The IoT Library: Hybrids and electrics — the electronic car in the modern age

BY RICHARD WALLACE | FEBRUARY 18, 2016

If you want to experience the future, take a ride in an electric or hybrid gas-electric vehicle. The moment you enter one of these amped-up electronic wonders it’s as if you leave the past behind.

As well it should: the smoke belching gas guzzling internal combustion engine is seeing its final days — at least regarding the modern automobile. The closing of this chapter of automotive history reminds me of a telling anecdote from a writers blog about the American industrialist most associated with the early days of the automobile.

Toward the end of his life, Henry Ford was being interviewed by a boy for his high school newspaper, and he started getting nostalgic about the days of the one-room schoolhouse and old-time square dancing. The boy found this pretty boring. “But Mr. Ford,” he said, “That’s all very well, but this is the modern age.” Ford cut him right off: “Young man,” he snapped, “I invented the modern age.” It struck me that he hadn’t said, “I made a hell of a lot of automobiles.” He claimed credit for the world he and his interviewer inhabited.

Keep this revolutionary idea in mind as your new, gas-less vehicle boots up for your first ride. And don’t be surprised when a lot of the cutting-edge technology now under the hood of cars like Tesla and Prius usher in a new, post-modern age of electronic automobiles.

So what exactly is under the hood of these hybrid wonders, and what lies on the road ahead?

In simple, schematic terms, hybrid and electric vehicle systems are built of several modules to form a drive train and energy storage system. The battery block (typically a Li-ion chemistry in the range of 400V) is managed and monitored by a battery management system (BMS) and charged via an AC/DC converter module. Onboard voltages range from 110-V single-phase to 380-V three-phase systems. A DC/ AC inverter uses the high voltage of the battery to drive the electric motor which is also used for regenerative braking, returning some energy back to the battery.

Power conversion technology, charging and charging infrastructures, motor control, and stop/start functions are just a few of the solutions that automotive designers and semiconductor manufacturers have been called upon to provide to provide.

Electric vehicles have been around since Henry Ford’s time, so what’s new?

Environmental sensitivities for starters, followed by long-term supply concerns over fossil fuel and global fuel prices. Then as now, new technology is shaping the future. Dig in deeper and learn more about the role of semiconductors and advanced automotive design — and the future of the modern world — by checking out the Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Solution Guide.

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