I+D in the Basque Country to promote electric mobility
IKERLAN currently has four active projects within the European framework of Green Vehicle, which enhance its investigation in the field of electric mobility
- The projects are making possible to move forward in new mobility and environmentally sustainable solutions
- The centre works hand in hand with key agents and companies in the industry of electric mobility locally and internationally
In Euskadi, the car industry is moving at high speed. Specially in Gipuzkoa, a territory where the solid industrial fabric and investigation facilities converge so its technological advances can lead these companies to place first in the competitive international market. The goal is to become a strategic sector. It is, after all, the sector that leads the exports in the country and the one that is running ahead of the steel industry.
This is the current situation for this important driving force of the Basque economy. There is, however, no doubting the future shall be electric. As a sustainable alternative for circulation in the city for public or private transportation, the electric mobility focuses on the agenda of public institutions and vehicle manufacturers.
Euskadi is no stranger to these movements and now is emerging in this key sector for the coming years. The institutions are promoting this field through supporting programs, such as the Plan Integral de Movilidad eléctrica (PIME) (Integrated Electric Mobility Plan), implemented by the Basque Government, with a budget of €494 million, or the proposal of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa to transform the territory into an investigation and a development pole of the Smart Mobility industry..
Simultaneously, within the European framework, the Government is also committed to implementing initiatives for the investigation and development of road transport. This is the case of the Green Vehicle meeting, which is part of the Horizon 2020 program and has a budget of €134 million for the period 2018-2020. The program supports investigation projects designed to improve the energy efficiency and the use of non-conventional energy in transportation, advanced traction systems, modern vehicle design, or improve the interaction with other recharge systems.
In this sense, and with the aim of moving forward in technologies that allow to meet the challenge of promoting electric mobility and maintain its position in such competitive sector, the technological centre IKERLAN takes part in four Green Vehicle projects along with other local companies.
Thus, IKERLAN aims to deepen research in key technologies for electrification such as new generation storage systems, power converters for electrical traction, safe control electronics and the related software, as well as control algorithms and energy management.
The centre has been working on these fields with driving-force companies as a technological ally for more than 10 years, including ORONA, Grupo CAF, and other businesses with which it is closely involved in the development of new elevator, train, and bus products with the purpose of creating safer, more efficient and competitive items.
New Battery Systems for Electric Vehicles
Batteries are a key element for electric vehicles since they have a powerful effect in their performance and price. IK4-IKERLAN is currently working on two projects focused on improving the capacities and the integration of these crucial elements in the vehicles.
First, there is the GHOST project, which is focused on designing a battery system that shows an improvement of 20% of the energy density of current solutions. To this end, a dual battery is integrated with high-performance electrochemical cells to deliver a battery that provides both greater autonomy and high-performance for vehicles.
In this project, IKERLAN is in charge of designing the BMS (Battery Management System), integrated in all next-generation batteries. However, in this case, it is of particular importance given the configuration of the adopted solution. Moreover, along with the DC/DC power converter and the corresponding control algorithms, it would allow the battery to perform in both integrated cell types.
The other project, more recent and also related to improve batteries, is called SELFIE. Its objective is to improve the refrigeration systems that keep battery temperature to the optimum temperature range, and apart from the weight and the volume they occupy in the vehicle, they consume part of the total energy stored in the battery.
According to Jon Gastelurrutia, head of the project at IKERLAN, “ensuring an efficient and appropriate thermal management system of the battery is vital to ensure the useful life of batteries that tend to degrade quickly at high temperatures”, adding that “this not only happens during the vehicle operation, but also during fast charging periods, which are more and more demanded by users.”
Solutions for Heavy Vehicles and City Buses
The integration of electromobility solutions in the urban environment is also among the priorities of public institutions, with special emphasis placed on city buses that ensure sustainable mobility in cities. In conjunction with the development of company vehicles, it is also necessary to make progress in the fast charging infrastructure placed on the road to increase the operating range and guarantee the interoperability of the charging station with vehicles from different manufacturers.
In this field, IKERLAN takes part in the ASSURED project, in which two leading manufacturers as the Grupo CAF (in alliance with VECTIA and the recently acquired SOLARIS), MAN, VOLVO, IRIZAR or IVECO work together with fast charging solution providers and investigation centres to contribute to the development of a new generation of electric buses and trucks, as well as high-power chargers necessary to their integration in the cities.
More specifically, the Centre works with VECTIA in the assessment and analysis of the main factors that affect the proper functioning of batteries, such as battery wear during their useful life or their behaviour during operation at high power for a faster charge in less than five minutes. This way, the project aims to develop optimized and efficient fast charging solutions to be validated and implemented in a real urban environment.
Modern Control Architectures for Future Electric Vehicles
In addition to the key elements such as batteries, power converters, and electric engines, electric vehicles integrate multiple electronic control units with the purpose of ensuring the proper functioning of the security systems of the entire vehicle.
The ACHILES project, recently approved, will develop an optimised control architecture focused on its previous integration in the third generation of electric vehicles, centralizing functions related to electric-powered vehicles. On the other hand, IKERLAN shall contribute with its knowledge in the fields of electronic design and aspects of functional safety by coordinating the Safety Concept of electronic architecture, besides from working on the validation of the developments through dynamic models of the vehicle.
IKERLAN is a leading centre for technology transfer and for providing competitive value to companies due, among other things, to the expertise of its researchers. It offers comprehensive solutions by combining different fields of technology in three main areas: Electronics, information and communication technology (EICT), Energy and power electronics and Advanced manufacturing. In 2017, AENOR, has certified IK4-IKERLAN’s comprehensive management system (UNE-EN ISO 9001:2015 and UNE 166002:2014), which is a acknowledging of the excellence of the centre in the R&D&I area. It currently has a staff of approximately 300 people.