Electric Vehicle Connectors: The Challenge for Engineers

Posted by Circuit Assembly on 6/10/19 6:02 AM

 

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Rising fuel costs, a desire to reduce one’s carbon footprint, and increased electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) options are paving the way for strong growth of the EV market. Research shows a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.5% between 2016 and 2024.

As manufacturers look to serve this growing market, electrical engineers are being called upon to design higher performing and efficient EVs with longer battery ranges and faster fuelling options. At the heart of these designs are the connectors and connection points that ensure power is flowing through the system.

 

So what are some of the issues engineers have to plan for and workaround? There are three key areas of concern: High voltage, weight reduction, and vibration management.

 

High voltage

Consumers demand high performance. And the more powerful an EV is, the more voltage is required. With high voltage and subsequent high current, engineers have to plan well for thermal management.

 

Thermal management on a basic level is moving the heat away from the device that is generating the heat. Good thermal management dissipates heat, limits power failures, increases reliability, and increases power density.

 

High voltage also increases the risk of electromagnetic interference. Engineers must use specific metals when plating terminals to help reduce interference. 

 

Weight Reduction

The trend in the automotive industry is to build vehicles that are as light as possible to improve fuel efficiency; this is also known as lightweighting. According to Aluminium Today: “It is estimated that for every 100kg saved, an EV can increase its mileage by 10-11%, reduce its battery cost by 20%, and save 20% daily worn-out costs.”

 

A couple of concerns for engineers is that the weight of EVs is significantly heavier than their internal combustion counterparts as battery packs are “up to three times heavier.” Additionally, generating high voltage generally requires EV connectors that are bulky and heavy.

Alternative production materials are being sought after to help give engineers other solutions. It’s estimated that “future EV models will likely contain a complex mix of materials, including first and foremost various grades of advanced steel and aluminum, followed by magnesium and plastics, and even costly carbon fiber.”

 

Vibration management

Vibrations are generated due to both the environment (the road and weather conditions during operation) and from the system itself when the high current pulses throughout the vehicle’s systems. It is important to ensure good connections from the connectors and that they are well sealed. The assembly of EV cables also needs to be carefully thought through as vibration can travel down the cable and effect connections.

 

Performance and safety are of the utmost concern, with the latter of importance as an EV’s battery pack must be properly sealed to avoid electric shock. Vibrations have to be managed at and around the battery pack, as well as throughout the vehicle.

 

EVs may be the next transportation wave of the future, however there are still a number of kinks the industry needs to address, such as how severe weather affects battery performance, how to create faster “fueling” to compete with the gas powered market, how the rollout of power stations will happen, and how to contend with the effect on the nation’s power grids.

 

But for those issues, you may have relating to EV connectors and cables - tap into our production and engineering teams’ wealth of knowledge. We have 50 years experience in the design and production of interface connectors and cable assemblies.

 

Connect with our team today!

 

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Topics: connectors

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