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SWRI Launches Consortium on E-Fluids
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SWRI Launches Consortium on E-Fluids

By Boris Kamchev - May 04, 2021

Southwest Research Institute is launching this month an industry consortium, Advanced Fluids for Electrified Vehicles, in what the institute called an effort “to expand the industry’s understanding of the stressors placed on the e-fluids.”

Texas-based SWRI invited original equipment manufacturers, lubricant makers and suppliers to join the consortium and set May 18 as the start date of AFEV’s activities, it said in a press release dated April 14.

“Having the best lubricant for an application can allow for significant advancements in hardware technology for the future,” Peter Morgan, a program manager in the institute’s powertrain engineering division, said in a press release.

The wrong lubricant can result in very expensive design decisions, Morgan warned.

“As electrified vehicles continue to diverge from conventional internal combustion style powertrains, lubricant requirements will also change,” Morgan said. “To optimize the system as a whole, we need to know more about the lubricants’ role.”

AFEV’s management team will consist of specialists in automotive powertrains and hardware, fuels, lubricants and chemistry.

“Like all automotive applications, lubricants and hardware work together to form a complete system. As the hardware changes, the requirements from the lubricant will also change,” said Rebecca Warden, a manager in the fuels and lubricants research division.

E-fluids require high-performing heat transfer, corrosion resistance, electrical conductivity and high-speed properties, she said.

“The variety of architectures and diversity in design on the market and in development will require a different emphasis on fluid performance,” Warden said.

SWRI suggests that industry consortia programs are an “economical method for companies to maximize their research dollars.” Programs are typically based on membership and annual fees that serve as “leverage for the limited resources to create a larger R&D budget.”

“SWRI will suggest research topics for consideration and provide monthly presentations and progress reports,” the institute said. “Potential areas of research include durability, oxidation control, aeration, heat transfer, electrical conductivity and fluid aging.”

SWRI conducts internal research projects that may complement the consortium’s research. Recent projects have focused on electrified drivetrain fluids, optimization of e-machine controls and stock inverter control.

The institute added that it retains the rights to intellectual property developed by the consortium, while ”members receive a royalty-free license to use the developments in their own applications.”

Over the past decade, SWRI has conducted applied research, development and testing on cutting-edge lithium-ion battery and electric vehicle technology through a related consortium, now called the Electrified Vehicle and Energy Storage Evaluation.

According to SWRI, the program evaluates the performance and life of battery EVs and plug-in hybrids, conducts research on topics such as fast charging, lithium plating, advanced thermal management and unique control strategies to aid in the advancement and adoption of EVs.

Founded in 1947, SWRI evaluates fuels and lubricants used in air, rail, road and marine applications and operates one of the largest automotive fluid test facilities in the U.S.