In addition to environmentally friendly drive concepts and automated driving, progress is also being made in other areas of the automotive industry. Lighting design is gaining importance with regard to safety applications and brand differentiation. EDL Rethschulte from Osnabrück, Germany – a subsidiary of FEV – has specialized in this discipline. With this expertise, the FEV Group offers solutions that have a direct influence on the perception, safety, and operation of future cars.
These solutions are based on many years of experience, for example in the development of innovative lighting systems for headlights or transparent OLEDs for rear light applications. The latest development also has the potential to permanently change the view of (and from) the car. The REALEYES Micro-Lens Array (MLA), a further development of the MLA wafer technology, allows for the production of extremely compact and light LED projectors out of plastic the size of a thimble. With their help, images or graphics, for example, can be projected from almost any angle onto any surface, without distorting. Even extremely flat angles of incidence are no problem for the MLA, which in combination with the compact structure allows for high flexibility during installation and reduces costs. Previous solutions mostly consist of projects with just a single lens and cannot execute diagonal projections with sharp contours.
FEV’s development is effective even with high contrast and homogeneous illumination. This opens up entirely new possible uses. On the one hand, these new graphics projections provide an innovative design effect, for example in the form of light carpets, which can already be seen in practice in precursors and offer the driver guidance and a pleasant environment. In mobility concepts, such as the fully-electric, 3-seater, SVEN, which FEV presented as a car-sharing mobility concept at this year’s IAA in Frankfurt am Main (Germany), the new MLA technology offers the possibility of further informative uses. For example, the user can be greeted by an external projection next to the rental car, or receive more information.
This new lighting technology not only offers advantages in terms of additional design aspects but also provides high functional benefits and increased safety, which will become standard in future, especially in electric vehicles. These move almost silently and therefore are hardly acoustically noticeable in their environment and can make other road users notice them with projections on the road surface ahead.
Scenarios are also conceivable in which projecting a pedestrian crossing in front of the vehicle informs pedestrians that the vehicle is stopping and that they can cross the road. Warnings transferred onto the road can notify cyclists that the door of a car parked on the roadside is opening. Also, when reversing or getting out of a parking space, similar visual information for road users could be possible.
Another focal point in the context of MLA technology is the 3D area. Whereas previous 3D processes for displays mostly relied on holography and auto stereoscopy, EDL’s patent is based on light field technology. It can be used to produce high-quality three-dimensional images that can be seen without the need for glasses or other aids.
With autostereoscopic technologies, the 3D effect disappears when you close one eye, because an individual image is projected in front of each eye and it is therefore only a 3D illusion. Another challenge is that the lens of the human eye does not have to be focused on the perceived depth of an object shown but on the distance of the display. This often leads to the viewer experiencing irritations and headaches. Such unpleasant effects do not occur with the light-field technology from EDL. Even with one eye closed, the viewer still perceives a physical, three-dimensional image, since the image points are projected into the space through rays of light, resulting in a real three-dimensional image.
The basis for this patented technology is also the MLA, which consists of numerous micro-lenses the size of a match head; on the surface of a square meter that is 253,000 lenses. These lenses are manufactured with an accuracy of under one micrometer, which is key to producing high-quality 3D displays. This manufacturing process is also part of EDL’s know-how. A special film is used as a storage medium, which is located behind the micro-lenses and is capable of storing large quantities of data. This is necessary, because each of the 253,000 lenses shows the full image, which deviates by a few thousandths from its neighboring lens, and each of these individual images is made up of 65,000 pixels. During manufacturing, the image information for the optic is delivered by an LED exposure unit patented by EDL, which ensures precise orientation. Color errors and distortions do not occur with this method.
The technology gives the viewer the feeling that the objects project up to a meter out of the display.This results in exciting fields of application for the automotive sector. In the vehicle cockpit of the future, it will be possible to create holographic operation elements such as a three-dimensional controller or switch projected virtually from the center console, which the driver can comfortably operate by hand and are captured by sensors.
Also, outside of the vehicle, this 3D development can prove advantageous – for example, integrated in the headlights. In this application case, the use of plastic optics produced by injection molding with the quality of glass optics resulted in entirely new design freedoms, leading to a headlight height of just 11 mm and therefore contributing to significant weight saving. In addition, at dusk the so-called “light-dark limit” could be illuminated on the film material behind the lenses, eliminating the need for visors, which such a narrow design would have made impossible anyway.
This 3D light know-how has already been used to develop vehicle tail lights for prototypes, in which the rear light optically projects from the tail light of the vehicle and is therefore perceived more quickly than with conventional tail lights. In the past, vehicle manufacturers have for example had to work with mirrors to achieve a similar depth effect, which is however nowhere near as pronounced. As a result, with this 3D light technology there is a clear safety benefit for road users with a significantly smaller installation space.
Automated driving functions and autonomous driving fundamentally influence the way we will move in future. Validating these functions require systems that recognize the various scenarios in road traffic during test drives, evaluate them, and prepare them for the developers. FEV is overcoming this central challenge with a data management and assessment system developed in house, which uses the computing power of the Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform.
By today’s estimates, test scopes of 240 million to 16 billion kilometers of road* are needed to validate an automated driving function. However, it is not the quantity of tests that determines the maturity of a system, but the number of road traffic situations “experienced” in which the algorithms have to actively make a decision – for example, during an overtaking maneuver on the highway.
In this regard, the V2I (Vehicle-to-Infrastructure) data management system established by FEV is an efficient solution for the development and validation of such driving functions. This is because aside from the duration and number of test drives, the quantities of data obtained are also a major challenge with regard to the validation. The sensor set installed in the vehicle, consisting of cameras, lidar (light detection and ranging), and radar (radio detection and ranging), quickly generates up to 40 terabytes of data in a single day.
That is precisely what the data management solution from FEV deals with. First, a networked data logger developed in-house takes over the collection of selected vehicle signals and sends them to a back-end in real time during the test drive. FEV once again cooperated successfully with Microsoft for this. With the combination of Azure Cloud Microsoft products and the IOT hub responsible for the data transfer, FEV was able to count on an established, high-performance tool chain. The sent vehicle data is consolidated in the cloud, while algorithms analyze these signals in regards to relevant scenarios. It is therefore possible to send feedback to the relevant engineers even during test drives, and to flexibly coordinate entire fleets according to a predefined plan.
A standardized time stamp also significantly simplifies the cleaning and preparation of all vehicle data. Not least, this scenario-based pre-filtering also enables cost-efficient data storage in the cloud. Only previously-detected data packets or scenarios are loaded into the cloud hot storage, which is the layer with the highest available computing power and access management. Less important sections are saved in lower performance cloud areas that are consequently more affordable.
As an integration and development partner in series production projects of various automotive manufacturers, the efficient assessment and validation of sensor data quickly proved its worth for FEV and its clients. To minimize the general testing time on real streets and the associated costs, the development service provider is increasingly transferring significant test scopes to simulation and laboratory environments.
The data-logger solution, in combination with FEV’s own cloud-based labeling software, is a significant milestone for the construction of a holistic development environment for ADAS/AD environments. The efficient preparation of the data using automated recognition and classification according to driving situation is the basis for all other process steps in this regard.
While the driver assistance systems in series production today are still based on predefined rules, in the future, FEV believes that this will also be possible with the use of machine learning. FEV’s goal is to let artificial intelligence handle even the most complex of situations and accurately anticipate the behavior of road users.
The cooperation with Microsoft is an important component of this. Interdisciplinary collaboration between sections of the automotive industry and IT is enabling groundbreaking, cross-company innovations to be established, which offer critical development benefits. At this year’s IAA in Frankfurt, the German Chancellor and visitors had the chance to view the results of the cooperation at the
FEV expects a high growth potential for the Urban Air Mobility market and sees the opportunity for automotive players to make business in this multi-billion-dollar market and diversify their product portfolio.
Mobility is a determining factor for the quality of life in urban areas. The expected doubling of the urban passenger mobility demand by 2050 will push conventional ground based transportation to their limits. Moreover, their enhancement is limited due to large investments, footprints, and lead-times required. Metropolitan areas and cities will consequently face significant challenges with regards to pollution, noise, and congestion.
The sky however, has been successfully used for safe and time-efficient long-haul transportation for decades. Already today, conventional helicopters operate as air taxis in cities like New York City. An 8-minute flight from JFK Airport to Lower Manhattan costs around $200 USD per passenger using the Uber Copter Air Taxi Service. Also, Blade offers an Airport Pass for an annual fee of $295 USD, with which each flight between Manhattan and NYC airports costing $145 USD. Comparing this with ground transportation, the same trip costs $55 USD for a regular taxi and $120 to $180 USD for a more comfortable Uber Black Service, but takes 55 to 100 minutes.
Recent technological developments allow breakthrough of eVTOL aircraft
The high (operational) costs of a helicopter are the key driver behind the high fares. Next to this, noise emissions limit the uptake of current air taxi services. In the recent past, start-ups and established aviation companies developed new disruptive aircraft concepts: electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) capable aircraft equipped with Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP). The number of eVTOL related patents has vastly increased in the last years, with USA, China, and Germany being at the forefront. The enabler for eVTOL technology is based on the recent technology improvements in battery technology, electric motors, and automation technology, leading to several advantages compared to conventional helicopters: They promise a safer, quieter, and significantly less expensive operation. With the availability of eVTOL technology, Uber forecasts significantly less than $5 USD per passenger mile for their Uber Air Service in the near term.
Due to the advantages of eVTOL aircraft, a high growth of the eVTOL market is expected. With FEV Consulting’s background from a major near-term Urban Air Mobility (UAM) program for a megacity’s transport authority and their deep eVTOL industry insights, the company forecasted the global eVTOL fleet size through 2040. The projection takes several parameters such as the economic attractiveness of eVTOL air taxis, environmental conditions, underlying regulations, policies, and infrastructure into account. Furthermore, cultural probability of technology adaption and the number of expected, credible eVTOL manufacturers were considered.
The market of eVTOL concepts is broadly diversified, with a common set of technologies such as electric propulsion. More than 80 start-ups and established aircraft manufacturers are currently developing over one hundred eVTOL aircraft concepts. Having extensively reviewed these concepts, FEV Consulting expects that less than 20 percent are suitable for aerial ride sharing and are developed by credible players which have the capability to drive its concept through full development and certification into operation. Different use-cases are a key driver behind the broad conceptual diversification of the eVTOL aircraft landscape. The main differentiator is the aircraft architecture with the related propulsion concept: It can be distinguished between the multirotor, the lift & cruise and the tilt rotor/wing architecture. While there are also differences in the energy source, i.e. pure electric and hybrid systems, the following paragraphs focus on the electric motor.
Performance related requirements differ between the architecture concepts due to different cruise speeds and Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) requirements, but also due to the number of electric motors. Power and torque densities along with the e-motors’ efficiencies are very important to aircraft due to their direct effect on the overall efficiency, range, and consequently on the overall mission suitability. Figure 5 provides an overview of the power density of electric motor concepts from suppliers with aviation activities compared to aviation certified piston engine or turbine applications. It shows why distributed electric propulsion becomes so popular for eVTOL, but is also attractive for small general aviation applications, since state-of-the-art electric motors can achieve weight savings compared to piston engines.
In addition, electric motors for aviation applications must be highly reliable because malfunctions can directly lead to flight critical emergency situations. Against the background of the operational concept, high availability and long maintenance intervals are required. Since the aircraft are lightweight designs mainly based on composites, the Noise Vibration Harshness (NVH) of electric motors should be at a minimum to avoid transferred vibrations to the fuselage and structural components. Using electric motors for these kinds of new aircraft concepts instead of complex turbines, could offer an opportunity for automotive players with activities in the electrification of powertrains.
Urban Air Mobility is an attractive pathway to enter the aviation industry for automotive players
The aerospace industry is characterized by low quantities and low economies of scale compared to the automotive industry with its cost-efficient mass production. The top-selling Airbus A320 was sold 417 times in 2018, which is less than a tenth of the sales volume a BMW 3 series has per week with 366,475 units in 2018.
Key components such as the propulsion system are flight critical and can lead to emergency situations, catastrophic events, and high liability claims. Therefore, such products must comply to the certification specifications defined by regulatory authorities such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States of America or the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The certification requires among others, extensive testing, validation, and related detailed documentation and reports. Furthermore, a certificate approving the manufacturing of the type certified product is required and all produced components must be highly traceable. These certification and compliance requirements lead to the high development and industrialization effort which needs to be allocated to the low quantities.
On the contrary, the automotive market is characterized by its high sales numbers and the high competition which demands for a cost-efficient mass production and lean organization and development processes. The effort for obtaining a type approval for a car is different to aviation, but the new eVTOL aircraft are also less complex compared to commercial civil aviation aircraft like the A320. Consequently, the capabilities of the automotive industry can help to reduce the costs, make air taxi fares more affordable for a broader public and can contribute to the expected market growth of the eVTOL industry.
At first, automotive players might perceive the requirements for certification as a high entry barrier. However, the supplier base for technologies, such as batteries and electric motors is less established compared to conventional aviation products. The profound experience automotive players already have from their products being used by end-customers on the road should not be underestimated since they provide real-world durability data. The acquired knowledge might help to establish a high level of confidence for respective authorities to certify products from new players. In addition, automotive players develop their products according to (automotive) ISO and SAE standards, which are similar to related standards of the aviation industry. Furthermore, the automotive industry is well experienced regarding supply chain, logistics, and production processes which will be required for a higher output compared to today’s conventional aviation industry. Consequently, there might be a gap, but not a cold start to bring automotive products into the aviation market.
FEV India was founded in 2006 in Delhi. In 2009, the company opened its technical center in Pune, which is located in the Talegaon region and assumes two hectares of space. Starting with two test benches, one equipped with a direct current load unit for performance and emissions testing and another equipped with an eddy current load unit for endurance testing, the available resources have been continuously increased since then.
Since 2013, FEV India also operates a software center in Chennai that meets the needs of Indian OEMs regarding hybrid and electric drive technology.
In 2016, the upgrade included an additional seven state-of-the-art test benches and since then, a wide variety of services are offered regarding vehicle and engine development, mechanical development and testing, prototype testing, creation, and assessment, as well as engine performance and emissions. In addition to this, there are services in the fields of transmission and OBD calibration.
FEV’s new Vehicle Development Center in Pune opened the following year. The facility has a 250 kW 4×2 chassis dynamometer with three exhaust gas measuring lines (one diluted, two raw exhaust gas measuring lines) that can be upgraded to a 4×4 drive. The facility also enables the execution of measurements in accordance with Indian and European emission regulations including future regulations, such as WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Test Procedure) and RDE (Real Driving Emissions).
Additionally, through another expansion of company capacities in 2018, stricter requirements due to new emission regulations and electrification were met. To this end, the new facility includes a total of eight test benches meeting the newest requirements, including a dynamic chassis dynamometer with two raw exhaust gas measuring lines and the option of height simulation, and the measurement of Particulate Matter, a PN Counter and soot emissions with a Portable Emissions Measuring System. Furthermore, an advanced powertrain NVH development center for vibration measurement and transmission applications is being implemented.
In May 2019, FEV India expanded its location and inaugurated a new mobility center. The new mobility center, which is located close to the Mumbai metropolitan region, will pave the way for advanced technologies in the Indian market. In addition to state-of-the-art BS6 powertrain test benches and the virtual calibration platform “VCAP”, the center also has a new NVH test bench. The already existing facilities, such as powertrain, vehicle roller with PEMS, HiL and friction test benches are thus ideally complemented. FEV now has a total of 20 test benches at its Pune location.
Additional battery and EDU test benches are planned in a second expansion step until 2021.
FEV has been active in the Chinese market for 25 years now. During this time, we have established strong ties to the local automotive industry, the government, and the universities located there.
Due to the increase in powertrain localization and the handling of projects on site, FEV’s first Chinese company was founded in Dalian in 2004. This location gradually expanded and now has 13 engine test benches. Around-the-clock operations provide clients with quick and dependable results for developing engines with “Made in Germany” quality. Another FEV branch was founded in Beijing in 2006, which was the home of the sales and project management teams, and offered CAD and CAE services. Two years later, a third location opened in Shanghai. This engineering office works on conventional and electric powertrains among other things.
The company saw further expansion in June 2016 with the FEV Beijing Vehicle Development Center. This ultra-modern center near the Beijing International Airport is located in one of China’s automobile powerhouses. As a result, FEV can provide its clients with even better on-site support in product development for high-efficiency combustion and electric engines, transmissions, electric power systems, batteries, and fuel cells with a goal of improving air quality and energy efficiency.
With this goal, the center’s 10,000 m2 building not only includes seven development test benches for light and heavy engines, but also a battery test bench and electric power systems test bench that can also be used for transmission testing. The facility also has charging stations for electric vehicles and a filling station with various fuel tanks.
In the next few years, the percentage of electric vehicles will rise sharply in the People’s Republic of China. For this reason, additional stages of construction are already being planned for the development and testing of electric powertrains and their integration in vehicles. Thanks to the functionally arranged basic structures and the modular design of the FEV building and central technical systems, this construction can be extended as needed.
FEV’s durability testing center (Dauerlaufprüfzentrum – DLP) in Sandersdorf-Brehna (Saxony-Anhalt, Germany) is one of the most modern and efficient facilities of its kind in the world. Since its opening in 2007, the facility has displayed impressive growth.
The DLP is currently in its fourth stage of expansion and with a growing demand for electrified powertrains, FEV is adding seven e-drive system test beds. This equipment will be used for vehicle drive testing, including a comprehensive testing program for validation and release for production start, and increases the total number of test benches from 41 to 48.
The test benches operate 24/7, 365 days per year, and were designed and developed by FEV’s Software and Testing Solutions division and in close collaboration with our various engineering areas.
The growth in capabilities at DLP also positively impacts employee development demands. In 2007, DLP employed nearly 80 people and today more than 200 people are employed, an increase of nearly 150 percent.
It is not surprising that the DLP is considered an important technology carrier, reinforcing the drive for innovation in the Saxony-Anhalt region. The President of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Prime Minister of the state of Saxony-Anhalt were able to see this for themselves during a personal visit early this year.
EVA Fahrzeugtechnik GmbH was founded in 1994 and has been a part of the FEV Group since 2017. In light of the increasing development work for the completely electric powertrain, especially on high-voltage batteries, EVA, a specialist for high-voltage batteries and e-mobility, complements the expertise of FEV in the Electronics & Electrification business segment.
For the development of high-performance high-voltage batteries, which must meet strict requirements regarding energy content, range, resistance, temperature resistance, weight, and costs, EVA has demonstrated its considerable expertise in this field through the construction of several prototypes in the stationary area.
In addition to energy storage, EVA has also made a name for itself among automotive and energy sector customers through innovative services and products for the entire electrification process, ranging from the first concepts to systems, components, integration, securitization, and loading infrastructure. Along with FEV resources, EVA uses its own testing laboratory, a prototype building, and technical documentation for this.
At three Munich locations, there are now more than 400 experts working for FEV and EVA.
FEV Poland started its work in 2003 with eight young engineers in a small office in Krakow – a central location for the domestic automotive and mechanical engineering industries and in close proximity to the local universities. The group’s initial focus was on engine development and software development was gradually added as a research focus. This has resulted in strong expertise in the fields of computer simulation and software development, which FEV Poland contributes to international projects within the FEV Group.
FEV Poland thus also gained valuable insights into the future topics of autonomous driving and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which are now reflected in a broad service offer and full-service solutions, from system architecture development to serial validation. In addition to ultrasound and radar, lidar and camera systems with situation detection software, for instance, can also be integrated, tested, and validated. Validation takes place as part of a testing program that adheres to standards that apply worldwide and uses the latest measurement technology, including driving robots and high-precision positioning systems. Various test dummies and platforms are also used at this stage in order to test the interaction between autonomous driving vehicles and the environment to ensure the smooth function of the ADAS components and systems.
Since the foundation of FEV Poland, the number of employees has also grown, to more than 80. To provide the experts with the best working conditions, a move to a new building in Krakow occured last year.
FEV recently expanded its expertise significantly in several areas at once. With its acquisition of B&W Vehicle Development, the corporate group is widening its expertise and capacities in the turnkey vehicle development segment. With more than three hundred employees at international locations, B&W offers its customers solutions in the fields of body shells, interior, exterior, surfacing, model construction, testing, and electricity/electronics. With the fully owned B&W subsidiary EDL Rethschulte GmbH, expertise in the field of lighting technology is also expanding.
B&W Vehicle Development GmbH is already a force to be reckoned with in the European automotive industry. The company provides its automotive customers worldwide with everything from a single source – from the development of individual modules to entire bodies. With the integration of B&W, the FEV Group can expand its capacities in important fields and also gain employees with engineering expertise in all aspects of vehicle development. At a time of increasingly complex project specifications that aim for holistic vehicle expertise, this step also reinforces FEV’s claim to be a reliable partner in turnkey vehicle development.
Production- and process-optimized product development and construction
The FEV Group also fully acquired Swabian engineering service provider, Suarez & Bewarder GmbH & Co. KG, supplementing its resources and expertise in the fields of interior and exterior automobile development, as well as module and platform strategies for trucks and vans. In the increasingly significant fields of production-ready development, validation, and construction of exterior and interior vehicle components in the context of design and packaging, integrating the two companies allows us to gain new expertise.
Software developer UniPlot creates synergies
Another new member of the corporate group is UniPlot Software GmbH. This company, founded in the 1990s by brothers Samuel and Roman Brüggenkoch, develops software used for the analysis and visual representation of measurement data for a worldwide client base – including well-known companies in the automotive industry. FEV too has been making effective use of UniPlot as an established solution for several years, meaning that absorbing the company is a logical step from which positive synergies are expected.
FEV Italy was founded fourteen years ago in order to position FEV closer to local customers to provide optimal support. Since then, close partnerships have been established with Italian universities, such as the Politecnico di Torino and the Università di Bologna, as well as with other research companies. Two FEV Competence Centers were subsequently opened on this basis, in which, among other things, projects for engine development, engine and vehicle calibration, and benchmarking are being implemented. Earlier this year, FEV opened the Energy Center in Turin.
Thanks to the Italian company STEA, which belongs to the FEV Group, there is an additional focal point on overall vehicle development. At the Italian locations of Turin and Modena, STEA develops extensive mechanical and engineering solutions with a focus on packaging, ergonomics, and layouts. Thus, with growing user expectations regarding functionality and design, FEV is now able to provide its customers with designs for the interior and the exterior from a single source.
FEV Italy employs 160 people and houses three dynamic engine test benches for performance and emission testing for engines with power up to 350 kW, three chassis dynamometers (two and four wheel, 160/250 kW), and a powertrain test bench (for engine, transmission, and hybrid drives).