Rapid progress in electrification of vehicles
Nov 09, 2015
At a premium, Borg Warner recently bought Remy, the major manufacturer of electric traction motors for electric vehicles. Traction battery manufacturer XALT Energy in Michigan lands a one billion dollar order from just one Chinese electric bus company. General Motors just announced it will use supercapacitors for stop-start in millions of cars. Something is happening. Yes, vehicles are electrifying at a breakneck speed. That includes ones that are not true electric vehicles in having a traction motor propel them along some or all of the time. Stop-start in microhybrids and Torque Assist Reversing Alternators TARA as they are sometimes called in mild hybrids are cases in point. But there is more, much more as IDTechEx reveals in its report Power Electronics for Electric Vehicles 2015-2025.
There is a multiplier effect here. The market for electric vehicles is growing rapidly while existing electric parts are multiplying. For example two motors are replacing one for reasons of efficiency, redundancy, in-wheel fitment, four wheel drive, vectored steering and so on. Battery Management Systems do a better job with more sensing and other complexity. On top of that there is new power electronics and telematics arriving from that which manages multiple energy harvesting, regenerative active suspension and vehicle-to-grid. Add the circuits for wireless charging and ubiquitous Internet of Things in the newly connected vehicle. Some traction motors now have plain metal in the rotor (less metalwork) but double the control electronics (more circuitry) and electric motors need simpler gear trains if they have any at all (less metalwork). Wireless sensors, lights and actuators do away with wiring (less metalwork) and so it goes on. Electric vehicles are being completely reinvented and that is why the IDTechEx conference on the subject in Santa Clara California November 18-19 is called, Electric Vehicles: Everything is Changing.
Autonomous vehicle surprises
The term autonomous vehicle refers to vehicles that perform complete tasks without human intervention. Yes, that means a lot more signal and power circuitry and sensors galore. For road vehicles, navigation, avoidance of obstacles and obeying the rules of the road are vital. However, all is not what it seems to be.
As the new IDTechEx report, Autonomous Vehicles Land, Water, Air 2015-2035 reveals, the autonomous car is the toughest problem despite the rapid adoption of scraps of autonomy-related technology in cars all the time. True autonomy for a car means coping with manic pedestrians, cyclists and the police jumping out and waving instructions. Recognise the policewoman and obey her instructions while looking into the eyes of that poised pedestrian to decide if he is about to jump. Just stopping to avoid a collision is not enough. These and other challenges put true autonomy on all roads in all weather conditions some way away but in easier conditions - no policemen for a start - autonomy has come to a mine near you and it is high in the sky and deep underwater.
However, although Caterpillar publicises its autonomous giant mining trucks in the USA, IDTechEx interviews reveal that Komatsu in Japan claims leadership here with 100 sold already. Leadership in numbers of autonomous vehicles deployed may be the thousands of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles AUV performing a host of military and non-military tasks.
Top image: Komatsu