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Real-World Collaboration = EV Innovation

When it comes to complex engineering projects and innovations, you can’t do it alone.

Think of the impact of the Wright Brothers on aviation, Bill Gates and Paul Allen on personal computing, and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak on Apple and intuitive devices. Even NASA is working with SpaceX to design and deploy next generation rocket technology for interplanetary space exploration. Curating multiple viewpoints and voices, along with the combined efforts of people working together, can change history.

That’s why Magna and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory partnered to create new sustainable solutions using recycled aluminum for the auto industry – and beyond.

The joint effort was a unique and massive undertaking that resulted in a new manufacturing process to transform scrap aluminum into environmentally friendly parts for electric vehicles. The technology has the potential to make everything from battery enclosures for EVs to roof racks for SUVs, as well as other applications from aerospace components (using scrap titanium) to high efficiency motors (using copper alloyed with high graphene). Dubbed Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion (ShAPE), the technology may be ready for the market before the end of the decade.

Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion (ShAPE)

Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion (ShAPE) is used to extrude unhomogenized billets cast from 6063 industrial scrap with 0.3 wt% iron content. (Source: Journal of Manufacturing Process)

The Project, The Team

As someone with a lifelong interest in science and technology – from nuclear reactors to bicycle design – it was fascinating to be part of this challenging four-year project. The collaboration brought together more than 20 Magna innovators across several of our groups, as well as members of U.S. and Canadian laboratories.

We proved out the process during 400 lab trials, some of them held virtually because of the pandemic. While each trial would typically only take a few minutes, it take weeks or even months to coordinate the materials and tooling. It was a painstaking process with incremental wins as we took hundreds of pounds of aluminum scrap samples, and built new tooling to use in the manufacturing process.

Some of the scrap samples came from Magna plants in Canada; others came from a scrap dealer in Michigan, who provided the material from hundreds of chopped up aluminum window frames. The idea was to test our theories using industrial scrap as well as material from a recycling center. Our goal: achieving energy, emissions and electric vehicle range savings with recycled aluminum.

Success

While there wasn’t a “eureka” moment, there was quiet satisfaction in knowing the long hours and dedication of the team resulted in a significant advancement.

The manufacturing process reduces more than 50% of the energy and more than 90% of the carbon-dioxide emissions, thus contributing to longer EV driving range, by eliminating the need to mine and refine the same amount of raw aluminum ore.

By reducing the cost of recycling aluminum, manufacturers may be able to reduce the cost of aluminum components, allowing them to replace steel. In addition, the process is versatile, with the ability to create everything from tubes to complicated shapes.

We’re now in the industrialization stage ̶ getting the technology, the machine, and the process scaled to meet commercial production requirements. The enduring lesson of this project is clear: by being deeply embedded in the science community and relying on collaboration, a Magna core value, we can be instrumental in tackling any challenge.

Massimo DiCiano Headshot

Massimo DiCiano

Magna and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory partnered to create new sustainable solutions using recycled aluminum for the auto industry – and beyond. The enduring lesson of this project is clear: by being deeply embedded in the science community and relying on collaboration, a Magna core value, we can be instrumental in tackling any challenge.

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