In the second week of June, key players of the automotive industry got together in Wiesloch, Germany to discuss the future electrical and electronic systems in Hybrid and Electrical Vehicles. The conference known as Electric and Electronic Systems in Hybrid and Electrical Vehicles and Electrical Energy Management (EEHE) or EEHE for short, featured a broad spectrum of participants ranged from Directors, Managers, and Engineers to Technical Specialists from companies like Daimler, Volvo, BMW, Ford, Bosch, Continental, Denso, Valeo, etc.
Hybrid/Electric vehicle market really growing
The market for HEVs and EVs is finally showing signs of real growth and many vehicle manufacturers stressed their needs for increased share of hybrid and electric vehicles in fleet management, mainly as a result of emission legislation.
Daimler, for instance, is expecting to grow its fleet of electrified vehicles (HEV/EVs) by 70% in 2016 to more than 60,000 this year. The company also showcased a smartphone application for HEV/EVs that shows data on charging profile, nearest charging stations and in future, and eventually to turn on the heater before driving.
For its part Volvo has kept its focus on the development of high voltage systems. The company demonstrated a strong commitment to electrification with its new T8 twin engine. Volvo is targeting 10% electrified share of its fleet offering by 2020 and expects to have a fully electric car commercially available by 2019.
48 V, a cost effective solution
Players like Valeo and FEV demonstrated a modular approach for electric architectures. Both suppliers stressed the need for 48 V systems to achieve the required CO2 emission targets.
Valeo suggested a dual-board net approach where there will be two sources, namely a 12 V lead acid battery along with a 48 V lithium-ion battery pack. The 12 V battery would supply power to low voltage control systems like head unit or airbag ECU, whereas the 48 V source would be dedicated to high current operations such as energy recuperation, boosting and active suspension. Valeo expects to supply 48 V systems to more than twenty different car manufacturers in the next three years, although this sounds very optimistic.
ECU consolidation in the automotive sector
As the industry moves towards the autonomous cars, major Tier 1s are focusing on optimizing the power consumption of future cars.
Continental demonstrated how adding new electrical components for different levels of automation adds to CO2 emissions. The company showed that in order to reach the L2 (partial automation) level, CO2 emissions increase by as much as 4.2 g/km, while attaining the L5 (high automation) level implies further detrimental emissions behavior to the tune of +6.7 g/km. This counterproductive surge in emissions demands efforts on architectural optimization, and one way is through the integration of electronic control units (ECUs). Today, a premium car exceeds 70 ECUs—one per application. While more functions will emerge, in future Continental sees multiple functions implemented in a single ECU. Continental demonstrated its own “evolution” and “revolution” version with new concepts for electric and electronic architectures.
Specifically, for hybrid/electric vehicles Continental demonstrated a prototype known as Bidirectional Charge and Traction System (BCTS). There are two significant features here, firstly the use of advanced electronics components based on SiC and second, multi-functional operation:
- DC/AC conversion for the motor
- DC/DC voltage conversion
- AC/DC and DC/DC conversion for the battery
Today, the above operations are performed by individual ECUs but this multi-function system further validates the need to consolidate within ECUs. This not only saves power but reduces the cost and weight of modules. Another interesting aspect of the BCTS was that it used SiC MOSFETs and diodes as components. Even though BCTS is a prototype, the fact that Continental is testing its systems with SiC components goes to show that SiC may well just be the future technology for high voltage applications.
EEHE provided an opportunity for the major industry players to showcase their latest work and thinking. From the presentations and discussions it was evident that each automotive supplier is working hard to find new ways to meet impending new stringent CO2 targets with electrification as the main strategy.