How simulation can advance the sustainability of commercial and industrial vehicles

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The current focus on electrifying personal vehicles is a great start to reducing emissions and combatting climate change. To increase decarbonization efforts, companies like Turntide Technologies are focusing on sustainable vehicle technology in commercial and industrial sectors such as construction and agriculture – and harnessing simulation to test e-powertrain solutions for this tricky application

Commercial and industrial vehicles traditionally have sizable gas and diesel engines and emit large quantities of pollutants like nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and particulate matter. Therefore, Turntide’s aim of transforming these vehicles into battery-electric machines is a significant step toward achieving global net zero goals.

Between tightening environmental laws and skyrocketing energy costs, the need for eco-friendly commercial and industrial vehicles is now rising. To meet demand, Turntide is relying on the transformative power of simulation technology to optimize the development of electric powertrain components in a sustainable and timely manner.

Reducing the environmental impact of industrial and commercial vehicles
Strict environmental targets mean that manufacturers must look at developing more sustainable innovations on a large scale and this is a particular challenge for industrial and construction vehicles. These vehicles present greater sustainability challenges than passenger vehicles because of their heavy-duty loads, work cycles and vibration – and this is something that Turntide has put a significant amount of effort into trying to overcome.

Engineers can use simulation to assess how various electric powertrain components will behave under extreme scenarios they may encounter. These include, but are not limited to, severe environmental conditions like dust, dirt and humidity, corrosive substances and chemicals, salt and impact. This is particularly important for machinery that is used in mining, for example. To make these machines economically viable, they have to be used 24 hours a day, under very harsh conditions. This means that preventing maintenance is critical as any standstill time can have significant negative impacts on any business that requires their use. As a result, these machines need to be designed from the very start with safety and reliability in mind, and this is where the extensive use of simulation, aided by sensors, is crucial.

A significant challenge: controlling heat
A critical aspect of this is for them to be designed to be able to consume the high power and high temperatures that are required in the fast charging of the batteries, to maximize their output. Battery engineers are constantly looking at ways to control the temperature of batteries to ensure they don’t overheat, or even in the extreme, catch on fire. Much of this is done by searching for materials that will be more energy efficient and less prone to overheating and burning. This is where simulation solutions can be leveraged.

Turntide uses Ansys multiphysics solutions to thoroughly model a battery system, making sure to account for each material’s unique properties. Multiphysics coupling allows engineers to see a complete picture of the structural, thermal and electrochemical response of a battery. Products such as Ansys Fluent are used for cell design, thermal management and thermal runaway, which can be a crucial help to engineers designing batteries that will be resistant to the thermal abuse mentioned previously. Moreover, products like Ansys Mechanical can be used for modeling structural stresses and strains that come about due to differential heating and cooling. These solutions can track the effects of temperature on the structure, making sure that the battery’s components can withstand any thermally induced stresses. They can also simulate structural failure in these conditions and ascertain whether any new design will prevent failure.

Also, because powertrain components for commercial and industrial vehicles are larger, more complex and more energy intensive, more of these tests may be required. Therefore, simulation testing will help engineers cut back on large quantities of materials and energy that would otherwise be wasted and detrimental to the environment.

With these simulation solutions optimizing the design process, engineers can perform more tests in shorter amounts of time, in a more cost-effective manner. Physical prototypes can be notoriously expensive, and testing can take longer, so both can slow down development. Furthermore, potential errors during the testing process can cause further, unexpected increases in time and cost.

In Turntide’s case, testing a physical prototype at a facility would take two weeks and cost over US$34,000. A physical, trial-and-error-based system wasn’t optimal for teams, so physics-based models were implemented. This enabled in-depth, rigorous testing that led to a time reduction in the overall development cycle. Digitalized testing also did not compromise on finances, with Turntide cutting development costs by around 25% as a result.

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