who suffers in the event of a component failure. People rarely remember the name of a Tier 1 or 2 supplier – they always remember the name of the OEM.

    Take ADAS as an example, as attention turns to potential failure of IECs (Integrated Electrical Components) or hardware components. In the USA for example, there is evidence of an increase in vehicles affected by IEC defects. Data suggests this increase is due to the ageing of electronic components and this will grow in importance as automakers progress their vehicle designs to level three autonomy and beyond.

    Specifying the optimum materials for ADAS hardware can support the function and reliability of these systems, thereby reducing the risk of carmakers suffering an ADAS hardware-related recall.

    ESI Automotive is working with the supply chain to view ADAS design at a systems-level, with a focus on the following three areas:

    Miniaturization of electronics – this enables higher processing power and speed, without adding weight to the vehicle

    Unique substrates – Advanced circuits are essential to the performance of modern ADAS, with their greater speed and processing power. The use of new substrates enables greater design freedom for antennas, molded interconnected devices and formable circuits

    Enhanced reliability – ADAS components are subjected to harsh operating environments. Speed and heat all create stress. ESI Automotive provides advanced materials which increase component durability, without compromising on performance.

    TimesEV: What are the recent lightweight materials used for cars? Working for over 50 years on the materials like Aluminum, plastic, and high strength Steel, what is the best suitable material for the longevity of the vehicle?

    Sharan Aiyappa: The most significant factor is the increasing adoption of aluminum. According to European aluminum, the amount of aluminum in cars is around 150 kg. This could rise to 196 kg by 2025. The significance of this? 100 kg of aluminum in vehicles reduces CO2 emissions by up to 8g per kilometer travelled. Aluminum in vehicles needs protecting. It also needs coatings that improve paint adhesion. These coatings must provide both corrosion resistance and meet organic coating adhesion tests. Our Iridite and Oxidite treatments deliver on these requirements and are also hexavalent chromium-free.

    TimesEV: How is ESI Automotive improving the electric vehicle range without increasing the battery content?

    Sharan Aiyappa: We know that the (Indian) government continues to boost the BEV ecosystem, recently outlaying US$3.4 bn to boost BEV infrastructure. The OEMs have also responded, and Hyundai, MG, and TATA will develop mass‐market BEVs. So, this is the right time to have this conversation.

    Increasing range without increasing weight continues to be a key challenge. Simply adding battery capacity not only raises the cost of the vehicle but also adds weight. There is a delicate balance between improving the energy density of a battery and limiting vehicle performance – causing many OEMs to look at power electronic options to boost vehicle range. For instance, efficient power conversion in the traction inverters is key to improving range, through lower electrical resistance and higher reliability of the die bond to the lead frame and heat sink. There are critical power conversion electronics that sit between the DC battery source and the AC motor. By improving the efficiency of the power conversion, either the vehicle range can be extended, or the battery size can be reduced to achieve the same range using current inverter technology.

    Current designs use silicon-based power modules with soldered and wire bonded interconnects. Compared to bulk silver, solder alloys have much lower thermal and electrical conductivity. They also have lower melting points, limiting the temperature at which the devices can be operated. If higher operating temperatures can be achieved, OEMs can significantly improve efficiency by using silicon carbide semiconductors with sintered, rather than soldered, assembly materials.

    Stringent testing shows that silver sintering technology helps to create more efficient inverters. For example, the technology reduced the cumulative thermal resistance of the stack (from die to the pin-fin heat sink) by approximately 10%. These figures improve over time with power cycling. Studies show that a typical sintered silver interconnection has a bulk density of approximately 85%. After an additional 350,000 power cycles, the density increases to more than 94%, further reducing the thermal resistance of the interconnections. The same test found that all the solder-wirebond parts had failed by the time 12,000 cycles were completed. This indicates that a fully sintered device can switch more current at the same temperature, helping to make significant performance and reliability improvements.

    TimesEV: What is automotive surface finishing technology and how is ESI automotive contributing to this technology?

    Sharan Aiyappa: Automotive surface finishing can be broken into 3 distinct segments.

    1. Decorative to improve substrate aesthetics.

    Today automotive manufacturers are specifying that chromium-plated parts are treated and plated in processes that are hexavalent chromium-free. At ESI Automotive we provide evolve chromium-free etching and TRILYTE trivalent chromium plating processes. Both are approved to meet automotive standards for exterior applications.

    1. Corrosion resistance to prolong component life.

    Surface treatments help to increase component lifespan, improving the perception of quality and ultimate end-user experience. Specifying the correct protection helps to minimize warranty costs and mitigate the risk of field failure – ultimately, maintaining consistent and reliable performance.

    The best example of this application is in fasteners. For over 20 years the automotive supply chain has benefited from our ZinKlad program. This helps engineers achieve the same coatings and consistent performance worldwide. ZinKlad helps automotive engineers to specify the right products in a post hexavalent chromium-free world. The steady evolution of the ZinKlad program has enabled many global OEMs to specify ever-higher performance standards.

    1. Functional to provide better surface properties.

    Surface coatings are also used to improve the wear resistance of engine valves, fuel injector components, and gears. Additionally, our technology provides exceptional paint adhesion and resistance to galvanic corrosion for light metals such as aluminum and magnesium”.

    TimesEV: ESI Automotive has achieved success in various segments of automotive, with great success comes great challenges. Our readers would like to know about the challenges you face in the journey of ESI Automotive.

    Sharan Aiyappa: We can summarize the challenges using CASE principals:

    1. Coaching automotive engineers in understanding the benefits of using advanced materials to replace traditional solder assembled joints. This helps answer ‘consumer range anxiety’; meaning concerns about running out of power while driving an electric car. Our improved materials used in power electronics and inverter technology are a solution to this.
    2. Electronic component performance in harsh weather conditions. Autonomous vehicles need circuity which withstands both harsh weather conditions and constant use.  For example, there are similarities to the tiny smartphone PCBs to those in-vehicle cameras. The twist is that cameras for cars are in continuous use. Also, the level of reliability is much greater. Creating hardware using innovative advanced circuity and joining materials enhances reliability.  Engineers are beginning to understand this now.
    3. The increased expense of connected technology. Today, designers think in terms of interior displays and electronics as separate entities. Innovative technology allows us to integrate displays, circuitry and joining technology. Combined these improve component consistency, extend product life, and reduce weight. This means using new materials at the design stage today for the next generation model builds.
    4. COVID-19 changing behaviors to shared mobility. Concerns over vehicle cleanliness are changing perceptions of shared mobility. Our solution regarding interior cleanliness may be found in quick-service restaurants. As vehicle interiors incorporate more smart surface displays, coatings will become more functional. They will also need easier-to-clean properties. These are issues that can be addressed using our hard-coated films containing built-in antimicrobial protection”.

    TimesEV: We would like to know about your expansion plan for the future.

    Sharan Aiyappa: In-mold structural electronics, this market is set to grow globally to over $1.1 billion within the next decade. We will be part of the growth, both in India and worldwide, with our ability to integrate structural electronics into our hard coated films. Why am I confident this technology will come to India? Well, similar to a smartphone, consumers are demanding the replacement of mechanical switches with touch-sensitive and fully integrated displays. In addition to the space and weight-saving, it can also offer a more sanitized surface eliminating the need for dust-trapping bevel edging, an issue that barely registered with consumers pre-COVID.

    In terms of integration, today bonding of the electronics to the back of a flexible substrate is the current technology. Now we are looking to introduce two-film solutions, and ultimately a single film free of “ghosting,” so that circuitry underneath cannot be seen. These represent major technology advances for interior designers, giving them more freedom to create wrap-around displays and eliminate components such as wing mirrors. Combined they improve the consumer experience, reduce weight, and improve vehicle aerodynamics.

    Sheeba Chauhan | Sub Editor |TimesEV