When it comes to getting organized the Germans may just be the world’s pacesetters if not leaders.  No less than 33 Fraunhofer Institutes are working together on the diversity of issues that surround “electromobility.” The goal is to help German companies speed up their pace of innovation.  When it comes to the electric vehicles (EVs) it’s going to get very competitive, very quickly.

Professor Ulrich Buller, Senior Vice President for Research Planning, points out, “We are working on all angles of electromobility: Designs, system integration, energy generation and distribution, storage technologies and a whole lot more. The expertise is uniquely available at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and bundled into our consortium ‘Fraunhofer System Research on Electromobility.'”  The EV race is on, no doubt now.  Check the gentleman’s title – ‘Research Planning” – This writer is not aware of so much depth and breadth across the EV field in practical research anywhere else.

For the future’s car buyer this is really good news.  Fully integrated systems will be thought through and designed to minimize or remove the EVs shortcomings and amplify the advantages.  It’s a good thing, but a warning to others who hope to sell competitive products. For other national economies it could be a disaster – standards will be coming, experience and know-how will develop, manufacturing will evolve and consumer’s investments will go the to best value provider.  If your country isn’t getting organized – you will be a follower, maybe just getting industrial crumbs.

The German principle is to centralize the information such that innovation can be tested across the industrial base.  That gets quickly to the ‘best practices’, which one can fairly expect to be available to the other participants.

The researchers in the group project are working on an electrically operated demonstration model, the “FreccO,” which is the abbreviation for “Fraunhofer e-concept car Type O.” Currently under construction, this vehicle serves as a scientific integration platform and will demonstrate the system competency of Fraunhofer institutes. Automobile manufacturers and suppliers can also use the “FreccO” to test new components jointly with the Fraunhofer Institutes starting in 2011.

Can this news be overlooked?  The German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, the BMBF is funding these plans with a total of 44 million euro (a bit less than $60 million US) from Economic Stimulus Programs I and II.

The test vehicle is based on an existing car: The new Artega GT from Artega Automobil GmbH. The Artega GT is said to provide an ideal platform for the integration of Fraunhofer components. An example let slip in the press release states the researchers can test how a crash-proof battery system, a wheel hub motor and a battery charger behave in the car as a total system.

Artega GT. Click image for the largest view.

Experts from 11 Fraunhofer institutes are working at full speed on the battery system.  Batteries must be safe, durable and efficient.  The driver must be able to tell at any time how much farther he can get before the battery needs a recharge.  A lithium-ion battery system consists of several hundred cells that do not always run down at an equal pace, and if isolated cells break down or no longer deliver the intended capacity, then the entire battery may be affected.

The German approach to counter these problems is an elaborate, cross-networked battery management systems, as well as a higher-level energy management system.  One challenge the scientists face is being able to determine reliable values during continuous operation. For the most part, the data cannot be captured in the quality required. The system has to draw conclusions regarding the actual measured values and internal conditions – like state of charge and state of health – based on measurements that change constantly.

Project manager Dr. Matthias Vetter of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg explains a way to for the system get a desirable result, “It contains two strings, each with eight modules of twelve cells. For controlling, a total of 16 interlinked battery management systems are used. They communicate with an energy management system integrated into the battery pack via a databus widely used throughout the automotive industry – a CAN (Controller Area Network). For example, the system can equalize differing charge statuses of the cells, and thus always provide maximum capacity and energy. At the same time, it can also issue forecasts.”

The system also watches the temperatures and controls the cooling apparatus.  The cooling apparatus should ensure that no overheating occurs; on the other hand, it should consume as little energy as possible itself. To do so, the system also controls the cooling circuit by means of a model-based regulator, thus optimizing energy consumption, lowering peak temperatures, and increasing reliability.

Meanwhile, the system takes over communications from the vehicle. For instance, it sends forecast reports on distances and threshold values, both for drive control as well as for charging operations. In addition, it monitors itself to determine if the desired power violates critical current and voltage limits. At any time, the driver can read from the instrument panel how much distance remains until the battery has to be recharged.

That synopsizes the press release about the start of the research and the battery effort top on the list.  The Fraunhofer Institute with the native German social skill shares efforts making it possible to rapidly accelerate research projects, and swiftly usher the results to market-ready conditions.

The basics are getting worked out in Germany.  It’s likely the Japanese firms will, if not already, close ranks and meet the competitive demands with a true W. Edwards Deming level of management and engineering expertise. The U.S., Korea and other nations so far as one can tell have left their firms alone to work out how to answer an essentially new future for a major worldwide industry.

The personal vehicle isn’t going away.  If the Germans have their way the future will be a much better means to get one’s self around than a fossil fuels vehicle.

The German press release might be a marker, a starting gun if you will.  From power generators to automotive recyclers, ignore it at your industries’ peril.


4 Comments so far

  1. ebike on April 27, 2010 6:10 PM

    I can relate in a way to the ignorance part.. I was working on a kinetic recharging system for a small ebike platform. After requesting input from my fellow ebikers I began to encounter the cold shoulder. I can only admire such communications !!!

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  4. Norris on June 8, 2013 10:33 AM

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