So far, 48-volt hybrids have mostly been designed as mild hybrids. Continental has now introduced a 48-volt drive that is designed to provide the same functionality as previous full hybrid drives. This means it is also conceivable in a PHEV.
The key component of Continental’s 48-volt high-power drive is a new, highly efficient, water-cooled electric motor. Its peak output has been doubled to 30 kW in comparison to the previous model, with the same installation space. According to the supplier, this makes it possible to drive purely electrically up to a speed range of 80 to 90 km/h.
The new 48-volt high-power system consists of an electric motor with integrated power electronics and a battery. This is designed to reduce fuel consumption by around 20 per cent compared with comparable vehicles with combustion engines. According to Continental, the new drive can be combined with both gasoline and diesel engines.
The advantage is that 48-volt electrification is much more cost-effective than a high-voltage solution. This is because a 48-volt system requires considerably less effort for insulation protection, and electrical components are more compact and less expensive. In addition, the overall design can be much more compact, as the spacing between the individual components can be smaller. “Our development goal was to achieve a driving efficiency with 48-volt technology that was previously reserved for high-voltage systems only. We have now achieved this,” said Stephan Rebhan, Head of Technology & Innovation Powertrain according to a press release.
The previous 48-volt mild hybrid systems are the simplest form of electrification. They can recuperate a small part of the kinetic energy, but cannot drive purely electrically – the electric motor can only support the combustion engine during acceleration.
With the new drive, however, the more powerful electric motor is not the only new component: The integrated power electronics also work with a new technology that now allows significantly higher currents to be processed. According to Continental, this leads to an electrical efficiency that exceeds that of the previous system by almost 10 per cent. The new technology should also be more effective in recuperation. A Ford Focus was used as the test vehicle, which makes it likely that it will be used in the compact and mid-size classes.
But the Hanover-based German supplier could also go a step further. “If the system is supplemented by onboard charging technology and a larger battery, even a plug-in hybrid drive with 48 Volt technology will be possible,” asserts the company. With an electrical output of 30 kW, however, this is more of a “light” solution than the current PHEV.
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