Auto Electronics

Continental charts power electronics for hybrids; driver assistance systems

Continental AG’s Automotive Systems division is partnering with ZF Friedrichshafen AG to develop, manufacture and market modular power electronics systems for hybrid vehicles of different sizes, layouts and power ratings. The company also plans to launch a series of driver assistance systems.

Karlheinz Haupt, head of the company's Electric Drives business unit, said modular power electronics systems for hybrids are available with power ratings from 6 kW to more than 150 kW. The systems include an energy storage unit, energy storage management and all associated electromechanical elements. Haupt said standardizing those components yields quality advantages, shortens development times and minimizes the cost of implementing new projects.

A hybrid drive consists of an electric motor, a battery, an additional voltage converter, and power electronics. The electric motor replaces the starter and the alternator, acting as an electric drive system and as a generator for energy recovery. The recovered energy is temporarily stored in the battery, which then releases it for subsequent acceleration (boost) or for purely electrical driving.

Haupt said Continental is concentrating on lithium-ion technology for the energy storage unit.

The additional voltage converter, which can be integrated with power electronics or installed separately, powers the 14 V vehicle power supply. The power electronics act as an inverter, controlling the flow of energy between the electric motor and the battery. Continental’s modular power electronics systems support high voltage and high currents, and include components for applications using less than 60 V.

Later this year, Continental plans to launch in a European OEM’s vehicle a lane departure warning system that will use signals from a camera to alert drivers if they unintentionally leave their lane. A driver assistance system planned for introduction in 2008, also in a European vehicle, will use an infrared-based closing velocity sensor to analyze a vehicle’s immediate surroundings and prevent rear-end collisions, even at low speeds. In 2009, Continental expects to deploy new radar sensors with enhanced proximity control and new camera sensors for road sign recognition. Camera and radar sensors will also be interlinked as part of a joint development project between Continental Automotive Systems and a major vehicle manufacturer.

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