Thermal Simulation Software Aims to Improve Design of Autonomous Cars

New solution automatically does CFD analysis of EV components within the CAD environment.

This week, Siemens AG announced that it is putting a new twist on autonomous electric vehicle design by enabling engineers to do simulation of heat-related problems while they work in a CAD environment.

The industrial giant is accomplishing that by rolling out a new software solution that incorporates a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) package that automatically performs thermal analysis of sensors, processors, powertrain components, and even the vehicle cabin. By integrating those capabilities into CAD, Siemens hopes to streamline and improve the design of autonomous and electric cars.

“We want to get the power of this information-rich simulation to mainstream engineers—design engineers—not just CFD experts,” noted Puneet Sinha, automotive manager for simulation and test solutions for Mentor Graphics, a Siemens Business.

Puneet Sinha of Siemens: “You never have to leave the CAD environment. And you never have to go out and learn how to use CFD.” (Image source: Design News)

The new solution represents a departure from the status quo because it reduces the need for vehicle engineers to repeatedly call on specialists for advanced analysis throughout the course of a design. “It extracts the information seamlessly,” Sinha said. “So anytime you change the electronics design or mechanical design, the thermal simulation happens automatically.”

The new product, known as the Simcenter software solution for Autonomous Electric Vehicles, binds together three software tools: Simcenter FloEFD, which is a CAD-embedded CFD package; Motorsolve electric motor design package; and the Simcenter Flomaster powertrain thermal energy management package. Together, the three tools can enable design engineers to perform analysis of powertrain, batteries, printed circuit boards, integrated circuits, sensors, and vehicle interiors using “thermal digital twin models.” All three products existed previously, but Siemens said they have now been optimized for the design of autonomous and electric vehicles.

Integration of the design tools is important, Sinha said, because so many of the parts of the electric vehicle are inter-dependent. “All of these tools are connected. So if you are doing component-level simulation, the information flows seamlessly to the system simulation,” he noted.

Siemens said that thermal information “flows seamlessly” from ICs to printed circuit boards to system-level parts. (Image source: Siemens AG)

The issue of heat is critical for autonomous and electric cars because it is said that power loads can reduce electric driving range by as much as 35%. “Heat matters,” Sinha told us. “It matters for autonomous driving functionality; it matters for range; it matters for the cabin experience.”

Siemens promises that the new solution will reduce the engineering team’s reliance on physical testing and prototyping, while improving the performance and reliability of inverters, motors, and batteries. With it, design release engineers can view the thermal effects of design changes in software without having to ship the data to CFD specialists. “You never have to leave the CAD environment,” Sinha said. “And you never have to go out and learn how to use CFD.”

The new technology won’t eliminate the need for CFD experts altogether, but it will speed the process of analyzing inevitable changes to the design, Sinha said. And it will enable engineers to get a more thorough picture of the thermal effects that go hand-in-hand with those changes. “In any enterprise, there is always a tremendous value to having experts,” Sinha said. “But with this, the design engineers won’t have to bother experts on a daily basis.”

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

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