Continental Structural Plastics in Auburn Hills Unveils Lightweight EV Battery Enclosure

Auburn Hills-based Continental Structural Plastics has unveiled an advanced, multi-material electric vehicle battery enclosure.
Continental's electric vehicle battery enclosure
A multi-material battery enclosure featuring CSP proprietary materials is one of the many technologies being developed at CSP’s Advanced Technology Center in Auburn Hills. // Photo courtesy of Continental

Auburn Hills-based Continental Structural Plastics has unveiled an advanced, multi-material electric vehicle battery enclosure.

The product can be molded in any number of Continental’s proprietary composite formulations as well as honeycomb Class A panel technology developed at the company’s new Advanced Technologies Center.

The full-sized battery enclosure is a multi-material component featuring a one-piece composite cover and one-piece composite tray with aluminum and steel reinforcements. By molding the cover and the tray each as one piece, CSP says it has created a system that is easier to seal and can be certified prior to shipment. The company has two patents pending for its innovative box assembly and fastening systems.

The CSP battery enclosure is 15 percent lighter than a steel battery box, according to the company. Although it is equal in weight to an aluminum enclosure, the CSP enclosure offers better temperature resistance than aluminum, especially if the phenolic resin system is used, CSP reports. Additionally, the one-piece design for the tray has no through holes, so no sealing or sealant are required. This eliminates the chance of leaks and reduces overall production costs and complexity.

The company also developed a mounting frame utilizing a structural foam for energy absorption. This enables a reduced frame thickness and weight, while improving crash performance.

Additional benefits of the multi-material battery enclosure include:

  • Non-conductivity.
  • Can be molded in complex shapes.
  • Less complexity and cost in tooling.
  • High strength.
  • Dimensional stability.
  • Mold-in sealing features.
  • Ability to mold-in shielding, including EMI, and RFI protection.
  • Corrosion resistance.

Many of these advances could not be achieved without the “superior composites chemistry developed by CSP’s materials R&D team,” says the company.

Following CSP’s parent company Teijin’s acquisition of CSP, the Advanced Technologies Center began transitioning to include broader R&D capabilities. The first of these projects is a new honeycomb manufacturing process that produces ultra-lightweight Class A panels. Considered a “sandwich” composite, these panels use a lightweight, honeycomb core, clad with natural fiber, glass fiber, or carbon fiber skins that are wetted with PUR resin. This process enables the molding of complex shapes and sharp edges, and results in panels that offer very high stiffness at a very low weight.

These technologies were developed at the company’s new Advanced Technologies Center located on Harmon Road in Auburn Hills. It is a 47,500-square-foot facility, of which 24,000 is dedicated to R&D efforts to develop next-generation materials and processes to move CSP and its parent company Teijin beyond SMC and into new markets and technologies.

“We are developing technologies and processes here that leverage CSP and Teijin’s expertise in thermoplastic and thermoset composites, carbon fiber, and manufacturing to provide our customers with new options for existing and future vehicle programs,” says Hugh Foran, executive director of new business development and new markets and technologies at CSP. “We can reduce weight while improving durability and occupant safety – all key features needed for autonomous, connected, and electric vehicles.”

This Advanced Technologies Center is CSP’s second R&D facility in Auburn Hills and includes:

  • A 4,000-ton press with leveling and vacuum.
  • A 750-ton press with vacuum.
  • A 400-ton press with a 10-foot bed.
  • Six thermolators.
  • Two Fanuc Robotics robots.

The team at CSP’s Advanced Technologies Center currently includes five engineers and designers. Its Advanced Technology Department, in combination with R&D and product development, is comprised of more than 80 engineers, designers, and scientists. Before CSP was acquired by Teijin, this facility was a Teijin R&D center, and is where the Sereebo manufacturing process was developed. This is the process now in use to manufacture the GMC Sierra Denali CarbonPro pickup box, the industry’s first carbon fiber pickup box.

“The work being done at the Advanced Technology Center, combined with the materials advancements being achieved at our R&D facility at headquarters, is enabling CSP to maintain our leadership position in advanced composites, and establish us as a global player in the multi-materials field,” says Steve Rooney, CEO of CSP. “Together with the carbon fiber and materials expertise that Teijin brings, we are developing light weight solutions that enable our customers to think outside the box when it comes to vehicle design.”