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AUTO ELECTRONICS

The bumpy road from 4 to 42 volt auto electronics systems

By Gary Wagner Director of Body Electronics and Scott Irving Automotive Segment Director Fairchild Semiconductor

What happened to the 42V auto- motive system? The fast track to the more powerful standard did not mate- rialize as predicted, and no one is talking about a quick adop- tion in the future. In fact, some experts have predicted that it won’t happen at all. The optimization of 14V ar- chitectures and components, including techniques for dis- tributed power network stabili- zation, has extended the life of 14V systems. However, at some point in the future, system performance factors will compel carmakers to finally shift to 42V. Suppliers of electronic and electrical components need to be pre- pared to support this inevitable transition. As automotive electronics and electrical content continue to expand, manufacturers are faced with the greater task of ensuring the availability of suf- ficient power.

task of ensuring the availability of suf- ficient power. Figure 1: Technical challenges and added cost

Figure 1: Technical challenges and added cost outweigh the benefits of a 42V system at this time.

This growth in content - fu- elled by the addition of new comfort and safety features as well as systems to enhance fuel economy, emissions and drive- ability - began in the 1990s and is forecast to continue in the next 10-15 years. Implementation of these electronic functions and fea- tures requires a change in the way automobiles distribute and manage electrical power. These

new electronics provide the fundamental driving force for switching to a 42V system.

ties have extended the life of the current 14V standard for now. Through improvements in

The road ahead

Why 42 volts? The benefits offered by a higher- power electrical system include:

the efficiency of electrical com- ponents, architectural modifica- tions to optimize functional inte- gration at the systems level and

1) Enabling additional acces- sory power requirements that exceed the capabilities of 14V systems; 2) Improved power manage- ment capabilities and system stability; 3) Reduced electrical current levels; 4) Reduced mass, volume and cost with downsized electri- cal wiring and components, as well as the replacement of mechanical systems with electrical systems;

distributed methods of power network stabilization, automak- ers have delayed the need for a wholesale change to a different power system standard. Additionally, there are many economic and technical challenges that have inhib- ited practical implementation of 42V systems. These include the replacement cost of com- ponent technologies and an infrastructure optimized for 14V; long-term reliability concerns at higher voltage and power levels;

5)

Increased fuel efficiency;

safety issues; and component

6)

Reduced vehicle noise, vibra- tion and harshness (NVH).

and conductor arcing. At present, the technical chal-

So, why is 14 volts still here? These benefits seem to provide a reasonable argument for rapid adoption of the 42V standard. However, the reality is that engineering modifications and enhanced component capabili-

lenges in implementing the 42V system combined with the added cost outweigh the benefits.

As observed, it isn’t a simple matter of one or two factors de- termining the outcome of the

of one or two factors de- termining the outcome of the Table 1: Implementation of electronic

Table 1: Implementation of electronic functions and features requires a change in the way cars distribute and manage electrical power.

EE Times-India | April 2007 | eetindia.com

42V system. The move has been a complex combination of factors that must be balanced to make the right decisions. Yes, the 14V power network will not be capable of maintain- ing the power performance required at some point down the road as electrical content continues to grow. Yes, there are many good reasons to change over to 42V, ranging from fuel economy and emissions improvements to enabling implementation of advanced safety features. However, there are also good reasons to stay with the status quo. The lack of a clear- cut move to 42V has resulted in the need to split resources on new development. Electronics suppliers must continue to develop and im- prove products for use in tradi- tional 14V systems. At the same time, they must look ahead to the technical advances and products that will support the 42V systems of the future.

Pros and Cons What are the pros and cons? First, there is no technical challenge posed by 42V systems that can- not be solved. The real issue is cost, particularly as it compares to the current 14V system.

cost, particularly as it compares to the current 14V system. Figure 2: As relative cost decreases

Figure 2: As relative cost decreases and electrical content grows, the rate of 42V system adoption will gain momentum.

<>For example, 42V system batteries capable of offering comparable life with current 12V batteries require more costly technologies, such as lithium or nickel-metal hydride, to implement. Arcing and cor- rosion issues can be addressed through the addition of battery disconnect switches and sealed connectors at an added cost. Suppliers will continue to improve technology to reduce the cost of solving the technical

challenges. At the same time, the applications for electronic and electrical systems will continue to grow. As the relative cost of 42V systems decreases and the electrical content grows, the rate of 42V system adoption will gain momentum.

Supplier challenge For suppliers of electrical and electronic components, what does the current situation entail? Companies must continue to

both optimize the capabilities of 14V systems and address the challenges of 42V systems. This must be done on realistic R&D budgets that reflect the eco- nomics of our times. Thus, a coordinated effort in technology and product development must be made to ensure the most effective use of limited resources.

made to ensure the most effective use of limited resources. Email Send inquiry 2 eetindia.com |
to ensure the most effective use of limited resources. Email Send inquiry 2 eetindia.com | April