Electronics for safe, efficient electric vehicles

Nov 15, 2013
Electronics for safe, efficient electric vehicles

For decades, futurists have been predicting that the use of electric vehicles (EVs) will overtake conventional vehicles, providing clean, green and cheap transport for all. Although increasing numbers of electric vehicles are being sold in Europe, the internal combustion engine still remains king of the road. EU-funded researchers are trying to change that, developing technology that promises to significantly improve the range and efficiency of EVs without compromising comfort or safety.

As battery and electric motor technology has advanced in recent years, manufacturers have started to produce more commercial , from to cars and bikes. But while sales are rising rapidly, there are still fewer than 100,000 purely electric vehicles on Europe's roads - compared with more than 250 million conventional vehicles, 90 % of which are passenger cars.

Several factors are holding back the electric vehicle market, despite its promises of cheaper transport, less noise, reduced fuel imports and lower emissions of CO2 and other pollutants.

"The most obvious barrier that explains the hesitation of consumers to choose an electric vehicle is the cost-performance ratio which is, compared to conventional vehicles, not very attractive," says Dr Volker Scheuch, a researcher at German automotive electrics group Intedis. "One of the drawbacks on the performance side is the short range of electric vehicles due to battery technology, which is still at the beginning of its evolution, and vehicle concepts that still use ideas from times when the economical use of resources was not really a topic."

Often, the design and many of the components of electric vehicles still borrow features from their conventional predecessors that may not be optimised for EV efficiency or safety. But simply optimising each component individually is not sufficient - the overall architecture and the interactions between components also need to be addressed if EVs are to meet their full potential.

Several new EV concept vehicles employ parallel motors - offering not only greater manoeuvrability and performance compared to more conventional single-motor designs, but also increased energy efficiency. However, controlling two motors at the same time safely is a considerable challenge, requiring a novel system architecture and a range of electronic devices, from sensors to control units.

The issue is being tackled by a team of researchers working under the direction of Dr Scheuch in the 'Safe and efficient electrical vehicle' (EFUTURE) project, which received EUR 4 million in funding from the European Commission. Their goal is to prepare the next generation of electric vehicles by creating intelligent software that minimises energy needs while still being able to dynamically optimise decisions between safety and energy efficiency.

"Today's vehicles have a very high level of operational safety which needs to be kept for the electric generation," according to Dr Scheuch. "New challenges arise when more than one motor driving the wheels comes into play. This is what we investigated in EFUTURE - which additional requirements are to be met for two parallel front motors and how can they be implemented into a system safety concept."

Among other key innovations, the team implemented central decision units in such a way that motor controls are subject to redundancies in case of failures, based on the concept of "functional safety" - which means that any component or system must include the safe management of any likely operator errors, hardware failures or environmental changes.

The team were therefore able to demonstrate an electric prototype vehicle that is not only safe, but also more efficient. They have therefore achieved a potentially much longer range than most existing EVs, achieved 'virtually' through use of software alone.

Increasing the range - and attractiveness - of EVs

"We have therefore demonstrated the feasibility of creating a 'virtual range extender,' which has no hardware associated with it, by using new driver-assistance functions, founded on a lean architecture, while keeping a superior level of operational safety," Dr Scheuch explains.

Novel Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADASs) developed by the EFUTURE team include a green Autonomous Cruise Control system (Green ACC) that automatically adjusts vehicle speed depending on traffic and road conditions while improving efficiency, and an "ECO mode" that coaches the driver to adopt driving habits that use less energy.

Less visible to drivers, but no less significant are other EFUTURE innovations such as an automatic Vehicle Observer sensor system to enhance safety, and a Torque Vectoring functionality that improves driving stability and comfort. Torque Vectoring also extends the Anti-Lock Braking' (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) functions to normal driving, thereby extending the dynamic range of the vehicle.

"There are also functions not visible to the driver, such as the vehicle energy management system, and decision units that define trajectory and actuator control, which also contribute to the overall efficiency," Dr Scheuch says.

The project manager explains that one of the biggest challenges the team had to overcome was adapting a first-generation electric vehicle to meet the project requirements - exemplifying the problem of the use of legacy components based on systems used in conventional cars.

"To convert our architecture concept into hardware we substituted the core components with new ones: the vehicle control unit, the battery control unit, the battery and motors. Furthermore, we added a complete system for ADAS functionality (cameras and radar), and implemented an entirely new set of control software for all components. In short, we converted a very basic vehicle to a highly instrumented car full of innovative functions," Dr Scheuch says.

The prototype concepts and systems developed by the project partners, which includes the European Technical Centre of Tata Motors, are expected to find their way into future generation EVs.

"Many of the ideas of EFUTURE will be found in future products and services of the partners. The domain architecture of the vehicle controller, the algorithms, the Green ADAS functions, safety concepts and many more will be part of new research projects or are already part of new hardware products for future vehicles," the project manager says.

"The more innovative concepts for efficient driving exist, the higher the impact on the vehicle market in Europe, and EFUTURE is one part of it. Economically, we have shown a feasible way towards a higher EV range, thus enhancing consumers' acceptance of electrically driven cars - they will get more value for their money."

Explore further: Shedding light on solar power

More information: cordis.europa.eu/projects/rcn/95487_en.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Energy to power tomorrow's electric vehicles

Sep 09, 2013

Sales of full electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have been rising steadily in many parts of the world, including Europe. These are motor vehicles, including personal cars, which can be recharged ...

Kick-starting Europe's electric vehicle industry

Aug 02, 2013

Electric vehicles (e-vehicles, or EVs) are set to play a key role in the future of urban mobility, reducing pollution, decreasing dependence on fossil fuels and saving drivers money. Although e-vehicles make up only a tiny ...

Modular battery concept for short-distance traffic

Sep 02, 2013

Electric mobility may be economically efficient today. Battery-based electric drives can be applied efficiently in urban buses, for instance. Frequent acceleration and slow-down processes as well as a ...

Electric mass mobility for urban environments

May 02, 2012

Electric vehicles powered by electricity from renewable energy sources are an attractive option for mobility within the urban area and beyond. However, previous approaches lead to vehicles that either are ...

'Gently does it' drives you further in electric vehicles

Dec 21, 2012

Drivers of petrol and diesel cars are usually aware that driving at high speed, harsh acceleration and hard braking all contribute to lowering their fuel economy. Scientists can readily explain in terms of the thermodynamics ...

Recommended for you

Audi to develop Tesla Model S all-electric rival

1 hour ago

The Tesla Model S has a rival. Audi is to develop all-electric family car. This is to be a family car that will offer an all-electric range of 280 miles (450 kilometers), according to Auto Express, which ...

A green data center with an autonomous power supply

7 hours ago

A new data center in the United States is generating electricity for its servers entirely from renewable sources, converting biogas from a sewage treatment plant into electricity and water. Siemens implemented ...

Can we create an energy efficient Internet?

8 hours ago

With the number of Internet connected devices rapidly increasing, researchers from Melbourne are starting a new research program to reduce energy consumption of such devices.

Shedding light on solar power

Nov 27, 2014

Everyone wants to save energy, but not everyone knows where to start. Grid Resources, a startup based out of the Centre for Urban Energy's iCUE incubator, is developing a new website that seeks to help homeowners ...

Energy transition project moves into its second phase

Nov 27, 2014

Siemens is studying new concepts for optimizing the cost-effectiveness and technical performance of energy systems with distributed and fluctuating electricity production. The associated IRENE research project ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Eikka
1 / 5 (4) Nov 15, 2013
And how much do all those added gizmos add cost over the basic vehicle?

QuixoteJ
1 / 5 (3) Nov 15, 2013
And at what point do you start having a slight/complete failure of something all the time because the number of working components in a car has gone from 1000 to 1,000,000? And who wrote the software? And how good is the software? How much does it cost to repair minor failures? Do I have to take it to the dealership for even the simplest problems?

Air, gas, spark, and reliable easy-to-repair mechanical components. I'll take those instead.
tadchem
1 / 5 (3) Nov 15, 2013
Electric cars need metals (rare earths for magnets) which we have not learned to produce without simultaneously making huge piles of toxic wastes.
geokstr
1 / 5 (3) Nov 19, 2013
And where is all this additional energy needed to "fundamentally transform" all private vehicles and every other form of transportation and construction equipment now using fossil fuels. Breezes and sunlight won't even get close, hydro and nukes are garlic to the enviro vampires, fusion, cold or hot, always seems to be coming in the next ten years.

So they'll get it from - ta da! - oil and coal.

Or we will have to kill off 90% of the population and return to hunting and gathering. Vendy's already got his application in to be Executioner-in-Chief of all those who do not obey.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.