"Interdisciplinary and international cooperation is a decisive factor for the development of complex technologies in the field of electromobility"
Interview with PD Dr. Valentin Ivanov about challenges and research successes in the development of innovative components for electric vehicles. | December 2021
It was probably Andreas Flocken who developed the world's first electric car at the end of the 19th century in Coburg, not far from Ilmenau. At that time, no one could have imagined the development that electromobility would take. Today it is clear that the electrification of vehicles is a key factor in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in transport and thus also decisive for the survival of the automotive industry in the coming decades. We spoke with PD Dr. Valentin Ivanov, Acting Head of the Group of Automotive Engineering at the TU Ilmenau and Head of the Automotive Engineering and Powertrain Technology Competence Areas at the Thüringer Innovationszentrum Mobilität (ThIMo) which accompanies the industry's transition to sustainable mobility technologies, talked about current challenges and research results in the field of electromobility.
Dr. Ivanov, you and your team have been working on the development of electromobility concepts and technologies for many years. But although enormous development progress has already been made in this field in recent years, particularly with regard to the topic of energy efficiency, there are still many challenges in "classic" vehicle technology in connection with electromobility. What are these?
In the field of electromobility, most research and development is focused on electric motors, batteries and charging technologies. However, many studies have shown that traditional chassis technology also needs to be significantly adapted in order to ensure a high level of driving safety and comfort for electric vehicles in addition to environmental friendliness. This is why, for example, new solutions for brakes, wheel suspension and tires for electric vehicles are in great demand. A key challenge in the development of such solutions is a holistic design approach that takes into account the composition of modern electric vehicles from components and systems with highly varying degrees of technological maturity.
What know-how in the field of electromobility have you been able to build up at your department in recent years in order to contribute to solving these problems?
We have been researching various aspects of electromobility at our department for many years: For example, we started developing new mechatronic braking systems, called brake-by-wire, ten years ago and designed and patented control methods in the EU project E-VECTOORC with industry partners such as TRW and Jaguar Land Rover that enable optimal interaction between wheel hub motor and friction brakes for robust driving safety and at the same time optimal energy efficiency in electric vehicles.
We have expanded this approach of controlling the chassis systems and the electric powertrain in an integrated manner to include other applications. For example, in the patented Ride Blending System, the combined application of active wheel suspension with the vertical forces generated when wheel hub motors are driven significantly improves the ride comfort of an electric vehicle.
On this basis, we were able to design a completely new type of chassis architecture, the so-called Active Wheel Corner, in which several active suspension systems as well as the electric motor are arranged and integrated individually for each wheel. This opens the way for extremely flexible, efficient and robust driving dynamics control. We are also currently developing such innovative designs for the area around the wheels and corners in autonomous vehicles as part of the EU project OWHEEL together with other universities from Europe, Japan and South Africa as well as industrial partners Tenneco and Arrival. The aim is to provide recommendations for improved driving dynamics and greater ride comfort through innovative wheel module designs.
In two other Horizon 2020 projects - EVC1000 and XILforEV - you are also developing innovative components for electric vehicles. Among other things, this involves solving one of the biggest problems in the production of electric vehicles, the short range compared to vehicles with combustion engines. What findings and new technologies have these projects already produced?
Range remains one of the most important challenges in engineering an electric vehicle. The partners in the EVC1000 project want to partially solve this problem. Here, the number "1000" means that an electric vehicle should be able to achieve a range of 1000 km with a single charge of less than 90 minutes. To achieve this goal, the consortium has developed vehicle components that enable the efficient integration of powertrain and chassis systems: compact wheel hub machines, silicon carbide-based power electronics, a fully mechatronic braking system, and a fully active mechatronic spring-damper system. Our automotive engineering department is responsible for the integration of all components on the vehicle. The target vehicle is currently being prepared for public demonstration on our university campus as well.
What exactly is the other project XILforEV about?
The XILforEV project, which is coordinated by TU Ilmenau, is about new Internet-based X-in-the-loop test platforms for systems and components of an electric vehicle. Complex electromobility technologies also require sophisticated validation procedures. It is almost impossible - even for large industrial companies - to have all the necessary test benches and equipment at one location. This means that in the development process, a large number of separate work steps and tests are always necessary one after the other and at different locations - at vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and research facilities. In our project, we have proposed a methodology in which several test benches at different EU partners in germany, spain, the netherlands, belgium and slovenia are virtually networked with each other. This allows the partners to perform tests in different driving scenarios together and in real time. In this way, the times and costs for the development of electric vehicles can be significantly reduced. We implement this methodology both for the development of the brake-by-wire and ride blending systems already mentioned and for overarching studies on the functional safety of electric vehicles.
Most of your research projects on electromobility are EU-funded projects. Why is it so important to address this topic in an EU-wide network?
On the one hand, research and development of an electric vehicle require strong interdisciplinarity. To this end, we have established very reliable internal cooperation with the Group of Control Engineering - for example in the EU project CLOVER - and with the High Frequency and Microwave Technology department - in the research groups MOSYS and EMISYS.
In addition, the Group of Automotive Engineering has also built up a very broad international research network of partners with unique competences in various fields, for example in the development of wheel hub motors, intelligent power electronics, highly dynamic electromechanical actuators, etc., which perfectly complement our competences. On the other hand, the Group of Automotive Engineering and the Thüringer Innovationszentrum Mobilität have several state-of-the-art test facilities, which EU partners can also use to validate their own technologies.
In addition, the European Commission continuously offers efficient funding formats that cover almost all areas of electromobility. Since 2021, there has been the public-private partnership "Towards Zero Emission Road Transport (2Zero)" specifically for this purpose.
To what extent can your team and your colleagues and partners benefit from the technical equipment at the Thüringer Innovationszentrum Mobilität?
Definitely, we get many advantages with the ThIMo equipment. Almost all chassis assemblies of an electric vehicle can be tested here. This year, the motor test bench in the ThIMo-II building was also expanded, enabling tests with high-performance electric machines. Fully instrumented vehicle demonstrators are also available for field tests. We make intensive use of all this in our research collaborations. Among other things, we have conducted numerous joint experiments in the field of electromobility with colleagues from universities in Compiegne, Tokyo, Pretoria and Surrey, as well as with industrial partners such as Audi and Tenneco here in Ilmenau.
How can the concepts and technologies developed in the projects be made available to the scientific community for further research on a global level?
Excellent test platforms are worthless without the right skills and creative ideas. That is why interdisciplinary and also international cooperation is a decisive factor for the development of complex technologies such as those required in the field of electromobility. But right now, in the current pandemic situation, there are considerable obstacles to this. Against this backdrop, the aforementioned XILforEV project takes on a whole new significance, also in terms of opening up scientific production processes in the age ofdigitalisation: in every field of research, there are now numerous research groups working at universities, institutes and in industry worldwide, all of which have very different access to modern experimental facilities. In this respect, many researchers suffer from limited opportunities to validate their ideas and methods using real objects. Our networked and distributed X-in-the-loop technologies are a vivid example of how interdisciplinary, cross-industry and international research efforts can be connected, consolidated and harmonized in the spirit of Open Science and Open Research to jointly contribute to the solution of complex scientific and engineering tasks and societal challenges.
Dr. Valentin Ivanov
Acting Head of the Group of Automotive Engineering
+49 3677 69-3869
- Schreiber, V., Büchner, F., Lehne, C. et al. X-in-the-Loop-Ansatz zur Entwicklung von Elektrofahrzeugen.MTZ Extra26, 18–23 (2021). <https://www.springerprofessional.de/x-in-the-loop-ansatz-zur-entwicklung-von-elektrofahrzeugen/19564024>
- M. Heydrich, V. Ricciardi, V. Ivanov, M. Mazzoni, A. Rossi, J. Buh, and K. Augsburg, “Integrated Braking Control for Electric Vehicles with In-Wheel Propulsion and Fully Decoupled Brake-by-Wire System,” Vehicles, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 145–161, Mar. 2021. <https://www.mdpi.com/2624-8921/3/2/9>
- Armengaud, E., Eitzinger, S., Pirker, H., Buh, J. et al., “E-Mobility-Opportunities and Challenges of Integrated Corner Solutions,” SAE Int. J. Adv. & Curr. Prac. In Mobility 3(5):2462-2472, 2021. <https://www.sae.org/publications/technical-papers/content/2021-01-0984/>