Mercedes-Benz Untertürkheim plant to produce batteries for electric vehicles and secure jobs

Mercedes-Benz Untertürkheim plant to produce batteries for electric vehicles and secure jobs

The Mercedes-Benz Untertürkheim plant will be further developed into a high-tech location for electric components, thus offering employees good prospects in the coming era of electric mobility.

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The basis for the transformation of the tradition-rich plant is a set of measures that has been jointly approved by the plant's management and works council. It paves the way for a successive transition from the production of conventional engines, transmissions and axles to the future powertrain components for electric vehicles. This includes, for example, a new battery production unit at the site and the assembly of electric modules for front and rear axles. This makes the Untertürkheim plant a competence centre for the integration of the entire electric powertrain into production.

Frank Deiß, Site Manager Mercedes-Benz Untertürkheim Plant and Head of Production Powertrain Mercedes-Benz Cars (pictured at left above) and Wolfgang Nieke, Chairman of the Works Council at the plant, made the announcement at the Schleyerhalle in Stuttgart.

The establishment of a flexible battery production will bring a completely new product to the Untertürkheim plant. In the future, the passenger car plant in Sindelfingen will be supplied with batteries for electric vehicles of the EQ product and technology brand from Untertürkheim. This means that Daimler is now planning the fourth battery factory in its global battery production network, after the two plants in Kamenz and one in Beijing. Battery production in Untertürkheim will be located in the Brühl section of the plant.

In order to pool expertise in the field of battery-electric vehicles, Untertürkheim will set up a 'project house eATS' in order to develop additional know-how for the next generation of an electric drive system (eATS). This leads to an even closer interaction between development and production.

The so-called 'E-Technikum' at the Mettingen section of the plant that was agreed upon in the first stage of negotiations is to be further developed and significantly expanded. This means that the Untertürkheim plant will have a competence centre in which electric-drive prototypes will be built. In this way, the plant is ensuring important know-how as a ramp-up factory, in particular for battery production as well as for the integration of future key technologies in production.

Keeping the plant competitive

The current agreement is based on the transformation plan from 2015 and defines further steps of development. This still includes the production of increasing numbers of highly efficient conventional combustion engines and of plug-in hybrid systems. Since then, the Untertürkheim plant has also been responsible for the assembly of fuel-cell systems. With the new agreement, stack production for the fuel-cell is added in Untertürkheim to fuel cell system assembly. As agreed upon in the 2015 transformation plan, several billion euros will further be invested into the future development of the Untertürkheim site in the next years.

In total, the agreement creates over 250 new jobs in the area of e-mobility and has long-term effects for safeguarding the employees at the site.

By 2025, fully electric vehicles are to account for 15-25% of the total unit sales of Mercedes-Benz. At the moment, the Untertürkheim plant is operating at full capacity. The company anticipates ongoing growth in the production of conventional engines, transmissions, axles and components in the foreseeable future.

New scalable battery management system from Ricardo promises to optimise next-generation cell chemistries

New scalable battery management system from Ricardo promises to optimise next-generation cell chemistries

A new electric vehicle Battery Management System (BMS) has been developed by Ricardo to further enhancing the use of advanced model-based control methods to optimise the performance of both existing and next-generation cell chemistries.

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One of the most significant impediments to an increased market share for plug-in vehicles is today's high cost of rechargeable energy storage. This can represent a very significant cost element of a typical battery electric vehicle (BEV), meaning that manufacturers need to strike a balance between product affordability and available range between recharges. For BEVs to break out of this paradigm it is likely to require the development and refinement of battery technologies based on entirely new, more affordable, and lighter weight cell chemistries than those used in today's lithium-ion based battery packs. To operate effectively, such new cell chemistries are also likely to require a more intensive level of model-based management and control than today's technology, delivered through a much more sophisticated BMS.

Depending on the requirements of the battery pack and vehicle application on which it is deployed, the new Ricardo BMS provides a scalable increase in processing power from approximately 90 to 800 million instructions per second in comparison with its predecessor. This increase in capacity enables the adoption of highly sophisticated 'model-based' battery management and control enabling, for example, the BMS to estimate the state of the cells based on parameters that might be impractical or impossible to measure, such as instantaneous internal cell temperature. The additional processing power and model-based capability of the new Ricardo BMS is particularly suited to the evaluation of new and innovative cell chemistries, where the careful monitoring and close control of every aspect of battery cell and pack performance can be essential for effective development and evaluation.

The new BMS was part-developed through, and deployed for the first time on, the Revolutionary Electric Vehicle Battery (REVB) project, which set out to evaluate a new Lithium-Sulphur cell technology developed by OXIS energy. This project was led by OXIS and part-funded by Innovate UK. The results of Ricardo's work on this project – including the design and manufacture of proof-of-concept battery module samples for testing and development – will be presented later this year at the CENEX Low Carbon Vehicle Event 2017.

"The new Ricardo BMS – along with our contribution to the REVB project – demonstrates our commitment to taking on some of the toughest challenges in electric vehicle development," commented Ricardo MD of hybrid and electric systems, Martin Tolliday. "This new high-performance Ricardo BMS will enable us to help bring forward the deployment of next-generation battery cell chemistries. This is just one of many innovations that enable Ricardo to help our partners in the electric vehicle sector move closer to the long-awaited breakthrough, where battery-electric traction approaches commercial parity with combustion engine based powertrains."

More than 200 buses with British hybrid system selected for Belgium

More than 200 buses with British hybrid system selected for Belgium

Belgium's Société Régionale Wallonne du Transport (SRWT) has ordered more than 200 Solaris buses powered by British company BAE Systems' Series-E hybrid system.

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As part of its recent agreement with Solaris Bus & Coach of Poland to offer BAE's electric drive systems on their hybrid buses, BAE Systems has expanded into Belgium, as Solaris – one of the leading bus manufacturers in Europe – has secured an order for more than 200 hybrid buses from Société Régionale Wallonne du Transport, the primary bus operator in Wallonia, Belgium.

These buses will not only be the first Solaris buses to include BAE's hybrid systems for propulsion, but also the first buses to use its newest energy storage system, the ESS-3G-1K. The ESS-3G-1K system uses ultracapacitor technology which has proven to be reliable, highly efficient, and power dense reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) with its long design life.

"The successful integration of our product onto Solaris test buses has yielded the first of what we hope are many more orders into the European market using this new energy storage system," said Ian Wilson, Global Business Development director for BAE Systems.

BAE's hybrid solutions' energy storage system not only stores system-generated power but it also recaptures the bus operator's braking energy for even greater efficiency. Then, only the stored energy is drawn upon to power the motor used for vehicle propulsion and to drive all other bus accessories, like air compressors, power steering, etc. This design allows operators to drive a bus on all-electric power since the motor drives the wheels using stored energy.

For Solaris, this order is its biggest success in Belgium and BAE's technology played a key role in the selection. The hybrid buses will be used by two bus operators: TEC Hainaut and TEC Liege-Verviers.

Currently, more than one billion passengers have travelled on one of the 7,000 buses powered by BAE Systems' efficient, hybrid propulsion system and have saved 15 million gallons of fuel while eliminating 160,000 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

Honda signs hydrogen fuel contract with supplier

Honda signs hydrogen fuel contract with supplier

ITM Power, the energy storage and clean fuel company has announced that it has signed a fuel contract with Honda (UK), who will purchase hydrogen at £10($13)/kg.

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The contract covers fuel dispensed across ITM Power's hydrogen refuelling network. The refuelling network has been financially supported by Innovate UK, Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU).

This is the 17th fuel supply contract for refuelling fuel cell electric vehicles that ITM Power has signed. Honda joins Toyota GB , Hyundai Motor UK, Commercial Group, Skanska, UlemCo, Arval UK, UK Government Car Service, Arcola Energy, Johnson Matthey, Europcar, The Science Museum, JCB, Anglo American, Green Tomato Cars, Yorkshire Ambulance Service and Northern Gas Networks as a fuel customer.

ITM Power is currently rolling out a network of 10 hydrogen refuelling stations in the UK of which four are now open for public access. Each station produces hydrogen on site via ITM Power's rapid response electrolyser system, and can refuel a fuel cell electric car in three minutes, providing 300 to 420 miles of clean emission driving, without compromise to drivers' normal refuelling routine.

Dr Graham Cooley, CEO, ITM Power, commented: "We look forward to supporting Honda and its HyFIVE customers with their refuelling requirements for the Clarity Fuel Cell as our hydrogen refuelling station network expands throughout the UK."

Thomas Brachmann, Automobile Powertrain and Materials Research Expert at Honda R&D Europe: "We are delighted that customers using Honda's Clarity Fuel Cell in the HyFIVE project can refuel at ITM Power's hydrogen refuelling stations. Working together with industry partners, such as ITM Power, drivers of fuel cell vehicles can enjoy rapid refuelling at one of the growing number of stations across the UK."

Toyota Research Institute investing $100 million to launch Toyota AI Ventures

Toyota Research Institute investing $100 million to launch Toyota AI Ventures

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) has launched the venture by contributing initial investments in three technology companies: Nauto, SLAMcore and Intuition Robotics.

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The venture will also cultivate select start-ups by offering them mentorship and support on-site at TRI's Silicon Valley headquarters.

The investment will focus in the areas of:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Robotics
  • Autonomous Mobility
  • Data and Cloud Technology.

Toyota AI Ventures will offer TRI the opportunity to collaborate with talented entrepreneurs who prefer to work in a venture business environment.
"Toyota has a history of disruptive innovation in the service of mankind, moving from textile machinery to automobiles in the late 30's, to the broad electrification of the automobile with Prius in the 90's, to autonomous mobility and human-assist robots," said Gill Pratt, CEO of TRI.

Initial investments

Toyota AI Ventures represents an expansion of TRI's investment mandate and assumes TRI's positions in three startup investments:
Based in Silicon Valley, Nauto provides a technology system, designed for professional drivers and fleet managers, that monitors drivers and the road environment to prevent collisions, improve driver behavior, and learn from the diverse data shared across its smart cloud network. The Nauto device is packed with AI-powered sensors and mounted inside a vehicle's windshield, where it provides powerful visual context inside and outside the vehicle and collects data that can provide meaningful insights. TRI participated in Nauto's $12 million Series A financing in August 2016.

SLAMcore, based in Britain, develops advanced algorithms designed to help technology platforms like autonomous cars, drones and AR/VR systems to simultaneously build a map of their surroundings and position themselves within it. Critically, SLAMcore approaches this challenge with a core focus on power efficiency, a crucial factor for autonomous mobility applications given the need to maximise the power available for locomotion. TRI participated in SLAMcore's seed financing in March 2017.

Israel-based Intuition Robotics is a leader in the development of social companion technology, including its ElliQ active-aging robotic companion. The company's technology is designed to positively impact the lives of millions of older adults by connecting them seamlessly with family and friends, making technology accessible and intuitive, and proactively promoting an active lifestyle. TRI participated in Intuition Robotics' $14 million Series A financing in May 2017.

New Audi A8 promises active ride through reading the road ahead with 48 volt power

New Audi A8 promises active ride through reading the road ahead with 48 volt power

Forthcoming Audi luxury saloon to feature advanced new camera-linked adaptive suspension powered by a 48-volt main electrical system that also raises the body to lessen side impacts.

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One of the myriad new features available for the most advanced Audi model ever launched will be active suspension, which through the use of advanced camera technology linked to individual electric motors for each wheel can adapt incredibly precisely to changes in the road surface and provide a more finely differentiated balance than ever before between a cosseting ride for the driven and a rewarding experience for the driver. This flexibility is made possible thanks to the new active suspension based on the 48-volt electrical system, which is used for the first time as the main electrical system.

The all-new active suspension on the Audi A8 is a fully active, electromechanical suspension system, which drives each wheel individually and adapts to the prevailing road conditions. The electric motor at each wheel is powered by the 48-volt main electrical system. Additional components include gears, a rotary tube together with internal titanium torsion bar and a lever which exerts up to 1,100 Nm (811.3 lb-ft) on the suspension via a coupling rod.

Predictive and preventative

Using the front camera, the luxury saloon detects bumps in the road early on and predictively adjusts the active suspension. Even before the car reaches a bump in the road, the preview function developed by Audi transmits the right amount of travel to the actuators and actively controls the suspension.

In this way the suspension reacts precisely at the right time, virtually completely eliminating any vibrations and jolts. This complex process takes just a few milliseconds, with the camera generating information about the road surface condition 18 times a second.

The electronic chassis platform (ECP) processes the road surface information and precisely controls all suspension components almost in real time. In conjunction with the air suspension fine-tuned for the A8, the innovative suspension concept delivers an entirely new driving experience in this way. Irrespective of the high level of comfort, the new luxury saloon sits close to the road even with a dynamic driving style.

In conjunction with the Audi pre sense 360˚ safety system, the active suspension on the new Audi A8 uses sensors networked in the central driver assistance controller (zFAS) to detect risks of a collision around the car. In the event of an imminent side impact at more than 15mph the suspension actuators raise the body on the exposed side by up to 80 mm within half a second. As a result, the collision is directed to the even stronger areas of the luxury saloon, such as side sills and floor structure. Hence the load on the occupants is reduced by up to 50% compared with a side impact where the body is not raised.

The new Audi A8 made its world debut at the first Audi Summit in Barcelona on July 11, and is set to take to the road towards the end of 2017.

The new generation of autonomous vehicles will need high level sensor tech to succeed

The new generation of autonomous vehicles will need high level sensor tech to succeed

As industry experts keep telling us here at Automotive Purchasing, improved sensor systems are the key to the development of new safety systems, connectivity and driverless cars writes Simon Duval Smith.

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The last 12 months have seen unprecedented development in autonomous driving technology. Traditional car manufacturers are competing with Silicon Valley innovators in a race to roll out the first truly self-driving car. Most recently, Apple announced its interest in developing autonomous vehicle technology and, earlier this year, Ford predicted that it would produce its first car with level 4 autonomy in 2021. Major industry players including Uber, Tesla and Google have begun testing their own self-driving cars, as regulators and OEMs begin to examine how autonomous vehicles, human drivers and other road users can share the road.


However, despite the excitement at the potential that autonomous vehicles offer, areas of concern remain around the reliability of the technology underpinning autonomous vehicles and the impact of widespread adoption on society. Sensors are the key enabling technology in self-driving vehicles as they enable the car to avoid obstacles and navigate safely through road conditions. Osram Opto Semiconductors has been at the forefront of developing automotive-qualified high power pulse lasers for LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) systems, which are more commonly implemented by autonomous vehicle manufacturers as they offer some striking benefits over other sensing technology, including radar sensors and cameras.

How does LIDAR work?

Scanning LIDAR systems, the form of LIDAR technology that will likely dominate the autonomous vehicle sector, uses a pulsed laser beam which is scanned across the field of view in small angular increments. A fast sensor or sensor array then detects the reflected beam to produce long range, high resolution 3D images of the environment around the car. Osram Opto Semiconductors is currently developing the latest generation of 5ns pulse lasers, a laser bar with four individually addressable laser diodes and a driver ASIC integrated into the module. The entire module is surface-mountable, which reduces assembly costs and eliminates the need to adjust individual light sources. Osram Opto Semiconductors developed, together with its partner Innoluce, a reference design of a MEMS based scanning LIDAR using the above mentioned 4-channel laser. This system has shown strong performance with a detection range of more than 200m for a car and 70m for a pedestrian. In addition, the angular resolution was below 0.5 degrees, with a scan rate of 2 kHz.

Acheiving Level 5 autonomy

While scanning LIDAR systems are on the way to providing the performance and reliability necessary for entirely driverless cars, LIDAR is already being implemented in some semi-autonomous applications and will likely be the backbone of the sensing technology in autonomous vehicles. To complement scanning LIDAR, a range of sensor technology will be combined in level 5 autonomous vehicles to ensure absolute safety and redundancy, including radar sensors, cameras and flash LIDAR.

Blind spots

Despite the progress made in the development of sensor technology, there remain some concerns with autonomous vehicles. Data taken from driverless cars shows that the sensors can struggle to recognise cyclists, because it can be difficult for autonomous vehicle technology to predict their behaviour.[2] Continued innovation in sensor technology is required so that autonomous vehicles can operate safely on the road, and Osram Opto Semiconductors is amongst those developing systems that improve autonomous vehicle sensing and ensure that self-driving cars can be released to the mass market.

Partnerships are the way forward

Walter Rothmund, Marketing Manager at Osram Opto Semiconductors said: "Our partnership with Innoluce and other technology leaders is generating market-leading solutions for self-driving cars, creating improved sensing systems that provide better imaging of the environment around the car and that make it easier and more cost effective for automotive manufacturers to install these systems. As autonomous vehicles continue to develop, sensors will be crucial to the success of the industry, and Osram Opto Semiconductors is well placed to lead the market in driving innovation in LIDAR system technology."

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