E-Bike and Company – The Success Story of Light Electric Vehicles (LEV)

Registrations for electric and hybrid vehicles might still be disappointing, but on cycle paths, e-mobility is unstoppable. The success-story of e-bikes began about 10 years ago. Initially, they were belittled as mobility aids for the elderly. Yet today, even die-hard mountain bikers and racing cyclists enjoy the extra electric boost.

Since mid-June (2019), electric scooters are legally permitted on public roads in Germany (subject to a general operating license issued by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority - KBA). However, the extent of traveling the so-called last mile can be revolutionized remains to be seen.

Progress is being made for a different class of electrically powered small vehicles: the 45-km/h-scooter, which is often unbearably noisy, will be rolling near enough silently through Germany’s city centers in the future. In some major German cities, electric scooters can already be rented on demand, for example in Berlin, through suppliers such as emmy or coup. If you have ever experienced this great silent type of transport, you will probably not want to switch back to a combustion engine.

Systems architecture

All vehicles described above share an almost identical system architecture: the battery serves as a central energy source for engine, display device, control panel, lighting and other electric loads. Very often a connectivity unit is added to connect the vehicles with the outside world or the user’s smartphone.

Therefore, developers of such vehicles share similar requirements. Primarily: space savings and weight reduction whilst at the same time optimizing performance, lifetime and usability. Despite the drive for innovation, electromagnetic compatibility is a key factor, which needs to be considered due to the ever-increasing number of electronic components.

All in all, here are some challenges that developers of LEV systems face:

• To achieve a superior driving experience

• Energy efficiency and density through highly efficient energy storage and transmission

• Space/weight

• Connectivity – networking of the vehicle

• Inductive charging

• Electromagnetic compatibility

• Functional safety (temperature, redundancies etc.)

• Innovative production processes, for example 3D printing

For all the issues mentioned, electronics play an essential role. They are both the enabler and the limiter for the implementation of these product features.

Driving Experience

Let’s first take a look at the driving experience as an example. Here, vehicle manufacturers primarily aim for a harmonized, natural and at the same time powerful performance.

For all vehicles, the driver controls the desired speed. For e-bikes this is achieved through assist level selection, pedal force and frequency. For kick-scooters this is achieved through assist level selection, kick-force and/or throttle control. For e-scooters it is achieved through throttle control. In principle, these input elements provide a human machine interface (HMI). The better the machine implements the driver’s intentions, the better the driving experience; and sensor technology is crucial for conveying the driver’s intentions. Its performance needs to be sufficiently high and it needs to be implemented correctly. In particular, the latter requires relevant know-how, which ideally is provided by the sensor manufacturer. This is what we do here at Würth Elektronik. On top of offering suitable products, we also provide a comprehensive application consultation.

Power Transmission

To provide sufficient power to the e-machine for powerful acceleration or steep ascents, efficient and high-performance power transmission is needed. While kick-scooters and e-bikes can achieve 10-30amp peak currents, the 45-km/h-scooter reaches up to 70 amp.

What solutions do we offer here? A good example is our robust wire-to-board connection solutions such as the REDcube terminals with press-fit technology. Depending on the model, currents from 10 up to several hundred amperes can be transmitted. Its current usage for the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler Formula E racing car proves the efficiency and vibration resistance of this component. The line chokes HCI, HCC, HCF are another product group we offer for this area of application.

Networking

Reducing space and weight are important specifications for developers of LEV systems and it is no different for us as a manufacturer of the required components. One of the greatest challenges for the development of connected vehicles is space limitations, for example in the display or the often-concealed telematics unit. Thanks to networking vehicles with the outside world (to a driver’s smartphone or a central server of the vehicle manufacturer) direct added value for customers such as theft protection or easy billing for rental vehicles can be achieved. Generating data also creates indirect added value, for example by optimizing next-generation products based on the product usage data collection and analysis. Speaking of next-generation products… which ever direction e-mobility will take and particularly no matter how the light vehicle industry will develop, Würth Elektronik is an important partner and supplier for developers.

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