Trends in Sensor Technology and the Electric Vehicle Industry

It is not surprising that in the transportation industry, electric cars are attracting attention. In recent years there has been a race by auto manufacturers to bring electric cars and trucks to the masses.

Trends in Sensor Technology and the Electric Vehicle Industry

Image Credit: Amphenol Advanced Sensors

As consumers are now more environmentally conscious, the market has become more competitive and governments are taking legislative steps to decrease carbon emissions.

Trucks and cars are not the only modes of transportation expected to convert to a greener source from fossil fuels. Chances are there is already an electric-powered alternative for every type of vehicle.

New technology encourages more new technology. The electric vehicle sensor market will grow as the electric vehicle market grows. The reason is simple: EVs require accurate and high-performing sensor technology to ensure safety and performance just as vehicles with an internal combustion engine.

Electric Vehicle Industry Growth Beyond the Sedan and Pickup

Though in the “electrification revolution,” electric cars and electric trucks are front and center, they are only two components of the overall sea change in transportation. Nearly every vehicle type is slated for electrification. A number of financial reports and electric vehicle industry trends exhibit that this shift is well underway.

In addition to pickups and cars, other electrified vehicles which will be more prominent include:

  • Boats and Ships: The electric boat and ship market is slated to reach $ 10 billion by 2026 and is already valued at $ 5 billion. 
  • Buses: Fully electric bus fleets are on the horizon, from those supporting urban commutes to those transporting school children. In order to fund the conversion of transportation systems away from fossil fuels, billions of dollars are being earmarked by federal lawmakers.
  • ATV and Utility Vehicles: The ATV and utility vehicle market is predicted to grow from $ 468 million in 2020 to $ 4.3 billion by 2030 and is among the smallest vehicles slated for electrification.
  • Aircraft: The skies will become greener with the conversion to electric-powered airplanes. By eliminating fossil-fuel use from their fleets, a number of major airlines are planning to follow the automotive industry.
  • Semis: One of the biggest vehicles on the road presents one of the most impactful paths to decreasing emissions. By 2026, the electric semi market is expected to more than double. 

Electric Vehicle Sensors: The Key to Continued Industry Growth

The role of sensor technology, particularly in battery management, will become vital as the global fleet of vehicles transitions away from fossil fuels and into electricity. An EV’s battery systems require constant monitoring to ensure optimal safety and performance, just like the fueling system of an internal combustion engine. 

Electric vehicle sensors for batteries are more than an updated version of a gas gauge. They are sophisticated tools for measuring key performance elements, like: 

  • Battery health
  • Humidity control 
  • Thermal management
  • Energy management

Thermal Management

Excessive heat is one of the most detrimental environments for an EV’s battery. Thermal runaway may happen if left uncontrolled - an event where a battery cell degrades and releases flammable gasses. 

The battery thermal event can even cause a chain reaction through the entire battery pack without intervention, with more cells undergoing thermal runaway until the pack is damaged beyond repair. 

Furthermore, motors, batteries and inverters have a temperature window where the performance is high, but performance degrades outside that window. That optimal range is between 15 °C to 35 °C for batteries.

The internal kinetics of the cell drive lower charge and discharge rates at colder temperatures, decreasing available pack power. 

Battery cells can degrade quickly at higher temperatures, which requires that the system be controlled by heat exchangers that can both extract heat from the cells or add heat as needed, and all require accurate temperature sensor feedback. 

Humidity

Humidity is an EV battery design’s worst enemy next to overheating as condensation comes with humidity. Condensation means a higher risk for a short circuit in an EV battery pack. An electrical short in an EV is enough to cause thermal runaway or other malfunctions. 

Monitoring the battery pack for condensation buildup over long life spans has become more of a concern. Water from humidity in the form of condensate and the potential for small leaks in the pack's cooling system can lead to electrical shorts and corrosion, which can damage the pack and hydrolyze and form dangerous levels of hydrogen gas.

Energy Management

A lot of energy is required to run an electric vehicle of any size or type. So, monitoring its energy intake during charging and consumption during utilization is vital for consistent performance. 

One of the key requirements consumers are looking for in Evs - fast charging - requires constant monitoring, as quickly charging a lithium-ion battery can cause overheating in rare instances. 

Sensors designed to manage a number of systems are key to helping the owner get the most from their vehicle without worry, from a vehicle’s HVAC to even a regenerative braking system. 

One example includes monitoring the temperature of the vehicle’s charging connections. In the high voltage connections, higher than expected temperatures show that a plug or charging handle is worn out and needs a replacement.

Battery Health

For many potential adopters, both short- and long-term EV battery performance are thought to be barriers. How can they trust a vehicle will not just leave them stranded? For the vehicle owner, understanding an EV’s overall battery health serves three purposes: 

  1. Assessing its usefulness over the life of the vehicle
  2. Knowing how far the vehicle is able to travel on its current charge
  3. Identifying small performance issues before they become bigger 

Sensors play a critical role in supplying accurate measurement of State of Health (how much life is left in the battery pack) and State of Charge (how much farther you can travel). 

Can Sensors Keep up with Electric Vehicle Industry Trends?

The electric vehicle industry is in the starting stages of unprecedented growth, and sensor technology is set to follow suit. 

The long-term future of electrified transportation is partly dependent on the availability of accurate and dependable sensors. 

Although there is still some consumer reluctance to accept the latest evolution in transportation, today’s electric vehicle sensors can ensure a bus, car or even a plane ride is a much higher quality, quieter experience than today’s thermal engine technology.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Amphenol Advanced Sensors.

For more information on this source, please visit Amphenol Advanced Sensors.

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