White Paper

White Paper: Power Modules Enable Electric Drive Systems

Source: Maxwell Technologies

By Mark Cohen and Richard Smith
Maxwell Technologies

Automotive electrical system architecture development and product planning has been underway for several years as the automotive industry prepares for the largest systemic change in decades: the transition from heat engine propulsion to electric drive; 12 volts to 42 volts; and distributed electrical power. A variety of options exist, driven by technology and economics, and opinions continue to change as to how and when the transition will occur. Current conventional wisdom says that the migration to hybrids, 12 to 42 volts, and distributed power will occur in stages. The migration appears to be taking longer than originally anticipated, and is likely to be a continuous evolution over the next decade or longer.

The modern automobile is becoming ever more sophisticated, evolving towards an intelligent electrically powered platform. Consumers no longer use cars solely for transportation. They expect greater comfort, convenience, entertainment, and safety than ever before. At the same time great pressure is being exerted both politically and by the consumer to have less dependence on fossil fuel and greater reduction in pollution and greenhouse gasses. Automotive companies are appealing to this expectation by putting more and more creature comforts into our vehicles, a trend that has resulted in significant loads on the electrical system, while at the same time developing various strategies for reducing fuel consumption and pollutants. An effective means to accommodate these increased demands is by migrating to a higher voltage system. The implications of this migration have an interesting feedback behavior; more power-hungry peripheral components on the vehicle create the need for a more powerful electrical system. Conversely, availability of more electrical power can accommodate the long-term requirement to achieve better performance and efficiency by taking advantage of the increased electrical power to drive motors, actuators, and control boxes which currently are mechanically or hydraulically driven. Ultimately, all subsystems must be electrically powered if we are to achieve all-electric vehicles such as fuel cell or battery powered automobiles.

Numerous automotive firms are well into the production design cycle for ultracapacitor-based powertrains and subsystems, as they recognize the advantages and availability of the ultracapacitor to meet their business and technical requirements. Ultracapacitors are becoming a standard energy storage option. Ultracapacitors are globally available, cost-effective, perform well in automotive systems, and are considered a peer to any other option for commercial energy storage requirements.

This paper will explore some of the application concepts utilizing drivetrain and distributed power concepts to satisfy the two converging demands of environment and consumer....

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