Every day, in every way, electric cars are getting better and better!

Electric cars are still a relatively new technology. Their gasoline and diesel cousins ​​have had over a century to work out the problems and you have to admit they’ve gotten pretty good at what they do. They are smooth, powerful and robust. If it weren’t for all the dirt coming out of their tailpipes – and all the other pollutants associated with drilling oil, transporting it, refining it, and then distributing it to gas stations – you could say that the internal combustion engine is just about perfect.

The same process of constant improvement and refinement is underway to make electric cars that drive further and charge faster. Efficiency is the name of the game. Some of that comes from better aerodynamics, some from improved battery technology, and some from better motors, inverters, and more. Here’s the story of two such advances that promise better electric cars in years to come. Both come from Tier 1 suppliers to the automotive industry – the companies we never hear about but who supply most of the components that go into the cars we drive.

Vitesco externally excited synchronous motor

This week, the 35th International Symposium on Electric Vehicles is taking place in Oslo, Norway. One of the companies at the show is Vitesco Technologies, a spin-off from Continental, one of the largest of these tier-one suppliers. Thomas Stierle, Head of Electrification Technology and Electronic Controls at Vitesco, says: “Oslo is where all the big names in automotive electrification meet. Here we will present the highlights of our current portfolio, as well as innovations for the future requirements of electromobility – for particularly efficient electric driving.

One such innovation is an externally excited synchronous motor which the company claims is optimized for long-distance driving at highway speeds. Unlike the permanently excited synchronous motors widely used today, externally excited synchronous motors do not require rare earth metals. Instead of a rotor with a rare-earth permanent magnet used in permanently excited synchronous motors, the EESM uses a coil to generate magnetic fields in the stator and rotor. These new engines would be more efficient, especially in highway driving.

Greater efficiency means longer range, which any EV driver will appreciate. But EESM motors have another important advantage. They are less expensive to manufacture, largely because they do not require rear grounding elements, the prices of which have increased in recent times. PSM motor prices are now the highest in 10 years. This may be why BMW uses EESMs in its 5th generation electric cars such as the iX3, i4, iX, i7 and iX1.

Still in Oslo this week, Electrif says Vitesco will showcase its systems and solutions for more efficient electric cars, including battery management systems, power electronics and thermal management controls. “With our portfolio, we are clearly focused on global and scalable platforms for electrified vehicles. This is where we see the growth, and this is also where the potential for sustainable and increasingly CO2-neutral future mobility lies,” says Stierly.

Schaeffler A more efficient axle for electric cars

4-in-1 electric drive axle. Image courtesy of Schaeffler.

Also in Oslo this week, Schaeffler, another Tier 1 supplier, showcased a range of electric drive solutions, including its new 4-in-1 drive axle for electric cars. In addition to the electric motor, power electronics and transmission components, which are often integrated into a single component, the 4-in-1 system also integrates thermal management into the whole.

The integration saves weight and space, but the thermal management system is particularly efficient, says the company. This means more range and faster charging for electric cars. According Electrif, energy consumption thanks to the new integrated drive axle will be reduced by up to 14%. Part of this efficiency is due to better use of waste heat and part to a new CO2 heat pump. Additionally, the new units cost approximately 10% less than current drive axles.

The thermal management of electric transmissions is very important, as they do not have an abundance of waste heat from a combustion engine. This makes heat from electric cars a “scarce and valuable commodity,” says Shaeffler. It is needed both to warm the cabin and to precondition the battery for fast charging. With little waste heat available, electric cars have to generate their own heat with battery power.

“The thermal management system has a significant influence on the efficiency and comfort of the vehicle,” explains Jochen Schröder, Head of Electromobility at Schaeffler. Together with the E 4-in-1 axle, “this creates a highly integrated and compact complete system, which requires much less space than non-integrated solutions”.

As unnecessary pipes and cables are removed, less energy is also lost as heat. “In addition to the compact design, the biggest advantage of the 4-in-1 system is the optimized interaction of the individual subsystems,” says Schröder. During development, the engineers took into account both the thermal behavior of the individual drive components – such as the electric motor or the power electronics – as well as the most efficient and comprehensive thermal management of the drive. entire vehicle so as not to dissipate waste heat from the electric motor. and power electronics via a radiator, but to use it to heat the passenger compartment.

Schröder sees both established car manufacturers and start-ups as the target group for the highly integrated drive unit. This would shorten the development time and reduce the costs of complex new developments of the entire drive system. The company continues to offer a variety of electric drivetrain components to automakers and is set to introduce its new Beam Electric Axles, a 3-in-1 system that includes the electric motor, power electronics and transmission in one. single integrated set. Schaeffler will supply them to car manufacturers in the future, especially in North America. It indicates that the first orders have already been received.

Takeaway meals

Efficiency has never been a big issue for petrol and diesel vehicles, but it’s perhaps the number one consideration for electric cars and it’s easy to see why. One gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 33.7 kWh of electricity. In other words, a car with a 67 kWh battery must be able to make do with the energy contained in just 2 gallons of gasoline. No wonder electric vehicles have to find ways to become more efficient.

We tend to focus on new battery technologies and faster chargers and those things are important, but finding ways to make electric cars go further with a kWh of electricity is also a critical part of the equation. Just as internal combustion engines have improved over time, so will electric cars. There are dozens, if not hundreds of companies looking for ways to improve EV efficiency. It won’t be long before cars with a range of 400 miles are mainstream, and that’s when the electric vehicle revolution will really kick into high gear.


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