Meet Shuang Ma, our technical manager EMEA, Automotive OEM Coatings and Mobility, based in The Netherlands, who takes us behind the curtains of the development of the PPG CORACHAR™ SE 4000 coating. He tells us why it is leading the way in the battery fire protection of electric vehicles and how the team develops new products that customers need. As he explains, in this very fast-moving sector, safety remains a high priority and innovation a must.
From Passive to Battery Fire Protection Coatings
Shuang joined us in 2017 in the passive fire protection (PFP) group of our Protective and Marine Coatings (PMC) business unit in Amsterdam to work on our intumescent coatings. Half a year later, the adjacent market of fire protection in electric vehicles (EVs) caught the Mobility group’s attention, which immediately started their collaboration with the PFP team to develop a solution.
Customers’ needs change from month to month. Only when you hear what customers need and understand why they need it can you develop the right product for them.
Promoting a solution in this emerging market required more than just lab work, as many customers were not clear on the optimum solution for EV fire protection. After countless research and testing, the team developed the CoraChar SE 4000 coating to address most customers’ needs, such as excellent fire protection, good durability and fit-for-mass application.
At the beginning of 2022, Shuang and his team transferred to the battery fire protection team (BFP CoE) in the Mobility group, developing and testing prototypes that meet market needs. This is a move he loves as it allows him to work more closely with our customers. As Shuang explains, “PPG is definitely the right company for me because it offers me the chance to connect with different customers and convert market requirements into technology development in order to ensure we are developing the right products."
Testing to Achieve Trustworthiness
Another major part of Shuang’s job is testing. This involves either supplying samples for customers to test directly at their facilities or demonstrating how our products perform at our testing facilities. This alleviates the pressure on customers when validating the solution and helps gain their confidence in PPG’s expertise in BFP coatings.
The team conducts frequent safe bench burn tests, typically testing our coatings in 1200 °C heat (sometimes up to 1500 °C) or even testing fire with blasting grid glass to mimic what would happen in the case of a battery explosion and thermal runaway at the customer site. They also perform internal capacity of durability tests, measuring performance in extreme weather conditions.
“One customer may need blasting, another higher temperatures. Whenever a customer requests something, we can show we are a dedicated and trustworthy partner."
A Market Ripe with Opportunity
Shuang tells us that the EV market is really dynamic. To offer customers choice and help us stay ahead of the competition, we have multiple solutions for the EV battery (pack) materials:
CoraChar SE 4000: A Superior Product with Multiple Benefits
A major challenge for battery pack designers is to maximize the energy density of the battery pack and minimize the weights and volume of accessories, such as protection solutions.
Compared to conventional sheet-material fire protection solutions, our solution is significantly thinner and lighter, conformable to any surface and ready for automated mass production.
The thinness also helps the transfer of heat, meaning less cooling capacity is required inside the pack. Plus, because our coating has been subjected to severe durability testing, it should last for up to 20 years.
The recently introduced standard in China dictates that any battery packs used in China should be able to withstand at least five minutes of battery thermal runaway without any fire leaking out. This standard is also being adopted in other regions of the world.
“With the increasing energy density of the battery packs, it is crucial that any fire protection solution needs to withstand extreme fire scenarios.”
To comply with such requirements, the CoraChar coating can withstand a 1200 °C high-pressure fire for over 30 minutes while keeping the temperature of the substrate under 400 °C and can successfully contain the thermal runaway fire inside high energy battery packs for more than five minutes. It is manufactured with 100% solids and is solvent-free. Our solution was awarded a 2021 R&D 100 award, recognizing its ability to address key challenges in providing fire protection for EVs.
Shuang’s Predictions for the BFP Future
Shuang says he expects the customer to get even more diversified in terms of product requirements and to see the battery pack get higher and higher energy density, making fire protection all the more essential. He can see a time when a fire is fully contained inside the battery pack and self-quenched after a prolonged period so that the car remains intact, even after a thermal runaway event.
He hopes the industry puts together a unified standard for fire protection as it will benefit suppliers and customers, who currently have to go through lengthy internal and external qualification processes.
I'm really #PPGProud
that we are leading the way in fire protection and I’m confident that we can consolidate our position with the ‘One PPG’ effort coming from different SBUs and functional groups.
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