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Small is beautiful

Alternatively powered vehicles represent an exciting new sector, says Andreas Martin.


Small is beautiful

Size is important, particularly when it comes to car engine manifolds. As a case in point, Sapa is set to supply an exclusive and innovative part for application in premium carmaker BMW’s plug-in hybrid electric vehicle program: an aluminium tube that is the world’s smallest manifold.

Sapa’s welded tubes plant in Germany will deliver the ultra-small aluminium manifold to Hanon Systems for one of its clients, BMW.

“With our experience and high competence and know-how, we were able to secure this business simply by offering the best product available,” says Andreas Martin, business development and innovation director at Sapa’s welded tubes plant in Remscheid, Germany. “Such a small-diameter, slotted and assembled manifold really put our processes and people to the test. Similar systems are bigger and much more complicated. With this engineered solution we are able to fulfill customer requirements.”

The agreement builds on Sapa’s long-standing relationship with Hanon and its European research and development center at Kerpen, near the Remscheid plant, which will manufacture the manifold.

Aluminium is lighter, cleaner and offers more space

The small size means more space. And space is at a premium for hybrid electric vehicles, which require large batteries, meaning that less room is left for the cooling and heating systems. ­Aluminium also offers another advantage – it is light. And the small diameter and low volume lower the requirements for lubricant and refrigerant. What’s more, the high-quality product is extremely clean, Martin says. “The cleanness specifications we need to meet are very high. It needs to be very clean; otherwise, particles will go into the cooling system and damage the subsystems.”Aluminium offers another key advantage in terms of thermal transfer: it has an important cooling effect on the battery. Temperatures that are too high or too low age the battery and affect its performance and power.

Alternatively powered vehicles represent an exciting new sector, according to Martin.

“You just need to look at the situation in the oil industry and the earth’s dwindling resources to realize that it’s inevitable that we will see more and more hybrid and electric vehicles or other alternatively powered vehicles on the market in the future,” he says. “We need alternative solutions for the future as we try to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” 

Text Lois Hoyal
Photo Hilarius Riese