MercedesThe race continues to build more advanced vehicles, whether it’s wireless functions in connected cars or automated driver assistance systems or fully autonomous vehicles. It seems as if every company in the transportation sector has an “e-mobility” vision to improve fuel efficiency and emissions, and meet market demands for lower costs. Advances are being made in electric powertrain technologies, in-vehicle information systems, communication technologies, and connected infrastructures for electric propulsion of vehicles and fleets.

Powertrain technologies include full electric vehicles. plug-in hybrids, even hydrogen fuel cell-based vehicles. According to Peter Loetzner, CEO of equipment manufacturer EMAG LLC:

Batteries and fuel cell development are progressing at light speed and the electric power source, I believe, will vary by continent. Asia will be heavily leveraged to the all-electric vehicle due to pollution and other concerns, while Europe will maintain an allegiance to the hybrid gas engine, due to the road conditions and established recharging network. In America, hybrids will have more gradual growth, while the share economy of Uber services and the Google car take shape.

Consumer trends show that driving will become more of an “as-needed” function. This will lead to smaller, more precise e-mobility systems with smaller engines, more gears, superchargers, and other high-performance enhancements.

Smart Transportation Grids

Battery-based EV’s (BEVs) show great potential, as long as investments are made in smart transportation grids, intelligent electrical distribution that serves as the charging infrastructure. According to a report by the Joint Research Council, smart grids will be the backbone of the EU’s future energy system. These electricity networks will use intelligent metering and two-way communication to predict and respond to the behavior and actions of connected users.

Dundee, Scotland, has become the first of Britain’s “Go Ultra Low Cities” to start serious work on its EV charging network. New charging hubs are being scattered across town, with rapid and fast chargers in dedicated areas. The chargers can handle two EVs simultaneously, to 80 percent battery life in 30 minutes on the rapid charger and in one hour on the fast charger.

The connected car industry is an increasingly complex array of safety technology, infotainment, infrastructure, services, and partnerships. Source: Pwc, 2016.

The connected car industry is an increasingly complex array of safety technology, infotainment, infrastructure, services, and partnerships. Source: Pwc, 2016.

Wireless Communication

Speed is also an issue for vehicle-to-vehicle communications. 5G cellular tech was first demonstrated by BMW in South Korea.

Two BMWs shared information with the human drivers; in a future, self-driving setup, such sharing of data might allow cars to coordinate actions almost instantaneously. Each car had a 5G station of its own, through which on-board cameras could upload ultrahigh-definition video for displaying to an audience. The cars were from the X5 and the S7 series.

An up-to-date look at new connected car functions and mobility services. Source: CNET]

Evolving Standards

There are many standards around for EV charging that it’s making development difficult. Initially, the primary EV standard was AC (alternating current), like the power in your home. New charging station offers AC Type 2, which yet another standard.

According to Deutsche Welle, more e-mobility vehicles offer fast charging on DC. CHAdeMO and CCS (Combined Charging System) are both DC standards and the most obvious way to tell them apart is by their adapters or plugs. Wouldn’t one international standard be more sensible than this?

Current AC standards:

  • CEE 3 pole
  • CEE 5 pole
  • CEE+ 7 pole
  • Type F
  • Type 2
  • Type 1
  • Tesla Wall Connector

And DC plugs include:

  • XLR
  • CHAdeMO
  • CCS
  • Type 3
  • Tesla Supercharger

Next Gen Electrical Power

Connected cars keep adding components and so need more electrical power. A modern vehicle may have as many as 150 electric motors. According to Technology Review, the good news is that 48-volt systems will appear in cars starting in 2017. The increased voltage lets engineers design cars in novel ways that boost engine output and efficiency. This can be used to make hybrids on the cheap, “mild hybrids”. These combine electric motors and combustion engines to cut fuel consumption and emissions.

According to Technology Review:

Audi’s forthcoming luxury SUV, the SQ7, for example, uses a 48-volt system to power a turbine that forces extra air into the engine to provide a momentary power bump. A prototype Ford Focus uses a similar power supply to provide torque assistance, which helps the car accelerate. These kinds of advances may not have the dramatic emission-reducing power of switching to all-electric motors, or even hybrid systems like those found in the Toyota Prius. But they’re less of a departure from the norm for both manufacturers and consumers, and they could help cut emissions in vehicles that Americans are already buying in huge quantities.

Battery Packaging

The future of transportation increasingly involves batteries that need to be packaged to absorb internal impact energy. PORON Urethane and BISCO Silicone foams withstand collapse that can happen due to the stresses of compression and temperature in battery packs over time. This Compression Set Resistance (C-set) Resistance can help extend the life of the battery by continuing to seal and absorb shock. These unique foams from Rogers Corporation also have a unique ability to act as a spring by retaining a very consistent level of force across a range of compressions. This allows the designer more flexibility and reliability in packaging of the battery pack due to the ability to predict the cushioning material’s behavior across varied dimensional tolerances.