In an era defined by climate change, the quest for sustainability has become imperative for our planet's future. One of the most promising avenues for reducing our carbon footprint lies in the electrification of transportation. The electrification revolution is not merely a technological trend; it represents a profound shift in our approach to mobility, one that holds the key to a cleaner and more sustainable future. The internal combustion engine (ICE), powered by fossil fuels, has been the heart of our transportation systems for over a century. However, its detrimental environmental impacts have become impossible to ignore. From greenhouse gas emissions to air pollution, the ICE's legacy is one of ecological degradation. The electrification revolution offers an escape from this unsustainable paradigm.
At the core of this revolution are powertrain technologies that enable the transition from conventional ICE vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs) and semiconductors are playing a pivotal role in the proliferation of electric vehicles in India. According to an industry forecast, hybrid vehicles will contribute more than half of the alternative fuel landscape by 2031, with EVs accounting for 26% of the industry by 2033.
Overall, the role of semiconductors in the electrical revolution in India cannot be overstated, as they accelerate innovation, energy efficiency, and sustainability, propelling the nation towards a greener and technologically advanced future.
What is powertrain technology and why is it needed?
Powertrain technology refers to the complex and integrated system in a vehicle that generates and transfers power to propel the vehicle forward. It encompasses all the components that work together to convert energy from the engine or motor into mechanical force that drives the wheels.
In traditional vehicles, the powertrain comprises the engine, transmission, driveshaft, and differential engine that produces mechanical power further allowing the driver to control the vehicle's speed and direction. On the other hand, electric vehicles (EVs) have a different powertrain, consisting of an electric motor powered by batteries. Here, electrical energy from the batteries is converted into mechanical power to drive the wheels.
How are Semiconductors working in EV Development through Powertrain Technology?
Semiconductors are revolutionizing the way EVs operate by seamlessly integrating them into their powertrains. By controlling motor functions, optimizing energy conversion, managing battery performance, and enhancing charging efficiency, semiconductors are reshaping the landscape of electric mobility. Their ability to swiftly process complex data, regulate power flows, and ensure smooth coordination between various components underscores their pivotal role in making EVs more efficient.
It further ensures EV intelligence and safety, particularly when human safety is on the line. These chips can connect to the internet, enabling vehicle manufacturers to send updates to vital parts of the car's powertrain, like the brake system, without requiring the driver's permission. As EVs embrace advanced features such as autonomous driving and blind-spot detection, the demand for semiconductors in the automotive market is expected to increase significantly.
Evolution of powertrain technology
As technology advanced, fully electric powertrains gained traction, relying solely on electric motors and batteries to power vehicles, offering zero-emission transportation. Alongside electric powertrains, hydrogen fuel cell technology also emerged, providing a clean and sustainable option for mobility. Furthermore, advancements in autonomous driving technology have led to the development of powertrains optimized for self-driving vehicles, enhancing safety and efficiency.
How did the auto sector benefit from Powertrain technology?
According to a McKinsey report, there was an investigation into powertrain electrification trends, exploring the latest developments in the electric powertrain market. The research indicates a significant shift is taking place, with around 70 percent of automotive suppliers expecting industry consolidation in the next three to five years. It is expected that by 2035, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will account for over 65 percent of all new light-vehicle sales worldwide in the global automotive market.
The auto sector is heavily investing in powertrain technology to drive innovation and meet the increasing demand for more efficient, eco-friendly, and high-performance vehicles. Major investments in powertrain technology are focused on the following areas:
- Electrification: With the global push towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving sustainability, electric vehicles (EVs) have become a major focus for automakers. Significant investments are being made in developing advanced battery technologies, electric motors, power electronics, and charging infrastructure.
- Hybrid Powertrains: Hybrid vehicles, which combine an internal combustion engine with an electric motor and battery, are gaining popularity as a transitional technology towards full electrification.
- Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology: Automakers are investing in fuel cell technology to improve its efficiency, reduce costs, and expand the hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.
- Software and Connectivity: The auto sector is also investing in powertrain software and connectivity solutions to optimize powertrain performance, monitor efficiency, and enable over-the-air updates for improved functionality and performance.
In light of electric powertrains, limited driving range and the need for a robust charging infrastructure is still a hindrance to widespread adoption. Additionally, integrating various components efficiently, securing a stable supply chain, and addressing environmental concerns related to battery materials pose significant obstacles.
To address limited driving range and charging infrastructure, an elaborated strategy involving advanced battery technology development for faster charging is required, coupled with collaborative efforts between governments and private sectors. Diversified supply chains, forging strategic partnerships, and consumer awareness can collectively pave the way for a successful resolution. These efforts are enough to provide an environment for the widespread adoption of vehicles backed by this technology.
The automotive industry stands on the brink of a transformative era. Electric vehicles are gaining ground, posing a challenge to conventional internal combustion engines. Furthermore, emerging mobility trends like ride-hailing and ridesharing are revolutionizing business models. The integration of connectivity and autonomous driving opens up an opportunity for exciting possibilities for the future of mobility.
Hitesh Garg is the India Country Manager of NXP Semiconductors; views expressed are personal.