The Future of Electric Vehicle Grilles is Printed Electronics

BY ALT Technologies | 20th April 2023

What do OEMs do when they no longer need cooling vents? Turn to printed electronics, of course.

The last ten years have seen a big shift in sustainability initiatives and directives, but it is only now that we see this reflected in automotive development. E-vehicle batteries eliminate the need for internal combustion engine radiator grilles in cars, as EV batteries have their own battery management systems and tubing to keep the heat to a minimum.

Without the need for car grilles, automotive manufacturers have turned to the ever-present and opportunistic printed electronics developments. The latest initiative comes from Hella, who are taking on “front phygital shield” projects to replace grilles. Using layers of foils and plastics, the front of the car will now act as a plastic shield to protect the car, aid self-driving mobility, light and signal functions, provide never-before-seen animations, and much more.

Combining The Physical and Digital

Phygital involves using digital elements in what would typically be a very physical and human space, such as using a kiosk in a Mcdonalds’ restaurant. While you are physically in the restaurant, you are having a very digital experience by using their kiosks to order your food.

The front phygital shield incorporates the futuristic demands of autonomous driving and automatic distance control with advanced branding design experiences. The shield could communicate to nearby pedestrians that this is the Uber they are waiting for, or more importantly, can incorporate more safety features into cars. For example, warning pedestrians that they are too close or flashing the lights intensely when a vehicle reverses quickly towards the car.

Under The Hood

This concept might sound cool, but it does indeed come with complexities. First, safety is paramount; these shields will be made with an outer layer of polyurethane plastics, ensuring a “self-healing” effect. When the plastic is damaged by stones or small bumps, it can return to its normal form through in-built heating technologies.

However, the most impressive functions of this shield come down to flexible printed electronics combining advanced heater, lighting and sensor technologies. While all of these flashing messages and lights might sound fun and interesting initially, ensuring these can be read is imperative. Condensation build-up must be kept to an absolute minimum, brand design elements and logos should be clearly displayed, and the headlights and indicators must not be interfered with. OLED and LED technologies have come a long way, and with the advanced compression moulding and foil-insert moulding printed electronics methods, it’s easy to see how this will take off in a few years.

The Front & Future is Bright

The Battery Show Europe 2023 is just around the corner, and we will surely witness major battery upgrades at this year’s event. It is interesting to see, as batteries progress, how the knock-on effects occur in the rest of the vehicle, in this case, where the radiator grille used to be.

ALT Technologies will be showcasing new printed electronics product solutions in line with these EV battery advancements, and we can’t wait to see how other teams are taking on these initiatives. If you are interested in discussing printed electronics solutions like the ones above or your ideas with our team, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.



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