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Energy management in electric vehicles and why it is crucial

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This article was written by Mr. Anand KulkarniVice President, Product Range and Operations, Tata Passenger Electric Mobility Ltd.
As global organizations decisively stress the urgent need to migrate to cleaner forms of mobility, major countries have made targeted efforts to accelerate the electric vehicle (EV) revolution in the automotive industry.
Growing environmental awareness and increased awareness of the benefits of electric vehicles have sparked consumer interest and the demand for electric vehicles is expected to increase significantly over the next decade. In India too, the central and state governments have put in place comprehensive initiatives to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles. Yet to date, the overall penetration of electric vehicles in India is very low, at 0.8%*.

Efficient energy management: the fundamental solution for interval anxiety
While there are several reasons for this, such as higher costs and lack of charging infrastructure, another related concern is that of range anxiety. 64% of Indian drivers agree that range anxiety is a major barrier to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles**. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) carry a limited amount of energy on board, and even today recharging takes much longer than it takes to refuel an internal combustion engine vehicle. (ICE). Autonomy is therefore one of the most critical aspects governing the usability of BEVs. So how can this major hurdle be effectively overcome to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in India?
When it comes to solving distance anxiety, there are basically 3 approaches one could think of. The instinctive option is to increase battery capacity, but beyond a certain point packaging, weight and cost become significant issues. The second response for better electric vehicle range is to strive for improved energy efficiency within a given battery capacity. Finally, given these two approaches, one could also take a hybrid approach of increasing battery capacity while maximizing energy efficiency.
As we can see, the cost-effective answer for improving autonomy is energy management. Energy management inherently infuses the essence of sustainability by striving to minimize energy waste in a vehicle as much as possible. Efficient energy management is the process of optimizing energy consumption in a vehicle without affecting performance, drivability and comfort. However, the fundamentals of energy management in an electric vehicle and an ICE vehicle are different, and it is crucial to keep this in mind.
ICE vs EV: Key Differences in Energy Management
Energy management is different in an ICE vehicle from an electric vehicle, mainly because the majority of engine losses are absent in an electric vehicle. The most efficient combustion engines available on the market today are less than 37% fuel efficient. This means that they can only convert around 37% of their fuel energy into energy used for traction and powering on-board accessories. The rest is lost by overcoming friction on moving parts and heat by exhaust and surface radiation.
In contrast, EV motors are very energy efficient and therefore inherently capable of converting much of the available energy for traction. Therefore, the proportion of energy consumed by the main aggregates changes significantly in an EV. Vehicle losses, such as bearing and aerodynamic losses, thermal management, and accessories become important areas of focus when designing a vehicle for optimum fuel efficiency.
On all fronts: key areas to consider for energy efficiency
Several areas of an electric vehicle can be efficiently optimized. Within the vehicle itself, improvements in aerodynamics, ride losses and overall weight reduction can have a significant impact on a vehicle’s energy. This includes choosing the right body style, balancing packaging, dynamics, aerodynamics and cost. Additionally, minimizing rolling losses – the energy lost through tires – is an area the industry is keenly focusing on. Typically, a 10% improvement in ride loss results in a 2% improvement in range in the city and up to 3% in range on the highway.
Optimized thermal management is another key area in this regard. Using proper and efficient cooling in electronic components such as E-Drive, PSU and battery can potentially help gain 3-5% more efficiency. Additionally, unlike ICE vehicles, electric vehicles have the unique ability to regenerate energy. An EV motor recovers the vehicle’s kinetic energy significantly when decelerating, whereas in an ICE, all of that kinetic energy is lost through the brakes. The use of appropriate regeneration strategies can therefore have a decisive impact on energy efficiency. Finally, reducing the load on a vehicle’s auxiliary energy consumers, such as pumps, lamps, fans, etc., has a relatively smaller but noticeable effect on optimizing energy consumption.
The biggest challenge is ultimately to manage all these levers and deliver a product in the development cycle. Clearly, however, energy efficiency at all levels can play a key role in maximizing the range of electric vehicles. As we move into an era of cleaner fuels and sustainable practices, there is also a need to embed the same values ​​into the very development of our vehicles. Efficient energy management not only solves the relevant barrier of range anxiety, but also offers automotive developers the opportunity to embed minimal waste as a core value of high-performance vehicles.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions shared in this article are solely those of the author. These views and opinions do not represent those of The Times of India or any of its employees.