The Electrification of Transportation and Mobility

March 31, 2021
Electric vehicles are expanding beyond the personal market into trucks, buses, and other forms of mobility. Discover the technological and design challenges that come with transforming manufacturing of internal combustion engine cars to EV.

Transportation is being electrified, with an increasing number of all types of vehicles that have traditionally been powered by fossil fuel making the transition to electrification, and this trend will continue to surge into this decade. 

While more electric vehicles (EVs) are hitting the personal vehicle market, the growth is surging in trucks, buses, and other forms of mobility. Today, we are also witnessing EV technology moving to areas of transportation such as electrified aircraft, enabled by a new generation of lightweight and powerful electric motors.

For car makers to develop the next generation of EVs, they must have the design/build technology that allows their engineers to design all elements of an electric powered vehicle. This would include all aspects of EV engineering—from electric powertrain to electrical/electronic system architecture to vehicle engineering, battery, and thermal engineering, along with simulation tools for every stage of EV development. PLM market leaders like Dassault Systèmes and Siemens Digital Industries Software are currently providing electrification design tools and solutions across all areas of EV design, development, and engineering.  

As auto OEMs prepare to ramp up production, some are re-prioritizing EV production lines to meet the expected strong demand and to fulfill regional regulatory requirements, such as the EU’s strict target for CO2 emissions. While the overall number of EV sales has declined in China and Europe during this crisis period, the actual market share for EVs has risen, and post-pandemic demand is expected to take off. 

EU leaders have maintained a strict fleetwide CO2-emission target of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer by 2021. Many major EU-based OEMs have publicly committed to reaching that target and have rolled out an unprecedented number of battery-powered and plug-in hybrid EV models. Additionally, EU governments have introduced new purchase subsidies, tax credits, or a combination of incentives to encourage EV adoption. These incentives, combined with the increase in EV models, has led to an upsurge in consumer demand—despite the continued COVID-19 pandemic. 

Next generation tools will drive electrification 
Designing and building electric vehicles that will ultimately replace internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles presents a formidable set of technological challenges. It not only requires a new set of technologies to address the electrification of the vehicle, but it requires developing and building a completely new infrastructure to keep EVs on the road and running efficiently. Car makers must completely re-think vehicle engineering and the vehicle experience for the driver while trying to keep the existing DNA of their car brands as they convert iconic brands to electric drives. 

The design of an electric vehicle involves the engineering and integration of all the elements required to produce an EV. This would include the electric drive train, inverter, battery cells and battery pack, onboard charger, chassis design, package and body design, HVAC systems, and DC-DC converter for onboard systems. Each one of these areas poses specific engineering and technological challenges and requires design tools that address the systems engineering requirements for integrating functional, logical, and physical systems to meet full vehicle integration. 

For example, the electric powertrain design process involves integration of complex engineering designs for motors, gears, torque converters, and other components with powertrain control system design, and electronics and performance design. Further, the electric drive design must consider factors such as thermal requirements and constraints, electric ripples, packaging, scalability, a common-part strategy, and manufacturability. Electric motor torque requirements in the overall drivetrain of the vehicle present engineering challenges. There can be no loss of power compared to ICE drivetrains. Passenger space cannot be compromised by drivetrain and battery pack requirements, and the overall cost to produce the EV must be managed within the context of design requirements. All of this requires robust design/build tools that can address the challenges of integrated electrification design.

Battery cell and battery pack engineering presents some unique challenges to EV design. Battery packs must be engineered to maintain temperature gradients of less than two degrees, as temperature variants can have significant effect on battery performance. Additionally, battery packs must be designed to meet ridged safety specifications in terms of thermal states and durability. 

The manufacture of batteries for the EV industry is a unique process which begins with the active material manufacturers finding the right source of natural materials to power battery cells. Battery cell manufacturers provide the basic battery power that serves multiple industries, in this case, EVs. Battery module/pack assemblers provide the battery pack configurations that meet the design requirements specified by EV designers for specific vehicles, and the overall transportation and mobility industry.

While the electrification of mobility is focused primarily on the EV market and the automotive industry that produces these vehicles today, manufacturers across all areas of transportation should be aware that the long-term outlook is for the electrification of all modes of mobility. ICE powered vehicles dependent upon fossil fuels will eventually be phased out, even if that is most likely several decades away. Meanwhile, the technology of electrification will continue to progress, enabling a host of opportunities for new business and manufacturing advancement. 

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