Development of variant flexible and eco efficient system components for future vehicle generations in the sense of a holistic circular economy

© Fraunhofer IAO
Lifecycle-oriented potentials of flexibilization of vehicle interiors.

The target of "futureFlexPro" is the development of modularizable solutions for sustainable, fuctional components of future vehicle generations, considering a holistic circular economy as well as a consistent economic, ecological and technological evaluation in the context of market and sales scenarios.

In "futureFlexPro", we design and implement sustainable, modular components for future generations of vehicles. The project will develop examples of applications for the automotive industry that respond to changing user behavior and needs.

In the future there will be new business models developed, among other things through the establishment of flexible usage models and increasingly automated driving functions. The new business models result in more intensive use of the vehicles and are defined by focused but very different usage scenarios. In order to ensure a longer, more flexible and resource-saving service life, it makes sense for highly stressed components to be designed robustly and to be replaceable with minimal effort:

  • During the utilisation phase, e.g. to adapt the vehicle interior flexibly to the different needs of the users (vehicle equipment in exchangeable modular structure and smart user surfaces).
  • After the utilisation phase - to transfer the vehicles to the next utilisation phase with new or revised components.
Similar ideas apply to the service life of a traction battery. Currently, one assumes a service life of eight to ten years with 1,000 charging cycles. After that, the remaining capacity can no longer be used in an e-car. With more intensive use, the traction batteries age correspondingly faster, even the technology is progressing further and a modern lithium-ion battery can be configured for up to 3,000 charging cycles. The service life of these batteries can be extended by their later reuse (second life) in secondary applications. However, this requires simple and non-destructive removal of the battery module.
Various aspects should be taken into account in order to design the complete battery module in a lightweight manner and for the later reuse of the energy storage. For a long service life it is necessary to develop a specific intelligent battery management system and solutions for cooling the battery pack within the module. In addition there will be concepts developed for the construction and connection technology of the components in the module in terms of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC protection). Integrated thin-film sensors are used to monitor the temperature of the battery cells in the battery module.
For the simple and non-destructive removal of the battery module, even in the design phase, application competencies are necessary in the field of function-integrated, fiber-reinforced plastics and future-oriented metallic lightweight construction solutions, in order to identify and evaluate renewable as well as recycled materials with regard to their application potentials in the sense of the circular economy. In addition to this, efficient, sustainable construction methods as well as service and restoration concepts are taken into account in order to map the entire life cycle of the modules.
The focus of "futureFlexPro" is therefore not only on research on vehicle interiors but also on the design of battery module construction for electrically powered vehicles. These research results will be transferred also to other sectors, such as rail vehicles or ships, as well as to hydrogen propulsion.

The component development is supported by the inclusion and modeling of a holistic life cycle analysis (manufacturing, utilisation and disposal phases) with regard to ecological as well as economic aspects.

Five Fraunhofer institutes are working closely together on this research project, with a total of 3 subprojects. They include the four members of the Fraunhofer Project Center Wolfsburg - IWU, IST, IFAM and WKI - as well as the IAO.

Duration: 1.03. - 31.12.2021

The project "futureFlexPro" is funded by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.