Continental and the 48V mild hybrid, autonomous cars, and tires

September 16, 2015 – “We systematically work towards three fundamental goals: zero accidents, interconnected and intelligent vehicles with accordingly more comfort and convenience and clean air.”

Continental Aktiengesellschaft’s Chairman of the Executive Board and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Elmar Degenhart, Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA)

At the 2015 Frankfurt motor show (IAA) Continental Aktiengesellschaft’s Chairman of the Executive Board and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Elmar Degenhart made several announcements including autonomous driving, a new tire and the production of a mild hybrid with a 48-volt battery onboard power supply. This suite of technology builds upon itself.

Autonomous vehicles

The six key challenges for Continental in being fully-automatic are; sensor technology, cluster connectivity, human-machine dialog, system architecture, failure safety, and acceptance of automated driving.

About 60 percent of Continental’s automotive sales include advanced driver assistance systems and other digitalized technologies such as electronics, sensor systems, and software. Last year, those sales exceeded €12 billion. Continental expects that, in the next five years, growth in this industry will outperform the average growth in the automotive sector.

Currently, Continental is focusing on control systems rather than batteries or suppliers, “The key for zero accidents in road traffic is assisted driving.”

“With systems that monitor the vehicle’s surroundings, we are ultimately putting the chauffeur button for automated driving in the car. With electronics and software, this button is offering additional freedom. This freedom can be used, but doesn’t have to be.”

Degenhart said that Continental anticipates fully-automated driving in certain driving situations to be ready around 2025.

It wasn’t that long ago that seven years was the normal for a redesign, the next generation, of a car to come to market. Using the same length of time for major technology breakthroughs, 2025 would be just around the corner. “We are now involving the lawmakers. The time has come to lay the legislative groundwork for the use of automated driving.”

A case in point is the 2016 BMW 7-Series. The technologically advanced 7-Series can park itself and is legally allowed to do so in Europe, but the car is not legally allowed to park itself in the United States. The achievement of legal and technical standards globally would allow car manufacturers and suppliers to benefit both financially and logistically.

A brand new tire

Continental also unveiled the Continental’s SportContact 6 tire. The tire offers maximum grip at speeds up to 350 kilometers per hour.
“In the future, we will be installing sensors in the tires, which will enable the car to detect the condition of the road’s surface. Tires will, therefore, become a key part of our sensor network in the car. On this basis, we are working on a complete system for anticipatory driving that is able to learn.”

A mild hybrid helps emissions at an affordable price

All car manufacturers and suppliers are feeling the heat as the emissions battle heats up worldwide.

The main components of the 48 Volt system are a 48V BSG replacing the alternator, DC/DC converter as a link to the 12V power supply, and a lithium-ion battery. The 48V motor is an induction machine and uses the internal combustion engine’s coolant system for liquid cooling.

The 48V system, shown at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) allows the engine to be switched off earlier and more frequently than engines in 12V micro-hybrids. Degenhart described the ability to sail, or coast as a benefit in fuel economy. Even in extended shutdown mode the 48V system can continue to power certain HVAC and infotainment systems. I remember being in the first generation Toyota Prius in 100 degrees and the engine shut down, as well as the air conditioning. You definitely want the HVAC to work in all modes.

Continental’s options are open as to what it will do for battery technology after South Korea’s SK Innovation canceled a joint venture with Continental, “We are thinking about what to do strategically in the future. There are a couple of different options, including going into a new cooperation, but it would be too early to talk about that in detail,” Degenhart acknowledged after the speech.

The company, SK Continental E-motion (SCE), was established by SK Innovation (SKI), Seoul (South Korea), and Continental, Hanover (Germany), and was created to develop jointly, produce and distribute lithium-ion based battery systems for cars and light commercial vehicles. It was the intention to invest about 270 million Euros in SK Continental E-motion for the next five years. There was no word why SKI canceled the project.

Continental says that when it comes to battery manufacturers, “it is important to be ready for the coming automotive volume while being able to maintain a certain cost level.” In the question and answer part of Degenhart’s speech he acknowledged, “Billions will be needed.”

California is 12% of the United State’s sales of vehicles. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has said the goal for California is to cut petroleum use from cars and trucks in half by 2030. That would mean selling mainly Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) or near-ZEV cars. As future emissions legislation take hold across the globe, the dollars per gram of CO2 reduction will be the driving force for the increase in 48V mild hybrids.

In Degenhart’s closing statements, he made the argument for the 48-volt battery, “Our industry is feeling the increasing pressure of ever stricter, extremely demanding emission regulations. This makes the mild hybrid with a 48-volt on-board power supply so important. It has what it takes to become a modern hybrid because it is relatively affordable and can be used in all vehicle classes. We are going to start mass production in 2016. Not only in Europe, but also in Asia and the U.S.A.”

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.