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Intelligent Solution for the Growing Information and Communication Requirements of Electric Vehicles

Thu, 01/13/2011 - 6:16am
REGENSBURG, Germany and DETROIT, /PRNewswire/ -- To allow the production of electric vehicles suitable for everyday use to be launched as quickly as possible, Continental is not just developing drive components, storage systems and control units for electric vehicles. Continental works with the collective expertise of a company that brought vehicle navigation to production readiness and is a driving force behind the networking of automobiles and the environment to establish the communications infrastructure required for electric vehicles.

Continental develops electronics systems which help electric vehicles to analyze their routes in advance, identify charging stations and times, make the charging process efficient and attractive, carefully monitor batteries and, finally, that allow them to operate within an uncomplicated, cross-provider fee model. With Continental's electronic systems, power outlets can remain ignorant because electric vehicles will, accordingly, become clever.

"With enormous commitment, Continental is preparing for the new era of electric vehicles. This is necessary today, even if popular opinion suggests that the conventional combustion engine will continue to dominate the market for many years to come. We want to ensure that electric vehicles can be used just as spontaneously, independently, flexibly and are as enjoyable to drive as today's gasoline or diesel vehicles," explains Helmut Matschi, Member of the Executive Board of Continental AG and Head of the Interior division, during the 2011 Detroit Motor Show.

"If electric vehicles are well-networked from the start, they will be able to more quickly fulfill the needs of their users and provide more enjoyment with respect to electric mobility. In the end, our technology can even greatly simplify the process of building up the required charging infrastructure since we bring charging intelligence to the vehicle."

Continental plans to address these requirements with a network system that is the virtual switching and information center through which all system participants can process the exchange of information and data with the vehicle and among themselves. But Continental is not just involved in providing the platform and organizing data communication. The supplier is also developing the necessary electronics for the vehicle. This always includes a GPS module for positioning and a GSM module for mobile communications, as well as an interface to the vehicle bus system.

The greatest obstacles to the success of electric vehicles in everyday life are the concerns regarding their limited range ("range anxiety"). Until now, only static information has been entered into the databases of the electronic navigators for individual routes, in the best case scenario including terrain information as well. However, in cooperation with service providers and with the help of the vehicle electronics, Continental is planning to provide multifaceted traffic information in real time. Which routes pose a traffic jam risk, and to what extent? When do the heater or windshield wipers need to be switched on due to wind and weather conditions? How long is the air conditioner needed and where are the downhill slopes enabling the motor to act as a generator and the vehicle to charge the batteries itself?

The vehicle's energy supply also requires changes in habits and technology. This not only applies to waiting times at the charging station – a tank only takes a few minutes to fill, but a battery requires at least a half hour to charge and in the worst case can take up to a half a day. During an extended transition phase at least, it also applies to the number of available charging points. Gas stations can be found almost everywhere, they are open 24 hours a day, and in an emergency the reserve tank can bridge the last few miles. On the other hand, public charging stations for electric vehicles are still rare, in most cases are not completely integrated into navigation systems, and in some circumstances involve wait times if they are already being used by another vehicle. The Continental platform not only lists the locations and accessibility of charging posts on a daily basis, but the virtual electromobility traffic center also knows when, where and how long the individual charging points will be occupied by which vehicles. This permits drivers to book charging times while traveling – fully automatically, if desired – and to structure the required charging periods as effectively as possible. The same procedure can be used for vehicles and mobility concepts that are not based on the charging of batteries, but rather on their exchange.

When planning the route, the Continental electronics system takes into account not only the requirements of the vehicle and the battery, but also the demands of the driver. Depending on the time of day and the driver's appointment calendar, preference is given to charging points at restaurants, shopping centers, fitness centers or other special destinations. And in case the current surroundings are no help in passing the time, the Continental service platform naturally also provides in-vehicle access to e-mails and social networks as well as Internet radio and television. The relevant AutoLinQ system, already presented by Continental together with Deutsche Telekom, can perfectly interact with the latest freely programmable instrument clusters.

With the platform and its interfaces to the system partners, Continental also enables intelligent, controlled charging at regular power outlets. Since all the intelligence, and hence control of the charging process, is present in the vehicle, even complex charging algorithms can be handled via conventional power outlets. It is not the socket, but the control electronics in the vehicle that determine when how much power flows, whether the batteries should be charged quickly or slowly, or whether charging should occur at night to take advantage of lower energy rates. This innovative approach from Continental allows the infrastructure for electric vehicles to be established at a much faster rate while significantly reducing the required investment for communities and energy suppliers.

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