Today, a variety of trending topics and factors play a pivotal role in the realization of e-mobility. Although this trend started many years ago, it is now developing exponentially.
On the one hand, there is our environment and how we deal with resources – the need for radical change is reflected not only in the public mindset but also in buying behaviours and political agendas. To successfully achieve the defined emission objectives, vehicles need technologies centered around decarbonization. The industry needs efficient electrified drives, e-motors, powerful e-batteries, or alternative energy sources, ensuring fast charging and eliminating the famous range anxiety, as well as hybrid solutions, providing a stepping stone for emission cuts.
Digitalization is now a part of everyday mobility –society’s acceptance and expectations of OEMs are taking on new dimensions every year – consolidated EE architectures, smart control units and on-board software are integral parts in the construction of new models. Future vehicle structures are highly connected – driving systems are becoming increasingly intelligent and the electronics controlling them are becoming part of the powertrain.
Also, demand for greater performance in the vehicle is ever-present, ranging from the unique high-performance sports car experience on the racetrack to straightforward, reliable performance of conventional passenger cars in everyday traffic. Modern vehicle design focuses on the individual end-user, accounting for his or her performance needs and requirements for dynamic driving behaviour.
Trend streams, mentioned above, are seamlessly intertwined and interconnectivity of engineering disciplines, including all core technical areas, is indispensable. The implementation of EV concepts is gaining in complexity, especially due to the limitless potential for expansion and further development of existing systems. Set up of innovations and electrification of vehicle platforms require in-depth know-how in holistic system integration. System thinking and clear requirement management processes call for great attention to detail, whereby the system developer must consider all possible scenarios and driving behaviours.
These rising expectations and goals lead back to the critical questions of vehicle, functionality and data safety. In addition to a wide range of case-specific test methods and sensor-based measurement equipment, mature analysis and modification tools are essential to completing development projects - from concept to series production and beyond.
Johann HOFER, CEO of hofer powertrain:
“As a system supplier of efficient electric drive solutions, we have been supporting and advising customers on their way to e-mobility for over 40 years. Our profound system competence is based on these experiences and our vision is reflected in the holistic hofer powertrain portfolio with a variety of pioneering electrification solutions”.
What makes hofer powertrain an expert and how has the company positioned to cover the topics of the future?
A few decades ago, when electric mobility hardly played a role to the masses, hofer powertrain had the opportunity to support German OEMs such as Siemens and Audi in their electrification efforts at a very early stage by providing engineering services and products. This active involvement in shaping the market enabled us to get to know the key drivers and expand our team’s know-how, which contributed to our overall portfolio and led to the development of various solutions and innovations – developed together with and for renowned vehicle manufacturers.
Electrified vehicles require compact drive units that meet stringent performance and efficiency requirements. Depending on these requirements and overall development objectives, each EDU (Electric Drive Unit) and its technical characteristics can differ significantly for different customer applications. High-demand technologies evolve around smart, software-based control systems, enabling early real-time diagnostics and correction of errors. Furthermore, insulation technologies for high-voltage applications, those operating at 800 V or higher, are necessary to allow safe power transmission. More attention needs to be paid to optimum electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) among electronics in the vehicle, to prevent interference between devices integrated in the vehicle and external devices. Recent developments require a high level of integration of individual units into the overall systems. There are many ways to achieve maximum integration, but what maximum integration means and whether it is necessary depends on the customer's ultimate end goal. Drawing on expert experience and considering key output parameters, an ideal level of integration can be defined for specific purposes. Design and implementation goals vary from solutions that are strongly focused on cost efficiency or compactness, to multi-purpose electric drive units designed for front and rear axles, to EDUs suitable for robo-taxis with a focus on high driving range.
To place more climate-neutral models on the road, numerous OEMs focus their efforts on deploying hybrid drives. Estimations show that demands are likely to continue to increase, depending on markets, in the next few years. The number of hybrid transmission variants and their complexity is almost unlimited, and the efficiency requirements are increasing. To ensure high efficiency and maximize performance, hybrid architectures combine functionality strengths and eliminate weaknesses, to save energy and reduce power losses. To provide customers with ideal solutions, a deep understanding and use of new light-weight technologies, proven and effective noise vibration harshness (NVH) optimization techniques, and engineering with the system in mind, are critical. In addition, OEMs needfully scalable and flexible concepts that offer the best performance for the available installation space while leveraging existing resources and technologies.
Traction batteries for e-vehicles continuously advance at an unprecedented speed. Energy densities and power densities are increasing step by step. Charging rates from 5-80% SOC are falling from 45 minutes two years ago to . Substantial cost reductions at the cell and battery pack level are on the horizon. LFP cell chemistry will play a critical role in cost reduction and raw material sourcing. This progress will enable small and mid-size e-vehicles to be produced at the same or lower costs as a conventional combustion vehicle. Cell-to-pack technology will largely compensate for the disadvantage of LFP cell technology in terms of volumetric and gravimetric energy density. The combination of cell-to-pack technology together with the newly developed NMC high-energy cell technology presents an extreme challenge concerning fire safety of the battery packs. Future battery solutions will require significant development efforts to bring cell-to-pack technology in series production together with NMC high-energy cell technology.
Software systems for control boards in vehicles are among the strongest growing fields. Continuously optimized computer programs can control dedicated vehicle functions with great precision. Consequently, highly sensitive approaches and state-of-the-art quality management are required throughout the system and software development phases. New generations of vehicles are becoming increasingly complex in structure. System engineers rely on consolidated, collaborative software concepts to take this complexity into account and reduce development times.
To ensure the most efficient solutions on the road and to implement powertrains with maximum performance and reduced complexity suitable for application in all types of vehicles, an overarching understanding of overall systems and close cooperation between development teams from all engineering areas are required. Implementation at system level requires precision, backup and validation of intermediate steps, and comprehensive commissioning at component and system level, taking into account interdependencies in the overall component mix. In times of rapid innovation and increasing demand for progress, advanced system competencies accelerate development processes, ensure cost efficiency and optimized time-to-market.
Wolfgang STEPHAN, CTO of hofer powertrain:
"Electrification is not a topic of the future, but the present. In many economic regions, there will be no place for combustion vehicles after 2030. But to successfully bring electrification to the road, many major vehicle manufacturers have to overcome a number of challenges. We specialize in solving these challenges with proven, innovative technologies and many years of experience".
Q&A with hofer powertrain
What are the technical challenges facing the industry and what are the main goals for the future?
Anything, that the automotive industry has learned and developed around the internal combustion engine until today, is being challenged and reframed. Vehicle manufacturers are moving away from thermodynamics and combustion, towards stronger energy-efficient technologies. The final goal for many automotive players and their vehicle layouts is 100% electric propulsion, which can be powered by an electric battery and/or fuel cell. Some big, well-established car manufacturers, such as Jaguar, are already planning to convert their fleets to all-electric drive concepts in the next 3 years*. In contrast, other car manufacturers such as Porsche intend to steadily expand their electrification efforts up to 80% by 2030**. Many OEMs are feeling the pressure to make the leap to fully electrified vehicles in a timely manner. We can say with certainty, the global industry won't go electric overnight; we need mature infrastructures and sensible concepts for individual markets. Our experts are driving electrification forward on a system level with a 360° approach. This approach enables us to serve the market on a global scale with a variety of off-the-shelf and highly customized electric and hybrid solutions - driving the effective shift towards Electrification.
Stay tuned and read more in part 2!
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