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September 02, 2019 | 7 min read

How Vehicles of the Future Are Made Safer

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The burgeoning electric and autonomous vehicles industry makes growing use of electronic components, and the mission is to make them fire safety compliant. So, what do you do? Enter ICL-IPss laboratory.

The race towards electric vehicles (EV) and autonomous vehicles has been accelerating in the last few years. More and more car-producing companies wish to ride the wave and produce advanced, electric and self-driving vehicle models. Many giants such as Uber, Tesla, Google and many more join this race.

Next to the efforts to improve the equipment and algorithms that control the car, great stress is put on the safety of the car’s parts, and on defending them against fire hazards. This is done by using a group of materials called flame retardants.

Furniture, electronic components and electric appliances are made of plastic or textile, which are flammable materials. These products may catch fire without use of flame retardants. This danger becomes even more real when we’re talking about vehicles, which are made of plastic, textiles and electronic circuits.

ICL develops advanced flame retardants to prevent fires breaking out in autonomous vehicles.

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In order to reduce the risk of a fire and allow the vehicle’s passengers enough time to escape when it happens, strict standards for fire safety and flame retardancy have been developed, which vehicle producers have to comply with. This is achieved by using flame retardants based on bromine, phosphorus and mineral flame retardants.

ICL is the world’s biggest producer of flame retardants and invests tremendous resources in developing the next generation of flame retardants, suitable for advanced technologies and the arising demands in that field.

“In the vehicle industry, there has always been massive use of flame retardants,” says the Marketing Manager at ICL’s department of flame retardants for electronic components. “In the last few years several trends make this field even more demanding. First, the rising number of vehicles, especially in developing countries; Second, the penetration of more advanced technologies into the vehicles — such as moving to electric cars or using driving autonomous systems. These trends cause a rise in the number of embarked electronic systems in vehicles. At the same time, there is greater use of plastic instead of metal, in order to keep weight and thus energy consumption lower. The move to plastic requires growing use of flame retardants.

The Global Technical Manager for flame retardants at ICL-IP, says, “In standard cars seats and covers, as well as all of plastic parts, have flame retardance properties that enable passengers to flee the car if it catches fire. The main problem stems from the car’s critical systems, under the hood part, electronic assemblies and electrical wirings. These have been going through major transformations in the past few years, moving from 12 volts to much higher voltages in autonomous and electric vehicles, raising fires’ hazards. Flame retardants are thus of critical importance in the modern vehicle industry.”

As the world’s biggest producer of flame retardants, and to enable the industry to meet global and local fire safety standards, ICL-IP has established sophisticated fire laboratories for testing flame retardants’s efficiency, by using the most innovative methods. “In these labs, we simulate production processes of most of the applications into which flame retardants are added. First we check the flame retardants ability to achieve recognized fire safety then we confirm properties of the plastics and polymers are not affected by the flame retardant addition”, explains the technical person. “Clearly, if the physical attributes of the plastic, such as strength, elongation or shade, are reduced during the process of flame retardants incorporation, the end product will not fulfil its function. ICL-IP R&D teams thus continuously work at developing flame retardants suitable for different and ever evolving uses, by maintaining end products essential properties while still being able to delay fire’s burst that may endanger human lives.”