Why cars are making the switch towards 48-Volt electrical systems

Published On : 2017-06-21

A transformative change is afoot in the Car Battery Chargers Market. Cars are gradually moving to 48-volt electrical systems that will power hybrids, turbochargers, and stop-start motors. This should lead to the development of smaller engines that don’t compromise performance in favour of fuel efficiency. The systems would be able to handle accessories as diverse as power brakes, power steering, air conditioning, radiator cooling, and water pumps. The systems are poised to be a combination of 12-volt and 48-volt systems with the former for infotainment and lighting systems and the latter for more power-intensive tasks. However, it is highly unlikely that the 12-volt systems will be entirely replaced in the Car Battery Chargers Market.

Low-cost hybrid– Bosch, Delphi, Valeo, and Continental are just some of the key players working on 48-volt car systems. There is a good chance that your next vehicle might have a 12-volt start- stop system with a larger 12-volt battery. When you stop at the next traffic signal, the car automatically shuts down after a few seconds but it immediately resumes with minimal hesitation if the throttle is floored. It is quite natural to feel hesitant with such systems in bumper-to-bumper traffic or if you are at a stop sign. With a 48-volt system –

The starter is substituted with a 48-volt system known as a belt alternator starter or motor generation unit

  • A 48-volt lithium ion battery is placed in the boot
  • A DC-to-DC conversion unit

In short, you have a mild hybrid powertrain that works seamlessly with the internal combustion engine. Experts believe that it provides 2/3rds with the benefit of a hybrid at 1/3rd the cost.  Fuel economy also improves by nearly 20%.

E-charge for improved acceleration– A V4 engine with turbocharging technology has similar performance to a V6 without a turbo. The sole fly in the ointment is the lag experienced as the turbo powers up and forces air into the engine. Most reviewers describe turbo lag as ‘hardly noticeable’, but enthusiasts are still affected by it. This is where electric turbochargers or e-chargers come in. Instead of waiting for exhaust gases to get the impeller up to the desired speed, an electric motor is so instantaneous that lag truly becomes irrelevant. E-chargers need a 48-volt system to properly function. 

Delphi Automotive is one of the carmakers contemplating a multi-component system to create a lighter and more fuel-efficient engine. The company begins by swapping the starter motor with a 48-volt generator that powers the vehicle, provides additional power beyond that offered by the combustion engine, and it also recharges the lithium-ion battery in the vehicle boot. Delphi’s motor generator is about the size of a standard starter motor so it can be easily inserted into a car without needing to move vital parts such as the radiator. A 48-volt electric charger is utilised to supplement the vehicle’s present turbocharger. The engine is tuned for cylinder deactivation that the company terms rather grandly as Dynamic Skip Fire. At cruising speeds on flat roads, a car with this system could potentially use only 1 and a quarter cylinder for every revolution. 

Mary Gustanski, Delphi VP of engineering and program management has gone on record to state that the system prototype is meant to demonstrate to automakers what it is capable of.  The U.S. market typically seeks a good balance between performance and fuel economy whereas China and India are heavily skewed towards fuel economy. European buyers look out for reduced emissions along with fuel economy. In the case of diesel engines, carmakers can trade off some CO2 savings with a reduction in NOx emissions; urea injection could still be needed to clean up the exhaust though. For less than U.S $2000, this system claims to improve fuel efficiency by almost 15%. This boost can make conventional engines boast of a mileage that is equal to or greater than full hybrids. In short, a 48-volt motor is almost a quantum leap over 12-volt motors but it is much cheaper than 300-volt hybrids, making it extremely relevant in the long run.