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How to succeed in an electrification project?

Electrification is a megatrend in the automotive, maritime, and mining industries. Within the megatrend, there is a growing transition from complex mechanical design to software-driven solutions, autonomous and highly automated operations, and cyber security standards. Also, the business model will face the change to servitization. This all requires a shift in competence. How is it possible to succeed in an electrification project when the change is so comprehensive?

“The market of the industries is rapidly getting more interested in electrification projects such as electrified vehicles, whether for on-road, off-road, or maritime transport, due to growing pressure to cut CO2 emissions and meet ESG ratings,” says Anton Nytén, Etteplan’s Director of Battery Technologies.

A battery is at the very heart of industry electrification and commercial electrification. A layperson may think that batteries are simple, even a bit boring. However, ramping up battery production requires ensuring the whole supply chain, from raw materials to product safety. 

For instance, making a non-certified battery pack hardly makes sense since nobody would want to buy it due to the risk of having a non-sellable product. There are painful examples from recent years, as batteries in smartphones and hoverboards have caught fire. Regulatory requirements must be included in the development process from the beginning. 

“When executing and driving a project to develop these kinds of products, you need not only to consider the product in itself but also how it is going to be used, the whole installation process, and also operating aspects. This means you need to consider in what environment will this application be placed to have a safe product in the end,” says Anton Nytén.

The list of possible missteps is quite long. Here are a couple of steps that can go wrong from the early stages of product design.

  • The deficient manufacturing quality or use of non-certified critical parts
  • Insufficient or poorly designed safety of electronic circuits
  • Lack of testing, verification, and validation of the product

The most critical safety challenge is the thermal management of lithium-ion batteries. Without controlling the temperature properly, there is a risk of thermal runaway, a chain reaction where the heat increases, and there is no way to stop it. 

To avoid the missteps, there are (at least) three essential questions to answer: 

  • What type of product are we developing, and what requirements needs to be fulfilled? This includes considering the correct standards, regulations, and directives for components and products.
  • Where and for what is the product going to be used? It can be very expensive or even impossible to address these needs afterward.
  • Who will be using the product? Requirements and uses differ significantly between professionals and consumers.