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Cummins explains the software and electronics components in Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs).


Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCVs) are vital to the transportation industry's move toward more sustainable operations. Both are low emission vehicles that run on electric power. Battery Electric Vehicles operate using energy stored in batteries, while Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles are powered by a fuel cell that creates electricity using hydrogen as a fuel, with water and heat as the only byproducts. Wider adoption of these vehicles and their low-emissions technology represent a significant path to decarbonizing commercial transportation.

Cutting-edge software and electronics play a crucial role in various aspects of operations, from managing power in the powertrain (comprising the electric motor, battery, and fuel cell) to controlling electronic components throughout the vehicle and human interface systems like throttle response and range estimates. This article gives an overview of how essential software, and electronics components work in BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) and FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles) technologies.

What Are the Software and Electronics Components in Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) And Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)?

BEVs and FCEVs share common powertrain components such as fuel cells, battery packs, inverters, and controls, but with some differences: in BEVs the internal combustion engine is replaced with batteries. FCEVs on the other hand, combine fuel cells with batteries. Vehicle software is important in both technologies and plays a role in managing power distribution and heat regulation. BEVs need advanced software to maintain battery performance and safety, managing temperature, charging, and discharging. While electronic components ensure precise power delivery for efficient performance. FCEVs too use similar software to optimize power distribution between the battery and the fuel cell. The software also helps in monitoring fuel consumption.

The chassis is made up of frame, wheels, brakes, and suspension. It is important for keeping the vehicle stable and easy to control. Electronic systems like Electronic Stability Control (ESC) help make it safer by applying brakes on certain wheels, which helps keep the vehicle steady and maintain direction when you need to make quick turns. Additionally, there are software-operated air suspension systems that change the height of the vehicle depending on speed and condition of the road. This helps to enhance aerodynamics and make it more comfortable to drive long distances.

The body includes the vehicle's structural and interior components. The body utilizes power electronics in the vehicle for features like automated door locks and advanced safety systems. Vehicle software and electronics use sensors and electronic control units (ECUs) to manage everything from window operations to driver-assistance systems, increasing both convenience and safety.

Electronics and software in vehicles can not only help control climate, lighting, and multimedia systems, but can also provide real-time vehicle data. Electronics also feed critical data to the onboard computers, ensuring systems like automatic headlight adjustment and rain-sensing wipers operate without a hitch.

Autonomous Driving or Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)
The Autonomous Driving or Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) includes sensors, radars and controllers that provide critical driver assist and automation features. These features include controlling signals going to the steering, braking and powertrain controllers, using real time and high-powered control units running advanced software.

Connected Services
Connected services are where vehicle software plays a significant role by extending the vehicle's functionality. BEVs often feature an app that allows users to remotely check the charge level, start the vehicle, or even pre-condition the cabin temperature. Navigation systems also use connectivity to provide live traffic updates, ensuring efficient route management.

By embedding intelligent software and electronics throughout the vehicle, BEVs and FCEVs can enhance user experience, and help meet environmental goals. As these technologies evolve, they will further lead the charge towards a cleaner, and more reliable transportation future.

Role Of Software and Electronics in Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) And Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)

Battery Management
Software's role in battery management is vital in maintaining the health and efficiency of BEVs and FCEVs. Vehicles can utilize advanced battery management systems that monitor each cell's temperature and voltage, balancing the charge across the battery pack to maximize life and range. Some vehicles’ systems can even learn from the driver's habits to heat or cool the battery to the optimal temperature for driving and charging.

Powertrain Control
Electronics have transformed powertrain control, enhancing the driving experience by ensuring smooth power delivery. ECUs can precisely manage the electric motor's output, delivering instant torque while maintaining energy efficiency.

Telematics software is crucial for real-time vehicle monitoring and navigation. BEVs and FCEVs can offer remote battery status checks, route planning that considers charging station locations, and pre-heating or cooling the vehicle cabin while still connected to the grid, helping vehicles go as far as possible off one charge.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is increasingly being integrated into vehicle software capabilities. Manufacturers are employing AI to calculate the range of vehicles more accurately by considering factors like weather conditions, cargo weight, and driving habits. AI also helps predict maintenance needs by analyzing vehicle data and usage patterns, alerting drivers to potential issues before they arise, and proactively scheduling servicing.

Considerations For Manufacturers with Regards to Vehicle Software and Power Electronics

With evolving technology in battery electric and fuel cell electric vehicles, several considerations emerge:
  • Complexity: The shift to advanced software and electronics in vehicles certainly reduces mechanical complexity but increases software complexity. This includes complexity in battery management in BEVs and managing high voltage power distribution throughout the vehicle.
  • Managing Power and Updates: Manufacturers need to make sure that vehicle software and electronics can deliver power efficiently when needed and that software updates can be done easily, even remotely. Investing in advanced power management systems and establishing robust infrastructure for delivering timely software updates will be crucial to ensure optimal performance.
  • Security: Keeping the vehicle’s systems safe from hackers and ensuring they work reliably, especially in FCEVs with high-voltage systems, is important.
  • Supply Chain Resiliency: The reliability of software and electronic subsystems is paramount. Manufacturers must ensure these components meet stringent standards and safety requirements.
  • Lifecycle Support: It is essential for manufacturers to maintain software support throughout the vehicle's lifecycle, with a focus on simplicity and compatibility for easy support from numerous suppliers.
The integration of advanced software and electronics in BEVs and FCEVs is not just a trend but a critical evolution in commercial transportation technology. This development optimizes performance, improves safety, and helps make the transportation industries more sustainable. It also brings new challenges in terms of complexity, security, and supply chain management. As the industry navigates these challenges, however, the potential for innovation and growth in this sector is exciting, as it paves the way for a cleaner, more efficient future in transportation.

Cummins Inc. is at the forefront of innovative transportation and heavy-duty operations and Accelera™ by Cummins – the zero-emissions business segment of Cummins – is at the forefront of supplying and integrating zero-emissions technologies to decarbonize the world’s hardest working industries. For more information about BEV and FCEVs, click here.

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