Electric and hybrid vehicles offer our industry great opportunities, but they present huge challenges at the same time. We have been dealing intensively with this topic for several years already. We have put together our own in-house team for the development of high-current systems as well as the corresponding laboratory facilities for validating the products.
To be more precise, this is a complementary technology and the further development of what we have already been successfully doing for decades. We develop and produce connectors, special cable assemblies and component assemblies. In high voltage technology, three topics demand our attention and the application of our know-how: touch protection, electric arcs and accident safety. Touch protection because voltages from 70 volts can be fatal for people. Electric arcs when separating electrical connections because the temperatures in electric arcs can reach over 1000 °C and can destroy surfaces or cause fires. And accident safety because short circuits can cause a vehicle fire.
From a technical perspective, the weakest points of electrical vehicles are the energy density of the batteries, the battery costs and the charging times. Every working person knows that you may plan on refuelling once during a day with several business appointments, but longer charging times are hardly possible. At present, electric vehicles are most efficient in city traffic, but urban areas are still missing the required infrastructure for these so-called “on-street parkers”. In my opinion, this requires action from both the government as well as investors.
In addition, consumers are completely in the dark about how electric vehicles will be taxed in future. The current subsidies can only be a temporary solution.
And to what extent this technology will hold its ground in the market is also unclear for many different reasons. Many see the electric car simply as an interim solution on the road to hydrogen cars. Nevertheless, we cannot fall into the trap of writing off the combustion engine just yet. Exciting developments are coming onto the market in the near future, which will lower emissions further and significantly raise efficiency.
One further development is especially exciting for us – vehicles are turning more and more into mobile super computers. Trends like autonomous driving require communication bus systems with data rates between 25 – 50 GB per second. That is an enormous physical challenge, but one which we have already been grappling with for some time now. Since Hirschmann has a long history of working in high frequency technology, this development means “back to our roots” for us.