DATE notebook: Electric motion

By Chris Edwards |  No Comments  |  Posted: March 15, 2012
Topics/Categories: Commentary, Conferences, Digital/analog implementation  |  Tags: , , ,

Robert Bosch is expecting to see major growth in electronics in cars over the coming decade. But most of that growth will not be coming from electric vehicles of the four-wheeled variety.

Klaus Meder, president of the automotive electronics division at Robert Bosch, said in his keynote speech at Design Automation and Test in Europe (DATE) this week that the company’s predictions for electric cars are comparatively low compared to others. Bosch expects just 3 million electrics and plug-in hybrids by 2020.

“Electric vehicles will be mainly fleet vehicles,” Meder claimed. “We think private demand will be quite small.

“We think the internal combustion engine still has a strong future. We can reduce fuel consumption by 30-40 per cent and, of course, this will compete with the pure electric vehicle. This 30-40 per cent reduction will go along with a lot of technology that goes also into electric vehicles,” Meder added.

“Electrification won’t just affect the powertrain but all the electronics in the vehicle. There are systems to deal with regenerative braking and the climate-control system has to be adapted so that it is powered out of the high voltage battery not the normal battery.”

There is strong potential in more advanced electronic powertrain control for other types of electric vehicle, Meder said, pointing to the ‘padillac’ electric scooter.

“We estimate that this market will grow very strongly to more than 50 million units in 2020.
Unfortunately, today they are based on old technology. Most of the batteries are lead. But this is an industral platform that can enable new battery technologies and electronics that can be used for electric vehicles later.”

In response to a question from Antun Domic, general manager of the implementation group at Synopsys, about consolidation in automotive semiconductors that is happening in parallel with its growth, Meder said control over design and manufacturing will prove more important over time, echoing Infineon Technologies‘ belief as expressed at ISS Europe a couple of weeks ago.

“We believe that the understanding of the complete chain of effects from the top system view down to the component view is necessary to make overall systems and components. If we do not believe in mastering the total chain we would have no place in the industry. We can concentrate on parts where we can benefit from understanding all parts of the chain, such as understanding dissipation of thermal energy, so we can make smaller packages for our devices.”

During his keynote, Meder had explained denser devices are causing headaches when it comes to ensuring the reliability of power semiconductors in cars – and that understanding these package and environment effects is vital. He showed heat maps of old versus new parts and how lower silicon area is causing stronger hot spots to build on the devices. This is not good news for an industry that is expecting to put a lot more electronics into cars.

This leads to the greater use of high-voltage power semiconductors – and a lot more silicon-sized hotspots. The issue is automotive electronics has zero tolerance for failures but the off-the-shelf design tools do not currently do a great job of modelling these effects as well as related problems such as moisture leaking into the epoxy packages and causing them to warp and delaminate.

“Zero failure: is it really zero? Yes. It is less than 1ppm for many parts. We now count failures in parts per billion for them. And for some it’s easier to count mean time between failures – in some years no parts will fail at all,” said Meder.

During an automotive panel, Infineon’s Maik Herzog said high-power drivers have crept onto system-on-chip (SoC) designs. For example, some of the company’s microcontrollers now sport the firing circuitry for airbags and, when they fire, they get very hot. This is something that can affect other modules on the chip, so the company wants to be able to model those effects to see how they can maintain reliable operation after the firing events.

Some modelling support is beginning to appear that is aimed at the SoC community.

Click here for more of our coverage of DATE 2012


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