Electrification, connectivity, automation: Bosch showcases Mobility Solutions thinking

June 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

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And in another overdue catch-up, my recent day at Bosch… Presentations from executives took three key themes: automation, connected-car technologies and electrification. Forecasts for electrification are relatively conservative: over 90% of new cars sold worldwide five years from now will still have some sort of ICE; by 2025, some 15% worldwide (over a third, in Europe) will have at least a hybrid powertrain, including 3million PHEVs and 2.5million all-electric vehicles. But electrification is seen primarily as an add-on to extend the lifespan of the ICE, at least in the short- to medium-term: says Dr Rolf Bulander, Bosch board member and chairman, “Electrification means that ICEs will experience their best period of service life yet, giving an optimum range. They can be used more effectively and efficiently.” Bulander sees purchase prices and charging infrastructure as the main barriers to adoption of all-electric vehicles (“by 2020 we want to halve battery costs”), with crucial factors for the success of electromobility including driving enjoyment and also the use of sustainable-source electricity.

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Showcased at Boxberg and available to test-drive were vehicles including the Mercedes-Benz S500 Plug-In Hybrid (IMG 290/110 motor built in the Bosch-Daimler EM-Motive joint venture); the C350e Plug-In Hybrid (IMG 290/110); the Smart Fortwo electric-drive (EM-motive 180/20); plus the Fiat 500e (complete powertrain including motor, power electronics, battery and regenerative braking supplied to Fiat-Chrysler); the BMWs i3 ReX and i8; and the fascinating, super-economical Volkswagen XL1 (all with Bosch bits). Oh, and there were passenger rides in the Porsche 918 Spyder e-hybrid, too…

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Moving on to internet-of-things, “connected electric vehicles are the best electric vehicles, because added functions can be achieved,” Bulander went on to explain, pointing out that by 2020, “cars will be an active part of the internet. They can collect and pass on information.” That’s for safety warnings, convenience functions, and optimisation of range/charge in electrified vehicles, for example, as in Bosch’s Panamera S E-Hybrid demonstrator, whose ‘electronic horizon’ software previews the road ahead to predict zero-emissions zones. Next step is electric vehicle communication with charging infrastructure, smart-grids and home energy systems; work at Bosch includes a smartphone app for charging point reservations and billing across network providers, plus a system of web-enabled sensors in parking spaces to build a real-time parking map, reducing the time and energy consumption of looking for a space.

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And “connectivity is the key to electrified and automated driving”, added board member Dr Markus Heyn. Electromobility, connectivity and automation are all ultimately interlinked – as showcased in two automated Tesla Model S demonstrator vehicles. Each car is fitted with 50 new Bosch components, including a stereo video camera (small and powerful enough that no unsightly roof-mounted systems are needed) which recognises traffic signs, lane markings, clear spaces and obstructions (as displayed on the screen, below), and automatic, independently-operating brake booster and ESP systems. A ride in one of these vehicles – the highlight of the day at Boxberg – showed that while there is still a long way to go before full automation is ready for mass-market application, the basic functionalities of the system are present and correct.

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Ongoing electromobility research and development programmes further involve inductive charging and fuel cell powertrains, with prototypes up and running from this summer. But the other interesting Bosch projects go beyond the car – it’s worth noting that this mega-supplier is not just making e-powertrains for scooters and battery-boost systems for pedal-bikes, but it’s rebranded its Automotive Technology division as Mobility Solutions. Software has been supplied to a test project, Stuttgart Services, which allows city residents to access trains, buses, car- and bike-sharing services and even swimming pools and libraries via a single RFID card. Another trial, in Monaco, looks at inter-connecting ‘smart’ city functions such as waste collection, bus networks, roadworks and even escalator maintenance. Quote of the day? Dr Rolf Bulander: “We need to rethink personal mobility, at least in big cities, and move toward a multimodal concept encompassing bikes, trains, buses and walking… We want to improve the efficiency not just of engines, but traffic in general.”

*More detailed, properly-written version of this to appear shortly in a subscription-only specialist-interest magazine (no, not that sort) which you won’t find in your local WH Smiths. Links to digital versions to be tweeted, probably…

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