Why Use Virtual Prototyping for Electric Vehicle Development?

why-use-virtual-prototyping-for-electric-vehicle-development

Learn why virtual prototyping is becoming increasingly essential in electric vehicle development and why MATLAB and SIMULINK are standout tools for this purpose.

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According to BIS Research, the global electric vehicle virtual prototyping market should see a compound annual growth rate (“CAGR”) of 33.83% from 2021 to 2030. This significant increase highlights the extensive and fundamental changes occurring within the automotive industry. Electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged as a driving force, promising sustainable and efficient mobility solutions. However, the development of EVs also entails unique engineering challenges that require creative problem-solving approaches.

Definition

Virtual Prototyping – a technology that utilizes artificial intelligence to create a model of a system, simulate its behavior, and provide visual representations of how it would perform in real-world scenarios.

In this era of electric mobility, virtual prototyping has emerged as a game-changing technology. In the text that follows, we’ll show why virtual prototyping is becoming increasingly essential in electric vehicle development and why MATLAB and SIMULINK are standout tools for this purpose.

The Need for Virtual Prototyping

The fundamental objective of virtual prototyping is to eliminate the necessity for physical prototypes and consequently reduce operational costs and accelerate product development timelines significantly. Virtual prototyping provides a flexible and rapid virtual environment for constructing and testing new models. This allows engineers to analyze various aspects of the models and study complex mechanical systems’ full-motion behavior before committing to creating physical hardware prototypes.

One of the key benefits is the ability to test and refine numerous design alternatives, optimizing system performance, reducing development time, and lowering overall costs.

The Timing of Virtual Prototyping

Virtual prototyping plays a crucial role in the development timeline of electric vehicles, in some cases, starting approximately 60-72 months before the start of production (SOP). That timing is not arbitrary but strategically chosen to ensure that design flaws are identified and rectified well in advance.

A 70-month window allows engineers to perform extensive simulations, scenario-based testing, and validation, ensuring that the electric vehicle’s design meets safety, performance, and efficiency standards. Identifying issues at this stage allows for cost-effective adjustments and reduces the possibility of costly modifications during the later stages of development.

The Role of Virtual Prototyping across multiple engineering domains

Electric vehicle development involves extensive validation across diverse engineering domains, with specific emphasis on powertrain modeling, battery design, and functional safety. Traditionally, these domains operated independently, utilizing unique technologies and simulation methods while sharing a common objective: predicting the vehicle’s performance before physical testing.

For example, the powertrain performance team is focused on understanding how different powertrain architectures affect the vehicle’s performance and driving range. The battery development team is primarily concerned with evaluating the impact of different battery designs on the electric vehicle’s overall performance and range. The functional safety & quality management team ensures that the control systems implemented in the battery and powertrain management will operate according to the requirements defined for each component.

Virtual prototyping, supported by Simulink and MATLAB, facilitates a holistic evaluation of powertrain efficiency, battery performance, and functional safety. This multidisciplinary approach not only enhances the efficiency and safety of electric vehicles but also accelerates the development process, allowing for quicker time-to-market.

Virtual Prototyping with MATLAB and Simulink

MATLAB and Simulink are powerful tools for virtual prototyping in the design of electric vehicles (EVs). They offer a wide range of capabilities for modeling, simulation, and analysis, making them ideal for various aspects of EV design and development.

For example, the powertrain performance team can use Simulink and MATLAB to create sophisticated models that simulate the electric vehicle’s powertrain operation. These models allow for in-depth analysis of the drivetrain’s efficiency, torque delivery, and performance under various conditions.

Battery design is another critical aspect, and Simulink and MATLAB are instrumental in assessing battery configurations, optimizing energy storage, and ensuring efficient power output. Engineers use these tools to evaluate the impact of different battery designs on the electric vehicle’s overall performance and range.

Furthermore, the functional safety & quality management team employs Simulink and MATLAB to simulate potential system failures, allowing them to design robust fail-safes and safety features. These simulations help ensure that the electric vehicle meets the highest safety standards.

Companies Using Virtual Prototyping

Vanderhall Motor Works

The US auto manufacturer Vanderhall Motor Works chose to design and develop a powertrain, motor control system, and anti-lock braking system from scratch. This undertaking presented significant challenges due to the scale of the project and the resources available. The engineering team acknowledged the importance of conducting virtual design and testing of their control algorithms in order to mitigate the potential risks associated with identifying errors during the transition from software to hardware integration and the subsequent deployment of code on an actual off-road vehicle.

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Toyota

Toyota has been taking advantage of two types of simulation: hardware-in-the-loop (“HIL”) simulation, which allows testing of a prototype ECU on a “virtual engine” modeled in Simulink, and rapid prototyping ECU (RPE), which allows the simulator to replace all or part of the ECU while controlling an actual power plant.

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Jaguar

Or, take the case of Jaguar. Nowadays, there is a growing trend towards increased automation of control systems, done primarily to increase convenience for drivers. Additionally, there is a shift towards distributing controls throughout the vehicle, which is done to minimize the amount of wiring required and create more available space within the vehicle’s interior. These design requirements had been causing challenges for Jaguar’s traditional development approach and made things difficult for engineers to meet their design deadlines. Jaguar found a solution in a virtual integration and test automation laboratory.

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Accelerate Your EV Development

If you want to learn more about maximizing MATLAB and SIMULINK’s capabilities for virtual prototyping in electric vehicle development, watch the recording of our past webinar, “Accelerating Electric Vehicle Development with Virtual Prototyping.”

In this video, our expert Bence Nagy, delves into the intricacies of virtual prototyping and demonstrates how MATLAB and SIMULINK can accelerate your electric vehicle development process. Gain insights, learn best practices, and discover the latest advancements that can supercharge your EV projects.

Register here and watch the video

Conclusion

EVs are emerging as the future of the transportation industry, substantially impacting its future trajectory. The development of EVs introduces a set of distinct engineering challenges. Virtual prototyping is a cutting-edge approach that can help solve these challenges by allowing engineers to speed up the design and verification process, shorten the time to market, and decrease overall cost.

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All products mentioned in this blog post are developed by MathWorks.

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