Why Engineers are using Modeling and Simulation to Accelerate the Development of Electric Vehicles

Why Engineers are using Modeling and Simulation to Accelerate the Development of Electric Vehicles

Amidst surging consumer demand and stringent regulatory mandates, automotive manufacturers are faced with the urgent task of transitioning to the manufacture of electric vehicles (“EVs”). In this article, we explore the challenges impeding this shift and delve into how COMSOL Multiphysics aids in EV design, addressing critical concerns such as battery optimization, hydrogen-based technology, acoustic performance, and fluid dynamics.

  • 266

With escalating consumer demand, heightened expectations, and the implementation of new regulatory guidelines, the transition to high performing electric vehicles has become an absolute must for automotive manufacturers.  

Beyond the challenges that the industry is experiencing, let’s take a look at  COMSOL Multiphysics’ role in shaping and transforming the automotive and energy sectors. 

Challenges

Regulations vs Demand

Automotive manufacturers are currently grappling with a time-stringent challenge. Due to new regulations, they are being forced to transition from manufacturing combustion engine vehicles to EVs by the end of the next decade, creating a legal imperative faced by the industry. The European Union has placed an order to completely prohibit the sale of new combustion-powered cars by 2035, intensifying the pressure on the automotive sector.  

“The new Euro 7 standards will probably be the last ones for combustion engine cars as, under the 2021 Fit for 55 programme, it was decided to accelerate the decarbonisation of the automotive sector, leading to an agreement being reached on 27 October 2022 between the European Parliament and the Council to reduce CO2 emissions from cars by 55 % by 2030 and to ban the sale of new combustion-powered cars (including hybrids) from 2035.”

Official Journal of the European Union, 2023

Furthermore, electric vehicles must adhere to specific legal standards. These standards encompass various criteria, including safety, emissions, and performance regulations that EVs must meet to comply with legal requirements. 

Such requirements imposed by the European Union include a limit for battery capacity loss over time (Euro 7 rule), and the limit on the noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) of all vehicles. By 2026, all vehicles bearing passengers (vehicle category M) must not exceed a noise limit of 68 dB. 

Consumer Objections and Fears, Translating into Manufacturer Challenges

Despite a significant transformation in the automotive manufacturing landscape, driven by the increasing demand for sustainable transportation, owning an electric vehicle comes with challenges and compromises for consumers. Consequently, as the popularity of electric vehicles surges, so do the expectations of these vehicles. 

While EVs offer compelling advantages such as less expensive maintenance costs, lower CO2 emissions, and faster acceleration, there are still three primary concerns: 

  • Vehicle price 

Consumers often find EVs out of their price range due to the high sticker prices, which have put a cap on widespread adoption. At the same time, manufacturers face the challenge of making affordable electric vehicle options available to address this issue.

Nickel, cobalt, lithium, and manganese are among the rare and costly metals used in the production of the lithium-based batteries used in EVs. To produce battery cells capable of storing and supplying energy for EVs, these materials need to be mined, refined, and transformed into chemical compounds. 

  • Range anxiety 

The fear of running out of battery power before reaching a charging station, known as “range anxiety,” is a prevalent concern among EV owners, and those considering buying EVs. It has impeded their widespread adoption, creating another challenge for manufacturers and charging network operators.

This concern has put a limit on market expansion and reduced the appeal of environmentally friendly options. Overcoming such a barrier is crucial for manufacturers to gain consumer trust and compete effectively against combustion engine models.

Solving this challenge requires a thorough understanding of driving patterns, energy consumption, and the impact of external factors on a vehicle’s range.

  • Charging speed, and its effect on pace of lifestyle 

man charging electric vehicle

Charging speed is also a significant concern for prospective buyers, influencing their purchasing decisions. Consumers accustomed to the swift refueling process with combustion engines may find EVs’ longer charging times tedious and/or bothersome. 

The challenge of fast charging lies in the complex physical and chemical processes involved. Fast charging induces strain, which can cause isolation between electrode particles or conductive material. Moreover, strain mismatch (one part is applied more strain than others) can cause cracks or detachment of electrodes, resulting in degrading of the cell.

Additionally, high-speed charging requires sophisticated charging infrastructure and intricate control systems to ensure effective energy flow. Balancing the need for rapid charging with preserving battery integrity poses a complex engineering challenge, making fast charging a delicate balance between efficiency and longevity.

Notably, all these concerns are intricately tied to electric vehicles’ most critical component—the battery. Battery management systems (BMS) play a crucial role in maximizing energy output, lifetime, and safety in both hybrid and electric vehicles.

Solution

When confronted with such challenges, manufacturers tend to choose the industry’s most effective solution: modeling and simulation. In this article, we focus in particular on one tool that can solve challenges in EV development.

COMSOL Multiphysics is one such software enabling automakers to carefully examine and optimize the complex interactions within electric cars.

Here are four reasons why manufacturers are choosing COMSOL Multiphysics:

How One Mechanical Engineering Graduate Mastered Flow-Induced Noise Modeling with COMSOL Multiphysics

Battery Design Module

The Battery Design Module in COMSOL Multiphysics enhances lithium-ion battery modeling for electric vehicle manufacturers. Incorporating advanced models such as the Newman model in 1D, 2D, and 3D, it goes beyond simulating standard electrochemical reactions. By integrating heat transfer and considering structural stresses from lithium intercalation, it provides a comprehensive overview of effects from various physical domains.

Electric vehicle manufacturers take maximum advantage of its Battery Design Module, which aids in designing batteries for optimal performance, longevity, and efficiency. The module’s capacity to establish heterogeneous models, representing real shapes of pore electrolyte and electrode particles, ensures a more accurate depiction of battery microstructure, enhancing the development of batteries tailored to the requirements of electric vehicles.

Fuel Cell and Electrolyzer Module 

The Fuel Cell & Electrolyzer Module is a cutting-edge addition to COMSOL Multiphysics, providing engineers with state-of-the-art simulation tools for fuel cells and electrolyzers. This module empowers detailed modeling of critical aspects of hydrogen vehicle and energy storage technology, including charge transport, electrode reactions, fluid flow properties, and electrochemical processes. 

Notable features include:

  • Predefined oxygen and hydrogen electrodes
  • Automatic generation of iterative solvers for efficient computations
  • A linearization option to speed up electrode kinetics studies, and 
  • Predefined models for highly conductive porous electrodes

These advancements equip electric carmakers with powerful tools to analyze, optimize, and innovate in the field of hydrogen-based transportation and energy storage, ensuring the enhanced performance and efficiency of their technologies.

Acoustics Module

With the add-on Acoustics Module, COMSOL Multiphysics can model sound features and functionality in components such as: 

  • Pressure Acoustics: for simulating effects like scattering, diffraction, emission, and transmission of sound, utilizing both frequency and time domains, along with FEM and BEM methods; and
  • Geometrical Acoustics: for calculating the trajectories of sound waves, phase, intensity, impulse response, and energy- and level decay curves for acoustically large volumes.

The area of sound design known as noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) is a field of engineering that measures and studies the sounds made by a vehicle.

By utilizing pressure and geometrical acoustics simulations, engineers can model and analyze the behavior of the acoustics within electric vehicles, identifying sources of noise and vibration. This enables a comfortable and compliant driving experience while ensuring the optimization of vehicle components and designs to meet regulatory requirements. 

The module allows for detailed studies of sound transmission and absorption, aiding in the development of effective noise reduction strategies, and the enhancement of pleasant sounds. 

With acoustic studies, engineers can assess and refine interior and exterior sound levels, ensuring that their vehicles not only meet legal standards but also deliver a superior, quieter, and melodious driving experience.

CFD modules for fluid structure interaction 

The CFD Module significantly accelerates EV development by simulating complex fluid dynamics in a user-friendly manner, 

By modeling both laminar and turbulent flows, this module enables designers and engineers to delve into the complexities of airflow around the vehicle’s body, facilitating the optimization of design elements to achieve better aerodynamics and overall energy efficiency. Detailed modeling of coolant liquid and airflow dynamics, along with thermal effects, helps in design and parametrization of battery pack cooling systems, ensuring peak performance and longevity of the batteries.    .

To sum up, the CFD Module has emerged as a helpful tool, expediting EV innovation through its advanced simulation capabilities, making the development process not only more efficient but also financially sustainable.

Conclusion

EVs have emerged as a promising solution to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the negative environmental impact resulting from traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. However, the development of electric vehicles has faced an uphill battle. 

Modeling and simulation are contributing to an accelerated development timeline for electric vehicles. Model-based simulations enable engineers to assess various design configurations, identify potential issues, and refine vehicle components design quickly. This iterative process, which is challenging, time-consuming, and costly with physical prototypes, has become vastly more efficient carried out with simulation studies. 

Learn More

  • Webinar: How Engineers are Preparing for 2035 with Modeling and Simulation
    Join this webinar to learn more about how modeling and simulation are going to change the engineering landscape of your industry by the year 2035.
    Sign up for the FREE webinar here

Products Used

All products mentioned are developed by COMSOL.

Recommended Events

Recommended Posts

Machine Learning with MATLAB

Explore how MATLAB transforms the world of machine learning. Discover 5 areas where MATLAB can help solve diverse learning problems. From interactive apps to Simulink integration, we’ve got you covered.

Deep Learning with MATLAB

Today we are living in a renaissance of artificial intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning, and everyone wants to be a part of this movement. But the question is if you interested in using deep learning technology, where do you begin?

Power Electronics Control Design

Discover three areas where Power Electronics Control Design with Simulink can transform your engineering projects. Reduce project time by 50%, access thousands of electrical modeling components, and build and tune motor control algorithms with ease.