24 R&D Magazine APRIL 2019 www.rdmag.com
including inclement conditions that might cause
dirt and road spray to obstruct externally mounted
sensors. Chemistries—originally developed by
PPG for the consumer electronics industry—are
now being leveraged to produce durable, easy-clean
coatings that will help keep the lenses of these
sensors clean in virtually all conditions.
Additional layers of “visibility” will come through
specialized coatings that enable radar transmitters
to be seamlessly packaged behind the vehicle fascia
and other coated surfaces. This is not currently
possible due to potential interference from a variety
of vehicle substrates and conventional coatings. This
as an opportunity to develop coatings solutions that
will help OEMs enhance vehicle aesthetics and reduce costs,
while helping to enable safe, reliable autonomous operation.
One can think of a future “connected” vehicle as a rolling
computer or cellular phone, tightly packed with electronics
that can enable an enhanced user experience, whether in
communicating with other vehicles and/or the transportation
infrastructure, conducting a virtual meeting for work or
watching a movie for recreation. PPG is developing a variety
of multi-functional transparent coatings for interactive
screens, displays and other surfaces within modern vehicles.
Additionally, coatings will likely serve as conductive and
shielding elements for vehicle electronics and help OEMs
reduce cost and weight by eliminating wires and mechanical
connections. They might also help keep consumers
comfortable. Given that battery-electric vehicles will not
be able to repurpose an engine’s waste heat to control cabin
temperature or defrost the windshield, conductive coatings
might prove to be the most effective, lowest cost alternative.
Coating innovations also can make important contributions
to powertrain electrification. It’s no secret that cost is a leading
barrier to the widespread adoption of battery-electric vehicles.
One significant contributor to these vehicle’s comparatively high
cost are the stringent processing and application requirements of
the binders used in many current lithium-ion batteries.
Each of the thousands of cathodes within a modern
automotive battery pack contains an aluminum foil coated with
a binder, coated with pigments and conductive carbon. In fact,
due in large part to the surface area represented in these battery
cells, it has been estimated that there is 35 times more coatings
volume in an electric vehicle than in an equivalent engine-powered vehicle. A new cathode binder that greatly simplifies
processing requirements—while providing performance that
is equal to or better than existing solutions—could reduce
the cost-per-kilowatt-hour of electric powertrains. PPG
is currently testing such technology at various customer
locations. This new binder also eliminates the use of NMP
(N-Methylpyrrolidone), a hazardous solvent restricted in
multiple regions due to health and safety concerns.
At the battery module and pack levels, advanced coatings
will be needed to prevent corrosion, offer passive fire protection
and deliver other important benefits while complementing
virtually any battery manufacturer’s thermal management
approach. Coatings science also can help keep battery-electric
vehicles cooler in warm climates, thereby reducing battery draw
related to the air conditioning system.
Innovations in coatings are vital to helping OEMs solve
the puzzle of smart mobility. Beyond the sophisticated
intelligence that enables autonomous driving, vehicle
connectivity, powertrain electrification and even shared
mobility, coatings applied to vehicle exteriors, interiors and
the infrastructure will enhance and help to enable safe,
reliable, productive mobility.
The advent of new mobility platforms—autonomous, connected,
electric and shared—will change not only consumers’ relationship
with vehicles, but also the way vehicles themselves will interact
with their driving environments,
An associate at PPG’s Coatings Innovation Center in Allison Park, PA, prepares an
adhesive for testing. Credit PPG