When you select a hybrid or EV, you may assume that the electric grid and drive system comes from the automaker’s technology. Yet, in many cases, the electric technology may be developed and owned by a Tier 1 auto supplier.
Lear Corp., of Southfield, Mich., has become heavily involved in designing high-powered electrical systems for a number of auto OEMs around the globe. “Our power system technology is being developed both for EVs and hybrids,” Ajmal Ansari, vice president of engineering at Lear, told Design News in a recent interview.
Much of the work to design power systems in hybrids -- Ansari’s specialty -- is created and validated using software simulation. At a recent symposium on Siemens computer-assisted engineering (CAE) software, Ansari explained how Lear developed a thermal-flow model of an automotive traction inverter using CAE.
Lear Corp.'s smart junction box.
Part of the value of the simulation is that problems can be identified and solved in the virtual world. The results from Ansari’s simulation on the traction inverter of a hybrid showed possible issues in the reliability and performance of the proposed inverter. Modifications in the design were done to make the inverter feasible.
Lear brings expertise in charging systems, high-power distribution, and energy management to its customers. Since the power systems are integral to the vehicle, Lear collaborates closely with its customers. “We work in partnership with our OEM customers,” Ansari told us. “It's pretty standard in the automotive industry that the different complex systems are built by different suppliers.”
The goal of the inverter simulation was to prove to the automaker customer that the system was feasible. “On this project, our customer was seeking from us some evidence that this will work,” said Ansari. “The most important collaboration on this project was the development of standards. There are no standards that exist in the auto industry. Each OEM has its own standards.”
Lear brings its technology to a number of automakers. While there are differences in the electrical grid with each OEM, much of the technology can be adapted from one automaker to another. “The heart of the technology doesn’t change from customer to customer,” said Ansari. “What changes is the spectrum of current. You don’t want the electrical current to affect the electronics in the vehicle. That’s a very significant challenge. That drives the design.”
As well as working on electrical power systems, Lear is also involved in the ever-changing world of vehicle charging. “We work on chargers, too. You want to charge in shorter times,” said Ansari. He noted that with the evolving standards in charging, most of the improvements will likely be at charging stations rather than in the home. “You don’t have the high-powered charges in your home,” said Ansari. “It’s just at the charging stations that are increasing in charging power. That is, unless you get your home wired for high-powered charges.”
While the technology and cost of hybrid and EV vehicles is still pricy, Ansari is bullish on battery power. “Overall, even though the technology and vehicles are expensive, hybrids and electrical vehicles will pay off substantially,” he said. “As well as paying off in fuels savings, it will pay off in CO2 emissions.”