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Electric Vehicles Research
Posted on February 27, 2015 by  & 

Learnings from Future Powertrain Conference Solihull UK 25-26 Feb

We shall report in more detail later. This low cost event attracted about 360 delegates and about 21 exhibitors and the speakers were global and of high calibre. Billed "game changing" technologies mainly involved piston engines which was rather whimsical. A common theme was integration, mainly of power electronics, engines and transmission but also some in-wheel systems, some integration promising halving of cost. From Changan China to the Caterpillar USA, speakers saw major potential for cost and emission reduction of conventional powertrains. Many talked of major lift-off of hybrid and pure electric powertrains from 2020 however.
Series hybrids with a wide choice of range extenders were centre stage with some range extenders based on existing engines promising $1000 factory cost and breakeven at 20,000 units sold yearly and the most expensive - fuel cells costing over $100,000 each to make - having breakeven of over one million a year. We were told that free piston fuel generators as range extenders look exciting but they and all innovative designs need to be designed entirely to purpose, something not happening because hybrid sales are modest and forecasting is difficult so investment money is not there. IDTechEx finds this ridiculous though we see that investors saw no return for billions of dollars put into fuel cell range extenders. Flywheel range extender/ energy harvesters were wrongly portrayed as competing with batteries when their very high power density, unusually long life and typical duty cycle of storing energy only briefly makes them compete with supercapacitors. The Imperial College fuel cell on display had a bank of supercapacitors across it for protection and performance plus a battery for start up and shut down.
There was a lot on 48V systems arriving in conventional cars and the like to increase efficiency without breaching the 60V threshold to safety issues and regulations. In contrast, most hybrid and pure electric powertrains discussed are working at 4-600V.
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