Dr. Dominique Freckmann – Global Technology – TE Connectivity Automotive
As mobility solutions become more connected, automated, and electrified, the in-vehicle component connectivity challenges greatly intensify. Pushed by increased legislative pressure to decrease CO2 emissions, as well as significant battery technology breakthroughs, the trend towards electrified powertrains has accelerated. One perceived constraint in the adoption of electric vehicles is slow refueling. To meet consumers’ expectations, electric vehicles need to charge in minutes, not hours. At the same time, vehicle-to-world connectivity means more sensors, displays, and antennas. Increased automated and safety-critical control requires more computing power as well as more power to drive electronic actuators for steering, braking, and suspension. Without the waste heat of an internal combustion engine power is also needed for electrical heating. While increasingly more power is delivered more quickly to the vehicle, it is also important to focus on efficiently distributing it.
In-vehicle power and thermal management requirements are growing while components are shrinking. All of these trends present challenges to providing robust, reliable in-vehicle power and signal connections.
We work with our customers at the component and system level to account for size, material, and cabling requirements to enable optimized performance
Material improvements and innovations are needed to address the forward-looking requirements of all-electric powertrains. For example, a charging inlet will be subjected to thousands of mating cycles, well beyond typical automotive applications. The metal contacts, over their entire operation lifecycle, need to be highly conductive, with high wear resistance and low friction. We are therefore developing a suite of contacts targeting these requirements based upon various copper base alloys and unique structured surfaces. The challenge for most efficiently designing the plastic part of the components is the partially outdated ISO 60664 standard which defines required mechanical design dimensions for a certain voltage (the creepage and clearance distances) only up to 600V. Evolving fast charging requirements however already mention voltages up to 1500V in future proposed standards. Besides a deep understanding of how electricity interacts with various base resins and fillers, there needs to be an even closer communication between system designers and component suppliers to ensure an appropriate match to charging profiles which must be well understood in terms of performance aspects.
The more demanding high-power charging requirements, in combination with size constraints for in-vehicle components, push the boundaries of physics. Where there’s power there’s heat, so proper thermal management is another key challenge. TE Connectivity (TE) has in-house electro-thermal modeling and simulation capability allowing for optimized design of components and subsystems that can be stressed by the high charging voltage and current needs. We work with our customers, at the component and system level, to account for size, material, and cabling requirements to enable optimized performance.
Finally, one of the industry’s most pressing challenges is how to best address electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) requirements. With the same push for efficiency of power electronics, wide bandgap semiconductors such as SiC and GaN will be used, further aggravating electromagnetic emissions (EMI) issues. Properly aligning high voltage and high-speed wired as well as wireless data connectivity continues to be a challenging task. To investigate these competing demands, the RobKom consortium, of which TE is a member, is focused on reliable communication in autonomous electric vehicles.
These are just a few of the many challenges being addressed. Drawing upon more than 75 years of physical connection systems expertise, TE Connectivity’s team of engineers, contact physicists, and material scientists work closely with customers to develop optimized solutions to ever-increasing connectivity demands and challenges.