MTC to Supply Ceramic Pump Components for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

Morgan Technical Ceramics (MTC), a business within the Morgan Ceramics Division of The Morgan Crucible Company plc., announces that it has signed an agreement, with a leading international provider of automotive mechatronic drive and pump solutions, to supply ceramic components for hybrid and electric vehicles.

The pumps will be used in a new hybrid vehicle being designed by a major vehicle manufacturer, which is scheduled for introduction in 2011. MTC is a single source supplier of the precision ground alumina shafts and bearings.

MTC is providing ceramic components for three water cooling pumps that will be used in each vehicle, including the high energy battery, the cabin heater and the power electronics loop that drives the vehicle. The pumps are designed to operate continuously, whether the vehicle is running or recharging, and ceramics offer excellent wear properties, with a much longer life than alternatives like stainless steel. Ceramic provides extremely tight tolerances and offers exceptional chemical and wear resistance, required due to the aggressive glycol coolants used. High grade alumina ceramics offer excellent corrosion properties, as well as thermal stability through a wide range of temperatures. Ceramic is also more than 2.5 times lighter than steel, resulting in additional energy efficiency benefits.

Ceramic components are quieter in operation over extended periods due to their wear-resistance, which is expected to be particularly important in hybrid and electric vehicles where engines are quiet and minor noises are more noticeable. By contrast, wearing of steel shafts would likely have resulted in pits and grooves, causing vibration and noise.

The ceramic components are being manufactured in MTC’s Stourport, UK facility, which produces precision ceramic components for Europe’s primary manufacturer of domestic circulating pumps. MTC was selected for the project because of its expertise with precision ceramic components for specialist pump applications. MTC served as an essential development partner within the design process, providing consultation on material specifications, finishing requirements and technical features of the shafts and bearings. MTC’s technical support was key to solving the design challenges associated with the pumps’ small diameter shafts and bearings.

MTC is also able to use experience gained from its high volume manufacturing facility and detailed knowledge of pump applications to optimize manufacturing of the smaller ceramic components needed for the hybrid vehicle cooling pump application.

The automotive company is already reviewing other applications for these modular pumps across multiple vehicle types, from the smallest cars through commercial trucks.

Chris Paine, an application engineer with MTC, says that the company is pleased to expand its significant ceramic pump component manufacturing capabilities to this new market. “Ceramic pump components are becoming more complex as features to facilitate automated assembly lines are added to shafts and bearings.” He added, “The pump containing the MTC ceramic components has gone through a rigorous trial and testing process and we are pleased that it has passed the Production Part Approval Process (PPAP), used by many automotive companies to qualify their component and process service suppliers.”

MTC is actively engaged in expanding into hybrid and electric vehicles used in public transportation, including buses and trains. Discussions are underway with systems manufacturers to optimize device performance by using ceramic components. The ceramic components are also being used in a variety of other major automobile hybrid and electric automotive applications now being designed.

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