The venerable 12V electrical system is slowly being supplanted by higher-voltage architectures, especially in hybrids and electric cars. Some of those new systems operate at voltages as high as 450V and 600V, enabling the vehicles to run starter-generators, while minimizing the windings in the electric motors that drive the wheels.
Moreover, the new breed of higher-voltage architectures provides more power for the auto industry's growing list of electrical features, ranging from active chassis to heated windshields to electric air conditioners. Some offer in excess of 12 kW of power, compared to just 1.5 kW in today's conventional gas-burning cars.
Full hybrids and electric cars aren't the only recipients of high-voltage electrical systems, however. Some experts say we'll soon see 48V micro-hybrids, which will combine start-stop capabilities with regeneration systems that capture deceleration energy. The result: a fuel economy boost of about 15 percent or more.
We've collected photos of vehicles that have begun offering higher voltages over the past decade, along with pictures of some next-generation components. From micro-hybrids and electric cars to full-fledged hybrids, we present a collection of the most notable.
Click on the image below to start the slideshow.
In 2010, the Toyota Prius was bumped up from a max operating voltage of 500V to 650V. (Source: Toyota)
Cap'n, this is an interesting trend. The 48V systems are an interesting bridge. As more functions are powered by electricity provided by batteries, the load on the engine is lessened. This allows smaller (more fuel efficient) engines to power the vehicle. Charging the batteries using regenerative braking captures energy that was unused before. Thanks for the article.
The voltages noted in the article match the DC bus voltage one would find in an industrial Variable Frequency Drive. Using just the converter portion of such a drive would permit the use of regular 220V AC motors on the 300-360 voltages, and 460V AC motors for those in the 650V bus range.
Essentially, Rob, you're asking how much more all-electric range can you get by employing a higher-voltage architecture? Higher-voltage architectures and higher-voltage batteries are in general better at capturing regenerative braking energy, which does get you some extra electric range. But putting a number on it is going to be tough. I'll try to get a rough estimate for you, but it will vary from vehicle to vehicle, since they have different electrical architectures. Great question.
This articel sounds like the cubic inch battles of the 60s.(Watch the disney movie Dumbo from the 40s and watch the drunk clown scene.) Sunco was kept in business since the Covettes required the 260 blend . . . . I lost count of the volatge on thedifferent cars. This means that battery makers cannot standardize. I'd like discussion on the safety factor. I have hears or the Pintos w/ fork truck batteriies having a short and the entire car tourched in seconds from a short(wrench dropped). Are we going to wait until one death from these vehicle w/ no concern to isolate the power from the rest of the vehicle? With this much electrical power they may be the next vehicle of choise for terrorists. Just like bigger planes became bombs on 9-11. Less weight. Less power. More safety.
Remember the 42V push back about 15 years ago? Replace the 12V battery with 42V and the wiring would be smaller (and thus lighter), there would be less voltage drop due to lower currents, and electric motors could be used for some things that were now belt driven on a n engine (power steering, AC, etc). Some electronics started to be developed to support the higher bus voltage. They ran into some issues with switches not lasting due to longer arcing when opening, too close of a margin to the 60V shock safety limit, off-state leakage current (increased), and incandescent bulb filiments durability.
Some of those problems are less of an issue now with switch mode converters and LED lighting.
By isolate I mean that in cases of accidents the battery is totaly disconnected from everything so the power cannot escape to start a fire or electrocute someone. Same way an air bag inflatestoday the batteries should be totally separated from the vehicle on a detedted impact. Or they flare up like palnes are experiancing.
Good point, MVRS. One of the advantages of the proposed 48V systems is that they would keep a 12V network, so that suppliers wouldn't have to develop new compatible products (as they would have during the days of the proposed 42V systems). Let's hope we soon see that on our micro-hybrids.
Tesla Motors’ $35,000, 200-mile electric car may not revolutionize the auto industry by itself, but it could serve as a starting point for a long, steady climb to a day when half of the world’s vehicles will be plug-ins.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.