Bosch on Electronics

Gary S. Vasilash

A look at improvements that are being made to advance vehicle technology by Bosch—you may be surprised.

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The Bosch Automotive Electronics Div. designs, engineers, and, yes, manufactures a variety of semiconductors and sensors, as well as electronic control units for a variety of automotive applications, ranging from braking to engine management, from energy management to electric power steering applications.

“One of the best-kept secrets,” says Tim Frasier, North American regional president, for the division, “is that Bosch is the world’s largest supplier of microelectronic machined sensors.”
Sensors that are used for everything from sensing pressure to yaw rates. What’s more, in 2009 Bosch opened a € 600-million fab. Clearly, the company that may be more widely known for its automotive fuel injectors or braking systems is seriously solid in electronics.
Certainly, Frasier and his colleagues are heavily engaged in advancing the technology for hybrids and electric vehicles. However, he points out that conventional combustion engines—gasoline and diesel systems—are both benefitting from an increase in electronics. “Newer techniques—direct injection, turbocharging, and advanced technologies like HCCI [homogeneous charge compression ignition]—all
require more electronics for software and additional sensing,” he says. He points out that if you look at direct injection and turbochargers, the former requires precise electronic control of fuel into the combustion chamber compared with other types of fuel injectors and the latter, although purely mechanical, require coordinated control with the direct injection system, which brings in the tech at hand.
Another technology that is finding greater deployment in vehicles with conventional powertrains is start-stop systems. Here, the engine is shut off when the vehicle comes to a stop, then immediately starts up when the accelerator is depressed. This, of course, necessitates the use of a special starter. A DC-to-DC converter is used to control the energy during engine off and restart. Additional sensing is needed on the crankshaft so that the system knows which cylinder to fire for fast and smooth restart and there needs to be additional algorithms in the engine controller—necessitating higher computing power.
According to Frasier, “The average fuel consumption improvement from a start-stop system is approximately 4%.” Consequently, Bosch is shipping 2.5-million units of the electronics package (the sensors and the DC-to-DC converter) in 2011, which is double the amount shipped in 2010.
Not surprisingly, Frasier acknowledges that when it comes to electromobility, the opportunities are significantly greater vis-à-vis electronics deployment: “When we look at it from pure silicon content, e-mobility is an order of magnitude more.”
Vehicles of all powertrain configurations have been getting more “intelligent” and continue to do so, through the use of a variety of sensors and controllers used for everything from anti-lock brakes to parking assist, from HVAC control to lane departure warnings. And they’re becoming more efficient, as well, through the use of electronics to replace hydraulic pumps and belt drives in applications ranging from steering to cooling.
But with electromobility, there is another huge factor, which is the tremendous amount of electrical power that has to be intelligently controlled.
For example, a key component in hybrids and full-electric vehicles is the inverter. This is used (1) to take DC from the batteries and convert it into AC for the electric motor and (2) to manage the energy that is recouped during regenerative braking (i.e., putting energy back into the batteries). Clearly, this all must be handled with high degrees of control. What’s more, as these are mobile operations, not part of equipment that are on a factory floor, packaging considerations are key. Frasier points out that the amount of electrical power that they’re dealing with—up to 150 kW in some cases—“Is usually only applied in fixed industrial situations, like an assembly line.”
So Bosch engineers are working on improving the size and efficiency of inverters made for automotive applications. Case in point: the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid and the Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid use a Bosch inverter that is approximately 10 liters in size; the second-generation inverter that will go into production in 2012 is about 8 liters in size. And gen-three, which is planned for 2013, will be 8 liters in size but offer about a third more power.
JV for EV, Take One
In September 2008, Bosch and Samsung SDI of Korea created a joint venture, SB LiMotive, which is focused on developing lithium-ion battery technologies for use in hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs). By 2013, the two companies anticipate investing $500-milllion in the company. In November, 2010, SB LiMotive opened a 34,000-m2 factory in Ulsan, Korea, for battery production. A customer for the batteries being produced by the firm: BMW, which is using the batteries for its ActiveE test fleet and for the future Megacity Vehicle.
JV for EV, Take Two
In July, 2011, Bosch and Daimler AG of Germany created a joint venture, EM-motive GmbH, which is focused on developing electric motors for use in electric vehicles. By 2020, the two companies anticipate that the venture will have built more than one million electric motors. The production for the electric motors will be performed in Hildesheim, Germany. Launch of manufacturing is expected at the start of 2012. The electric motors will be used in both Mercedes-Benz and smart EVs, with the initial deployment in the next-gen smart fortwo electric drive, which is to go on sale early in 2012.