The Automotive Industry: What Next?


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The sun sets on internal combustion engines (ICE). Many policy makers now place legal restrictions on the sale of new ICE-powered vehicles only. These limitations generate a lot of activity around hybrid systems, which combine ICE and some form of electric assist. In a light hybrid vehicle, the battery used can usually be charged with power from the ICE engine. These so-called self-charging hybrids are helping consumers transition to electric vehicles while avoiding the hassle of finding an electrical outlet to recharge the battery. The balance between how much power comes from the battery and how much power comes from ICE determines how “moderate” the hybrid is. Larger batteries paired with more powerful motors push the needle further toward the entire electrical end of the scale. Full battery electric vehicles (BEVs) do not have an ICE and depend entirely on the electric grid for power. There are other issues associated with this, such as building the public charging infrastructure needed to support the entire electric user experience. But for BEVs, there is no substitute for delivery. Other forms of alternative energy sources are being developed. One of the most promising of these is the use of hydrogen in fuel cells, which converts the energy stored in hydrogen into electrical energy. This use will lead to fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). While energy is stored differently in BEVs and FCEVs, both produce the electrical energy used to power the motor. Another technology being developed involves the use of supercapacitors to store electrical energy. A supercapacitor is similar to a battery in that it can be repeatedly charged and discharged, but the differences are significant internally. Supercapacitors can be charged and discharged quickly, which means they are able to deliver higher power than batteries, but the total stored energy is lower. Each of these techniques has its limitations. Batteries take time to recharge, fuel cells are slow to release their energy, and supercapacitors have low energy storage capacity. But they all generate electricity, which is the primary “fuel” that electric vehicles need. Perhaps in the near future, the term “hybrid” may evolve to describe vehicles that combine the three technologies to deliver the right user experience. Range and fast recharging are cited as some of the reasons consumers are reluctant to switch to full electric. The auto industry and the public sector must overcome this reluctance without a doubt. Using batteries, fuel cells, and supercapacitors together, every technology has the potential to deliver power when and where you need it. For example, range concerns can be addressed by fuel cell technology combined with fast-charging supercapacitors to provide good acceleration. There are no known examples of this potential new hybrid class today. However, it is one direction that the industry can follow in the future and it is based on the technology that currently exists. The use of wireless networks for energy storage in cars isn’t the only area of ​​innovation in the auto industry. Vehicles are becoming more and more connected, both with the public infrastructure and the systems on board. In general, the amount of data that a vehicle generates is increasing exponentially. Wireless technology avoids the relative increase in wires required to support this connection. Figure 1: Wireless transmission in automotive wiring is expensive, heavy, and bulky. On the other hand, wireless connections are effectively weightless, but require careful design, and the antenna is one of the most important aspects of the system. As car manufacturers adopt more types of wireless communication, at frequencies ranging from low megahertz to high gigahertz, antenna design and location are becoming more important. These design considerations will be even more important as 5G connectivity finds its way into the vehicle, to provide mission-critical connectivity such as V2X and autonomous driving. The data infrastructure needed to support complete autonomy will rely heavily on wireless technologies, including Wi-Fi and 5G. Wireless transmission presents challenges, not least because vehicles are still mostly made using large pressed sheet metal. It would be difficult to completely replace the metal, but it does. Both glass and plastic are used more often in the design and manufacture of cars. Most types of glass and many plastics are transparent to radio waves. This transparency is excellent news for engineers developing electronic systems that use wireless communication. It also allows car designers to explore new concepts. Entire glass surfaces are becoming more and more popular, for example. This design feature provides the option to mount antennas in a surface area that has clear access to the glass opening. Figure 2: Think of cars As the need for wireless connectivity grows, it could foster a new era of design that uses more glass and plastic. Of course, this also needs to be balanced with the need to design cars that are affordable, maintainable and recyclable. Written by Phil Lesnar, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Kemet (part of the Yageo Group) Please visit the eBook for the full article.


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