Project Leader Senior Researcher
Two parallel emerging trends in the automotive industry are automation and electrification. Specific benefits, opportunities but also disadvantages of the respective technologies are often highlighted in different contexts. But how do they really affect and enable each other? The area of expertise is about how the two technologies can benefit and strengthen each other's strengths and help avoid each other's disadvantages.
Three areas where the combination of autonomous and electrified vehicles contribute to each other's properties are energy efficiency, safety and new application areas.
The limited energy density and cost of batteries compared to the corresponding liquid fuels contribute to the fact that electrified vehicles often have a shorter range than traditional combustion engine vehicles. The driving patterns for autonomous electrified vehicles could be adapted to optimise the use based on the available range, most energy efficient driving or according to the possibilities available to charge / refuel the electric vehicle. Another specific case is when the energy is transferred via an electric road to a connected autonomous vehicle in motion. In this case, the range is not as dependent on the energy storage on board, but an autonomous vehicle could still adapt the driving and energy transfer to optimise for lower costs or longer reach.
Autonomous vehicles, regardless of energy carrier, have the potential to contribute to increased road safety. Through electrification, it is possible to further add to safety. Autonomous electrified machines in mines are an example where the combination could enable the amount of polluted air to be reduced and, in addition, parts of the operation can be carried out without people having to be exposed to potentially risky work.
The combination of the two technologies also enables new types of vehicles in new types of markets that have the potential to drive cost efficiency and utilisation rate. Examples are vehicles that can perform almost silent logistics tasks at night and are then adapted to transport other goods or people during the day. One of the challenges here is how the energy should be supplied to the vehicle to minimise downtime, unnecessary vehicle movements and costs, for example. These vehicles can have completely different looks, such as small autonomous delivery robots, compared to the vehicles rolling on the roads today.