Continental Automotive Systems Develops Modular Components for Economical Hybrid Drives

Surveys show that one in four Germans is considering buying a car with hybrid drive

FRANKFURT, Germany and GENEVA, March 6 /PRNewswire/ -- With its modular concept for power electronics, Automotive Systems, a division of automotive supplier Continental AG, creates synergies between hybrid drive systems for different power classes. This particular component concept will allow the automotive industry to rapidly bring to market hybrid vehicles of different sizes and power ratings at an attractive cost. Interest in hybrid drives is growing not just in North America and Asia, but in Europe as well; one in four German drivers surveyed recently by Continental in a sample, said they were considering buying a hybrid car.

Scaleable complete design solutions: one-stop hybrid drive technology

More and more vehicle manufacturers see hybrid drives as the answer to increasingly stringent emissions legislation world-wide, rising fuel costs and customer demand for greater vehicle dynamics and comfort while conserving resources. The demand for hybrid drive systems across a broad spread of power ratings and also for electric drives in plugin hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles is growing rapidly. "With our new component concept, we shall be better equipped than ever before to satisfy this development. We can meet the widest possible range of customer specifications with power ratings from 6 to more than 150 kW," explained Karlheinz Haupt, Head of Continental Automotive Systems Electric Drives business unit. Continental Automotive Systems, in cooperation with its strategic partner, ZF Friedrichshafen AG, is stepping up the development, production and marketing of hybrid drive systems and components.

These complete design solutions, scaleable for different vehicle layouts and sizes, consist of the energy storage unit, energy storage management and all the electromechanical elements for the various power classes. Standardizing these components and combining them flexibly produces quality advantages, shortens car manufacturers' development times and minimizes the cost of implementing new projects. The benefits of large production volumes reduce costs still further.

The inverter at the hybrid drive's heart represents the power electronics

A hybrid drive consists of an electric motor, a high-performance battery, an additional voltage converter and the power electronics. The electric motor replaces the starter and the alternator. It acts both as an electric drive system and as a generator for energy recovery the engine drag torque mode ("recuperation"). The recovered energy is temporarily stored in the battery, which then releases it either for subsequent acceleration (boost) or for purely electrical driving. Following very positive results, Continental Automotive Systems is concentrating on lithium-ion technology for the energy storage unit. The additional voltage converter powers the 14V vehicle power supply. It can either be integrated into the power electronics or installed separately.

The power electronics are the heart of any hybrid drive, acting as an inverter, controlling the flow of energy between the electric motor and the battery. Depending on the voltage level and the current, it is a defining factor for the performance of the whole system. The special Continental Automotive Systems power electronics modular system is based on the company's years of experience as a series production supplier. Solutions can be provided for high voltage and currents, and components for applications using less than 60V. Depending on the power generated, the electronics are either water or air-cooled.

Hybrid system designs: from start-stop to purely electric driving mode

Hybrid systems can be divided up into purely start-stop systems, mild hybrid systems for additional boost and recuperation, and full hybrid systems. A purely electric driving mode is also possible with the latter. In a parallel full hybrid the electric motor may be placed between the internal combustion engine and the transmission. A second clutch allows the internal combustion engine to be disconnected in the "electric driving" and "recuperation" modes. When accelerating, the internal combustion engine and the electric motor work together.

When braking or decelerating, part of the braking energy is fed back into the battery ("recuperation"). In addition, the internal combustion engine can be switched off when decelerating or at a standstill ("automatic start-stop"). Particularly in urban traffic, where speeding up and slowing down is often interspersed with long periods of idling, the hybrid drive demonstrates great savings potential. By positioning the electric motor on the rear axle for example, the hybrid system can in effect convert an essentially front-wheel drive vehicle into a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Tangible added value: lower consumption with improved drive dynamics

Fuel consumption savings of 25% and more are possible with the full hybrid system's start-stop mode, recuperation, brake energy regeneration and purely electric driving mode. In addition, the combination of internal combustion engine and electric motor produce significant drive dynamic benefits. "At typical medium engine speeds, the internal combustion engine produces high torque, ideally complementing the electric motor which develops its maximum torque at lower engine speeds. More than 400Nm are achievable, which corresponds to the power of a good 4-liter gasoline engine", is how Karlheinz Haupt regards the gain in drive dynamics. These aspects of the hybrid drive provide the motorist with tangible added value. Taking both emission and fuel consumption reductions and improved drive dynamics into account, the overall balance is clearly in favor of the hybrid drive.

Continental survey in Germany: increasing interest in an affordable hybrid

"International market studies forecast rapid growth, reaching two million and more hybrid cars each year after 2012. Together with our partner ZF Friedrichshafen AG, we shall be part of this boom, because we can offer one-stop complete design solutions including electric brakes and software integration," announced Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann, chairman of the Continental Automotive Systems Board and member of the Continental AG Executive Board. He quoted the results of a representative survey of 1,000 German motorists carried out by tns/infratest for Continental AG at the end of last year, according to which one in four of those questioned is considering buying a hybrid car; every other motorist would accept a price mark-up of a good euro 2,800 if the car had lower fuel consumption and better acceleration. Dr. Neumann's comment on these figures: "The market is there and it's growing daily. We are offering the right products at the right time."

The Continental Corporation is a leading automotive supplier of brake systems, chassis components, vehicle electronics, tires and technical elastomers. In 2006 the corporation realized sales of euro 14.9 billion. At present it has a worldwide workforce of around 85,000.

As a worldwide leading technology partner to the automotive industry, the Automotive Systems Division of Continental AG integrates extensive know-how and uncompromising quality in the fields of driving safety, embedded telematics and hands-free communication systems, powertrain and comfort. In 2006 the Division achieved sales of approximately euro 6 billion with a workforce of more than 30,000. Continental Automotive Systems develops and produces electronic and hydraulic brake, stability and chassis control systems, electronic air suspension systems, sensors, engine management and transmission control systems, hybrid drives, cooling fan modules, body and security electronics and also is the industry leader of embedded telematics and communication systems in vehicles.

Web site: http://www.contiautomotive.com//




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