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Engineering Materials

Manufacturing next-generation EV charging plugs

Government-mandated targets to reduce fossil fuel emissions are driving commercial vehicle brands to invest heavily in hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs). In 2019, more than two million battery EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs were sold. To keep pace with the growth of the EV industry, automotive OEMs are scaling up the production of EV charging equipment in the coming years.

 

New suppliers entering the EV market are producing charging plugs using lower quality materials to drive costs down, which puts other manufacturers under pressure to improve cost efficiency. Yet, low quality materials fail to deliver the aesthetic value that OEMs expect today. They are also unsuitable for producing new fast-charging plugs, which process higher voltage rates and require high-strength materials designed to ensure final parts are safe to handle under any conditions.

Currently, polyamide 6 (PA6), PA66, polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) and polycarbonate (PC) are the most commonly used thermoplastic solutions for charging plugs. To improve electrical and fire safety, these polymers often contain flame retardant additives. Yet, these additives drive material costs up and decrease the mechanical performance of materials. This leads to lower impact resistance, which makes plugs more vulnerable to damage from common wear and tear, such as being dropped or run over. Premature wear can also increase the risk of fire and electrical issues over time.

Thermoplastics containing flame retardant additives also lose their aesthetic value faster, as they typically deteriorate quickly in outdoor conditions. Sunlight tends to discolour the materials and cause glass fibers and additives to rise to the surface, creating a blooming effect. As charging stations are often branded with OEM or Tier 1 logos, and end-customers use them on a regular basis, plugs that appear visibly worn out reflect poorly on the supply brand. By leveraging materials without flame retardant additives, manufacturers have the opportunity to enhance the surface appearance, performance and quality of charging plugs, without driving up costs. 

Akulon® – a proven and affordable alternative

DSM’s Akulon® PA6 and PA66 materials deliver the optimal balance of mechanical strength, aesthetics and value. Our cost-effective portfolio offers outstanding wear performance, impact strength and thermal properties to ensure plugs remain in excellent condition throughout their lifetime. As the only charging plug material solution fully compliant with International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 62196 and UL 2251 and supported by a UL Yellow Card, Akulon K224-HG6 ensures best-in-class safety performance and allows manufacturers to get to market faster.  

Unmatched wear and safety performance

Impact and drive-over testing demonstrates that Akulon offers superior mechanical resistance compared to polyamides containing flame retardant additives. The material also provides a wide operating temperature range, making it ideal for outdoor use. With a comparative tracking index (CTI) up to 600V and a UL 94 V-0 rating, Akulon delivers enhanced fire and electrical safety properties required for fast-charging plugs. Our portfolio offers various halogen-free grades tailored to manufacturers’ individual mechanical performance and pricing needs.

Delivering on OEM expectations

Akulon achieves superior UV and moisture resistance, which prevents plugs from prematurely discolouring or wearing out – without the use of flame retardant additives. Our portfolio offers a broad range of colors, enabling manufacturers to improve surface appearance and reflect the branding of OEMs without applying expensive coatings. Akulon’s high flow properties provide the design flexibility to accommodate additional components – such as cooling mechanisms – at the request of OEMs. The material is also ideal for small series production, allowing manufacturers to offer customized solutions to OEMs.
                                                                                                          

DSM offers proven expertise in the automotive, electrical and electronics industries. Our Akulon solutions for EV charging plugs respond to the latest industry trends, while our research and development teams continue to evolve our portfolio based on changing customer needs. With Akulon production facilities operating globally, we ensure our customers have access to secure, cost-efficient material supply chains. We’re prepared to help you develop superior EV charging plugs that ensure product differentiation and allow you to capitalize on future market opportunities in the automotive sector. 

Find out related datasheet

Learn more about Charging Plugs

Abel Pot

Plastic Applications Development & Processing Plastics Engineer 

Published on

01 March 2021

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Abel Pot

Plastic Applications Development & Processing Plastics Engineer 

Abel Pot is Application Development Manager of plastic parts. He holds a Bachelor Degree in Chemical Engineering and has a history of working in the chemicals industry. Skilled in materials science, thermoplastics, product design, polymers and plastic applications, Abel has extensive experience in plastics engineering. Currently his main focus is on polymer product development towards technical approval in customer applications. 

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