Lifetime of Achievement: John McKeen

John McKeen is the Technical Director at Dow MobilityScience, where he’s worked since 2009. He leads sustainable solutions & works with Formula E & NASCAR

McKeen is Technical Director at Dow MobilityScience, a chemical manufacturer. He works with prospective customers and across Dow’s Research & Development functions, to maintain focus on key challenges and areas that will advance the future of mobility. 

“I find effective ways to utilise our expertise for adapting to the rapidly changing needs of vehicle OEMs, tier-suppliers and their value chain partners.”

Dow Mobility Science’s core purpose is to serve its mobility customers through one market-facing platform and facilitate the shift to next-generation mobility solutions. Electrically powered vehicles are becoming increasingly capable in terms of technology, performance, and efficiency – but also increasingly complex. Consumers’ expectations for vehicle offerings are higher than ever – when balancing innovation with cost-efficiency is paramount for OEMs. 

“That’s where Dow MobilityScience comes in: to help achieve that balance and provide innovative solutions that make vehicles safer, longer-lasting, more connected, efficient, and profitable for manufacturers.”

McKeen leads innovative solutions for Electric Vehicles

McKeen was led to the industry due to his interest in scientific and engineering principles and wanting to deliver things that society cares about: better infrastructure and non-fossil-fuel-based energy.

He gained BSc degrees in Chemical and Electrical Engineering, and an MSc in Electrical Engineering, before completing his PhD in Chemical Engineering, when he joined Dow’s Research Assignments Programme.

“In my first remit in Dow Solar, and then the automotive space, I gained huge appreciation for how industrial technological and materials innovation can improve product performance, while also enhancing manufacturing efficiencies and sustainability,” he said. “This hugely motivates me in my work, particularly with the e-mobility transition and desire to be better stewards of our natural resources and planet.”

McKeen is dedicated to the sustainable optimisation of the production process for vehicles, as well as the whole vehicle lifecycle. Mobility product strategies, technological advancement and legislation are heavily influenced by emissions reduction. 

“This significant challenge requires an equally broad approach to finding solutions, which means enhancing the sustainability of the entire vehicle development process – from design and production, to usage and end-of-life. We work with OEMs and tier-suppliers to provide sustainable materials solutions for vehicles, while introducing more sustainable and innovative processes throughout the supply chain.”

Applied together, manufacturers can enhance performance and efficiency, while achieving sustainability targets and reducing environmental impact.

Besides this, McKeen has new solutions for EV design. Given consumers’ expectations and the competitiveness of the industry, Dow is focused on helping OEMs produce safe, reliable, efficient vehicles from entry-level through luxury-performance segments. 

“Our EV solutions encompass everything from optimising battery safety, range and thermal management, to enhancing safety systems and reducing vehicle weight,” he says.

A huge part of this comes down to design engineers’ choice of materials and the connections between component design- and material-choice. 

“While that may be obvious, in areas of rapid innovation where the most effective approaches have yet to be established, the best solutions originate from the strongest early collaborations going beyond traditional purchasing-driven approaches.”

Looking closer at Dow’s portfolio, given their significant influence on EV performance, efficiency and weight, the company has developed gap fillers and adhesives that manage heat dissipation for maximising battery performance and reliability. 

“OEMs need to find smart efficiencies in this fast-moving market, while maintaining commitment to sustainability throughout the value chain. We’re helping manufacturers implement this holistic thinking.”

Dow's pioneering collaborations in Formula E and NASCAR

Dow is testing its technologies with Jaguar TCS Racing in Formula E, something McKeen is very excited about. 

“We collaborate closely with Jaguar TCS Racing to support their material needs; for example, some of the electronics in their e-drivetrain contain Dow materials that deliver meaningful overall efficiency improvements,” he says.

Collaboration with partners is to effectively utilise technical capabilities as the most powerful tool for expediting mobility innovation. 

“Our motorsport partnerships with Jaguar TCS Racing in Formula E and Richard Childress Racing in NASCAR accelerate testing of materials and technologies – enhancing vehicle performance, safety and durability in a unique way that cannot be replicated on the open road, or solely in a laboratory.”

They are therefore hugely valuable for easing the transition to next-generation mobility solutions.

Over the next 12 months, McKeen and the Dow team will deliver lab-to-customer innovation in mobility tailwind applications.

“Additionally, we are introducing expanded tools in R&D to accelerate the development cycle with our customers, thereby accelerating change.”

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