What Are Busbars?
Busbars, also called busbar trunking systems, are electricity distributors. These metallic strips offer flexibility and ease in electrical distribution, making them ideal components in complex power systems. These bars are capable of conducting and grounding electricity.
Copper, brass and aluminum are the three most common materials for busbars. Copper is the most popular choice because of its excellent conductive properties, high tensile strength and low resistance. Since it’s prone to corrosion, copper usually has a non-corrosive coating like tin. Brass can aid in conductivity, making it a common metal for threads and bolts. Aluminum is a strong conductor and offers high heat dissipation, a valuable characteristic for heavily loaded circuits.
Manufacturers can control a busbar’s abilities with different coating materials, shapes and sizes. The coating materials will determine conductivity limits and the overall lifespan of a busbar, while shape and size affect ampacity. Ampacity refers to the maximum amount of electrical current a conductor can handle before it sustains critical deterioration. This metric is essential when creating a busbar because it decides what power systems it can operate within.
Busbar technology has improved over the years, leading to a growing demand for the electrical conductor’s design. With open-channel and fully enclosed systems, busbars offer adaptability to a range of applications. Other notable benefits include:
- Lower cost: Fewer construction and installation requirements reduce the labor costs required for integrating a busbar.
- Eco-friendly construction: With fewer material needs, busbars are better for the environment compared to other conductors. Their plug-in outlets are also movable and reusable.
- Flexible configuration: Some busbar plug-ins can be disconnected and reconnected without losing energy. They also don’t require regular maintenance and are efficient and low-cost to expand when needed.
Busbars are most often used in three-phase power distribution systems. Common applications include large facilities like hospitals, labs, universities and data centers.
How Busbars Are Used in Electric Vehicles
While busbars often appear in massive facilities needing high capacity energy distribution, they’re also a critical component in electric vehicles (EVs). Their role in EV systems is connecting individual battery cells to vehicle functions.
Since the inception of the electric vehicle, lithium-ion battery packs have become the standard power source. The cost of these batteries continues to drop, making them the obvious choice for growing EV production. Busbars connect battery cells to the inverter to convert power to AC electricity for use in the engine.
With the many systems that require power in a vehicle, busbars create the electrical pathways necessary to send energy where it needs to go. Busbars fill the role of insulated cables and can act as multiple circuit paths for receiving signals and distributing powers. They can also act as single-layer components with one designated function.
Since busbars are lightweight and strong, they allow electric vehicles to increase range before charging is required. During the charging process, busbars act as a low-inductance power transmission path that gets energy from a charging port to the batteries.
Why You Should Include Busbars in Your Electric Vehicle Design
When you consider the functions of a vehicle, energy has to go to more than the engine. It has to power lights, heating, cooling, warning systems and other optional functions like sunroofs. Since lithium-ion batteries can only create so much energy, these functions can take away from driving power. Efficient distribution of this energy is key.
Busbars are capable of the efficiency needed to maintain all systems in an EV. With conductors like copper and the appropriate cross-sectional size, busbars can carry the required current for EVs. They can be fabricated into various shapes to support high currents, and they can use additional conductive coatings to aid the process.
These bars can also act as pathways for thermal management systems by connecting batteries to components like heat sinks and coolant reservoirs. While they’ll handle high heat production from the batteries, they can prevent overheating that can damage the entire system.
These components also offer low-inductance conduction while isolating from other circuits and ground points. This arrangement ensures electrical connections won’t lead to hazardous arcing during operation, and they eliminate any wiring errors that occur with traditional methods.
In addition to electrical and thermal requirements, busbars offer the mechanical properties necessary for vehicle power systems. While conductors need to be durable, they also need a high resistance to vibrations and the ability to operate over wide temperature extremes. Copper materials with flexible configurations allow busbars to meet these mechanical needs.
On top of all the functionalities of a busbar, they require very little production and maintenance. Metal stamping professionals can easily manufacture busbars to exact specifications, making them valuable components to vehicle manufacturers. While busbars have the integrity to last for years in an EV, installing new busbars when necessary is a quick process that doesn’t disrupt the power system.
Choosing the Right Busbar Metal Stamping Partner
When you’re looking for a metal stamping professional for busbar production, it’s essential to search for a partner, not a supplier. Suppliers will meet your metal stamping requirements but likely won’t offer additional services or support.
You’ll want to find a metal stamping partner with experience and specialized skills in the automotive industry. It’s also helpful to look for a team with design and development services to create a collaborative effort for your busbar needs.
Additionally, you might be tempted to choose your metal stamping partner based on the cost of automotive busbars. The cheapest options might be enticing, but it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for. Though durable, well-made busbars may not come with the lowest price tag, they’ll perform for the long haul.
Contact Standard Die for Busbar Metal Stamping
At Standard Die, we over have 50 years of experience in metal stamping. Our experience in the automotive industry allows us to support your battery technology needs with precision. With stamping, engineering and specialty tooling services, we make an excellent long-term partner for electric vehicle manufacturers.
We have a continued dedication to providing quality for every client. Our team listens to your unique needs to deliver superior products that perform to your specifications. Contact us today for a quote or to find out more about how we can help you.