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CAN Newsletter magazine

Future electric mobility with CAN in-wheel system

Currently, electric vehicles are competing on acceleration performance and range, but in the future, the discussion will be less about cars and more about mobility, of which electric vehicles will be one of the main pillars.

The automotive-grade ASIL-D-rated PCU 2.0 enables use of four separate CAN networks and supports Flexray; As an ECU, it is compatible for use on many different levels of control within a vehicle – including serving as a powertrain controller for autonomous applications built on top of the stack (Source: Elaphe)

This article originally appeared in the June issue of the CAN Newsletter magazine 2019. This is just an excerpt.

The playing field of the automotive industry has significantly changed with the arrival of electric vehicles to the mainstream market. Today, electric vehicle design and production is not limited to only traditional players, but has become an open playing field for anyone with resources. There is a vast number of competing powertrain architectures and technologies - some simple adaptations of the traditional 100-year-old ICE concept, and others more advanced, which bring more radical changes to a car.

Since a lot of different technologies are possible and viable, and development of mass-production compatible electric powertrains is practically in its infancy, vehicle makers are scrambling to find the right formula for the future consumer demands. Currently, electric vehicles are competing on acceleration performance and range, but in the future, the discussion will be less about cars and more about mobility, of which electric vehicles will be one of the main pillars. Vehicle makers are increasingly focusing on electric vehicles with autonomous driving functionalities and connectivity.

The defining characteristic is that the new vehicles are not designed for the driver, but rather the user. The “form factor” is a rolling chassis with space allocated above the wheel for people and goods utility of mobility. It means that the powertrain will be much less in the spotlight; Instead, function, safety, and comfort, with high-level of autonomy and connectivity will become the main drivers for consumers. There is a requirement for an efficient development process, which means effective and less time-consuming packaging of powertrain components, increased control of the vehicle and of course, more and more focus on software and related safety functions. Because of the many new possibilities and design freedoms they offer, (inwheel) wheel hub motors are a new favorite of the designers as the basic e-powertrain technology.

Since the end of the 1980's, the development of such technology for the European automotive industry has been the main focus of Elaphe Propulsion Technologies specialists. With many successful past and ongoing projects, and planned developments, the industrialized in-wheel technology is finally being commercialized as the ultimate powertrain platform for the next generation of autonomous and connected electric vehicles. From a future market standpoint, the powertrain will need to become invisible to the user as much as possible, and the software will likely be the main differentiator. The depth of impact for software will greatly depend on the basic possibilities that the powertrain offers to exploit (functionality, power electronics, space, controllability, etc.). This is where in-wheel powertrains provide enormous value and possibilities. The business model for use of vehicles will change, so considering the vehicle as a smart device, which can add functionalities and features as if adding apps on your phone, is a likely analogy.

One other thing is that the vehicles will begin to change exterior and interior form with increasing autonomy and different propulsion architectures. In line with the packaging requirements, the motors will likely need to take less and less space to enable low and flat floors, maximizing spaciousness inside a vehicle while still keeping a minimal outside size footprint. Another benefit will also be the increased battery capacity, which will still play a major role, but will come from three different facts - there will be more space available on a vehicle for a larger battery due to novel architectures; the vehicles will feature reduced powertrain weight and increased efficiency; and we will have access to increased battery energy density that evolves with time.

In-wheel technology thus plays a significant role in the development of compact, transmission-free drive systems. Increased safety, improved handling, and unparalleled traction control are just some of the benefits of the decentralized in-wheel architecture.

If you want to continue reading this article, you can download the PDF of Mr. Luka Ambrozic and Mr. Ales Dobnikar from Elaphe. Or you download the full magazine. This is free-of-charge.


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