The challenges and solutions faced by the development of automotive electrification

0524-ArrowTimes-Molex-Header-Image-820x410

In various industrial and consumer environments, the electrification of products, systems, and processes is accelerating, driven by advanced electronic technologies that replace traditional hydraulic and pneumatic methods. Among these transformations, the electrification process in the transportation industry is particularly evident, with a record-breaking increase in the number of vehicles equipped with cutting-edge features and pure electric power systems. This article will introduce the current status and trends of automotive electrification development, as well as the solutions offered by Molex.

The challenges on the road to automotive electrification

The road to automotive electrification involves not only the rapid rise of pure electric powertrains, replacing the long-standing internal combustion engines (ICE), but also a significant increase in electrical components on conventional vehicles. Many key systems that previously relied on mechanical structures now utilize electronic devices to enhance safety and reliability, such as brake assist and electronic power-assisted steering (EPAS) systems. Currently, solutions supporting Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are rapidly advancing towards the ultimate goal of fully autonomous driving.

In recent years, the number of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) worldwide has been steadily increasing, expected to account for 20% of new vehicle sales by 2025. Despite promising prospects, automotive electrification still faces numerous obstacles. To seize a market estimated to be worth $236.3 billion (with a compound annual growth rate of 10.6%), automotive manufacturers still face many challenges, such as the proliferation of electronic systems and modules posing significant challenges to the typical electrical architecture of vehicles.

To meet consumer demands, the design of high-end vehicles may consist of over 100 Electronic Control Units (ECUs). The increasing number of ECUs in vehicles presents a challenge in how to connect, package, and manage these systems to transport critical commands and control specific functions of the vehicle. By dividing the vehicle into multiple zones, functions can be allocated to each zone, and information can be transmitted between zones as needed. Zone-based architecture not only optimizes and reduces the total amount of wiring but also integrates ECUs.

Furthermore, with the proliferation of electronic devices in automobiles (including both ICE vehicles and EVs), thermal management becomes a critical challenge. When electronic devices such as computers or mobile devices overheat, they shut down, which can be disastrous for vehicles traveling at high speeds on the road.

The miniaturization and increased electrical equipment necessitate higher component density. In the case of shrinking surface areas in miniaturized systems, dissipating the same or more heat in a smaller space can lead to the risk of overheating, which must be managed. If electronic devices are located within sealed ECUs and situated in vehicle areas with extreme environments (such as under the hood), the risk of overheating may increase. Improperly designed systems, coupled with the high circuit density and small package size requirements of next-generation connection systems, can pose thermal management challenges. Thermal issues in connectors may lead to safety, reliability, and lifetime concerns, which must be carefully addressed during the project design phase.

0524-ArrowTimes-Molex-Article-Electrification and energy management technologies

Electrification and energy management technologies are triggering a scientific renaissance

The advancement of electrification and energy management technologies is triggering a scientific renaissance in the power sector, where battery technology now supports a range of applications, from powering electric vehicles to storing energy for use when most needed. Governments are investing in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, grid modernization, rural connectivity, and development in remote areas.

In this renaissance, two main and closely related themes have emerged: electrification and energy management. Regarding electrification, technologies using conventional fuel sources are being supplemented or replaced by equivalent systems powered by renewable energy sources. On the other hand, energy management refers to the storage, monitoring, and distribution of energy.

Firstly, through smart grid technology, grid modernization is achieved, transforming aging infrastructure built around traditional power plants into modern electrified networks or smart grids. These grids are supplemented with renewable energy sources and comprise various sensors to closely monitor usage patterns and identify system faults before they become more serious issues, which is a critical need.

Smart grids balance the advantages of conventional energy and renewable energy. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind have periodic downtimes, so incorporating Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) into the broader grid captures surplus energy for later use. As total consumption also has its rhythm with periodic peaks and non-peak usage periods, smart grids can allocate energy where, when, and from what source it is most needed, be it conventional, renewable, or stored energy.

0524-ArrowTimes-Molex-Article-drive 48V standard

Automotive functionalities and electrification developments drive the 48V standard

Since the 1950s, the 12V power model has been the standard in the automotive industry, making it the default standard for car design and components. Even as functionalities and electrification have evolved over time, this standard has allowed automakers to reduce costs and maintain a simple electrical architecture.

While the 12V standard has its advantages, as modern consumers increasingly demand higher performance and a better in-vehicle experience, it must also evolve. With the emergence of software-defined vehicle, a shift towards mild hybrid architectures, and increasingly strict emission regulations, the 48V design becomes increasingly indispensable for meeting consumer demands and regulatory requirements.

While transitioning to the 48V standard presents some challenges, electrical innovators are now paving the way for more efficient systems based on this new standard. The shift to a more robust power standard cannot happen overnight, but several key electrical and consumer factors will influence automakers' adoption of 48V as the standard for mild hybrid and pure electric vehicles. These key factors include emission reduction legislation by governments worldwide and consumers' growing awareness of carbon footprint, leading to strong preferences for hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and extended-range electric vehicles.

Additionally, electric turbocharger systems use a motor to spin the turbine and enhance airflow into the engine, thereby improving engine performance. Compared to traditional turbocharger systems powered by 12V or 24V systems, these electric turbocharger systems require more significant electrical power. As more efficient and powerful electric turbocharger systems become standard, the 48V power supply will become crucial.

The engineering benefits of the 48V standard include reducing package size, saving production costs, providing better functionality, reducing emissions, and improving fuel economy. For consumers, the 48V standard can enhance vehicle performance, lower vehicle costs, and improve handling, making the development of the 48V standard increasingly important.

However, the 12V design is deeply entrenched in automotive production, so the transition to the 48V standard will be more prolonged than expected. The speed of transition depends to some extent on the component design changes needed to meet the technical requirements of the 48V system, including considerations of the production methods of the system itself and the compatibility with existing infrastructure.

0524-ArrowTimes-Molex-Article-MX150 connectors

The MX150 Mid-Voltage connectors meet the requirements of a 48-volt electrical system

The MX150 Mid-Voltage connectors, introduced by Molex, aims to meet the growing demand for 48-volt electrical systems in the automotive industry. The introduction of Mid-Voltage solutions enables customers to confidently upgrade their automotive electrical systems with mid-voltage products. These connectors are based on the validated MX150 design, providing reliable and field-tested solutions to meet the mid-voltage connectivity requirements of the transportation industry.

The MX150 Sealed Connector System is field-proven to deliver highly reliable performance under extreme temperatures, varying levels of vibration, and exposure to moisture and chemicals, making it suitable for a wide range of applications. The MX150 Sealed Connector System offers Connector Position Assurance (CPA) options, helping to eliminate accidental disconnection between connectors, and provides Pre-Assembled Terminal Position Assurance (TPA) housings to ensure that crimped terminal leads are correctly locked into the connector and features a strain grommet cap to protect the mat seal and help ensure proper terminal alignment. The MX150 complies with the IEC 60664-1 standard and is certified to meet rigorous automotive industry requirements, including USCAR-2, USCAR-21, and GMW3191 certifications.

The MX150 offers single-row and double-row V0 versions to meet stringent safety requirements, supporting the use of mat seal technology for MX150 (1.50mm) terminals, which helps eliminate the need for separate cable seals, reducing packaging size. Its integrated 3.50mm pitch housing provides a compact connector, helping to eliminate assembly costs. With a 60V mid-voltage capability, it can be upgraded to 48V wiring, simplifying the upgrade to lighter-weight 48V wiring using the proven MX150 form factor specifications.

The MX150 can be used in conjunction with upgraded 48V wiring for applications such as lighting, electric window or wiper motor upgrades, allowing existing 12V automotive wiring to be upgraded to 48V without changing connector types. By using the same packaging size and housing design as the proven MX150 connector, direct upgrades from existing MX150 connectors are possible, reducing engineering costs when upgrading to 48V wiring.

The MX150 is the only automotive connector on the market that combines multi-functional low-voltage options with robust sealed connector design for a range of mid-voltage applications, supporting both 48V and up to 60V applications. Transitioning from 12V wiring to 48V wiring, the MX150 mid-voltage connector allows manufacturers to leverage the proven and robust MX150 form factor to reduce engineering and design costs. This enables the transition to a higher voltage 48V wiring architecture, reducing copper usage and weight by using smaller wire sizes while minimizing additional engineering time and associated costs.

Conclusion

The automotive industry is undergoing transformative changes driven by electrification, not only with the rapid development of electric vehicles but also with traditional vehicles increasingly incorporating a plethora of electronic systems to enhance functionality and safety. These changes present significant challenges and opportunities for the automotive industry. Molex offers a variety of solutions to help customers transition from existing traditional methods, spanning all intermediate stages, ultimately providing a wide range of industry-leading flexible products. These solutions address challenges such as partitioning architecture, thermal management, noise reduction, among others. Additionally, Molex has introduced the MX150 mid-voltage connectors to meet the demands of 48-volt electrical systems, enabling automotive manufacturers to design and deploy solutions that are lighter, higher performance, more flexible, and more efficient.

Related news articles

Latest News

Sorry, your filter selection returned no results.

We've updated our privacy policy. Please take a moment to review these changes. By clicking I Agree to Arrow Electronics Terms Of Use  and have read and understand the Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Our website places cookies on your device to improve your experience and to improve our site. Read more about the cookies we use and how to disable them here. Cookies and tracking technologies may be used for marketing purposes.
By clicking “Accept”, you are consenting to placement of cookies on your device and to our use of tracking technologies. Click “Read More” below for more information and instructions on how to disable cookies and tracking technologies. While acceptance of cookies and tracking technologies is voluntary, disabling them may result in the website not working properly, and certain advertisements may be less relevant to you.
We respect your privacy. Read our privacy policy here