Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America
A rule in business holds that if a market is unperturbed by outside influences, three players will converge. Thus, the “Big Three” U.S. automakers – GM, Ford, Chrysler – dominated the automotive transportation market for most of the 20th century. Since then, many new brands have disrupted the market; plus, existing car makers have introduced electric vehicles to their inventory. Today the EV market is poised to take off. However, from a practical standpoint, quite a few challenges remain.
The two biggest obstacles to EV adoption are the same as they have been since their inception: Using 100% renewable energy to charge them, and also replacing the tens of thousands of gas stations across the U.S. with electric charging stations. Other concerns are high vehicle costs (although they are coming down), range anxiety, battery recycling, as well as finding raw materials for the green production of EVs and their batteries. From a power standpoint, there is also figuring out how to not overload the power grid when every vehicle in the country is fully electric.
One day EVs will be a combination of power supplies, motor drives, a sensor array, control systems, and a communications system for 5G and Wi-Fi – not to mention all the vehicle electronics for transportation. But before we see this mobile miracle on the dealer showroom floor, we’ll need something in between. This would be the HEV – or hybrid electric vehicle.
HEVs use a conventional ICE (internal combustion engine) to drive a generator system, that, when needed, charges the (typically) 48V electric battery banks. Often the vehicle will have a built-in charging system that enables charging from an external power source like a home garage charger. Of course, with HEVs there are many of the same considerations as with full EVs, such as environmental concerns, but at least range anxiety and charging issues are solved.
The HEV presents the best option for an intermediate step to a fully realized, problem-free EV once the ecology has been developed. I don’t believe anyone really knows what the timeline will be before we are totally converted to sustainable/carbon-neutral green power sources for charging. But for now, HEV technology is proven in many production vehicles.
Meanwhile, it’s anyone’s guess what incremental improvements and revolutionary technologies will developed to ensure success and customer satisfaction. We will continue to improve onboard and offboard charging systems, and the associated electronics. There is an almost insatiable demand for electronic components and technologies to make this all viable. Reliability and quality expectations at zero defects will mean using AEC-Q-level components, not to mention the high-volume, supply chain and price/delivery demands. If your organization can keep up with all the requirements, the EV and HEV market is positioning itself to be perhaps the largest market for electronics on earth.