03/07/2018

Architects of the Future – The BFFT Department of “Energy Systems & Electrification” is Developing the Mobility of the Future

Fossil fuels will not keep us going forever. Of course, this has been obvious for a long time, but only those who have thought of long-term solutions will be properly prepared for this future dilemma. BFFT has always lived by the credo: Proactive, not reactive. That is why we develop modern energy systems for functional prototypes and future series production models.

For over 100 years, we have been driving our cars to a gas station and filling up with fuel when the energy storage system is depleted. This basic principle will not change in the future, but key elements will definitely change: The pump will transform into an electrical socket, liquid fuel will be replaced by electricity, and the tank, as a fuel container for energy, will be replaced by intelligent storage cells. Equipping these accumulators with clever charge and discharge strategies, and adapting them to highly varied requirements, is the challenging task of the Department of Energy Systems and Electrification.

In the future, the gas station as we know it will be increasingly replaced by a charging station. BFFT is being proactive in view of these changes and is deliberately engaging with different aspects of electrification. (Credits: Adobe Stock)

Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing a fundamental shift. It means that the top dogs must now adapt their portfolio to the new conditions; at the same time, innovative new players are pushing themselves onto the market. BFFT has the appropriate solutions for both kinds of customers, developing these solutions in close cooperation with them.

The spectrum ranges from common low-voltage systems, together with their control systems, as used in common stop-start systems, to highly specialized high-voltage battery systems in high-performance prototypes.

Whether an existing model must be equipped with high-performance batteries or a new e-car requires the most efficient battery system possible, BFFT prides itself on finding a solution for everything. (Credits: BFFT)

To ensure that the best possible quality is delivered in all areas, the Energy Systems and Electrification Department provides a complete range of components; from initial concept to the development of the components, to the actual manufacture of hardware, through to its functional application and validation. To cover these requirements, three sub-divisions take care of the entire development process. For example, in the pre-development phase, concepts are developed in detail, and appropriate energy storage and battery cells are selected for various requirements. The “Package & Design” team then takes care of the development of the battery systems, as well as the remaining components required for operation. The department’s in-house test team ensures that everything runs smoothly. Here, individual functions are developed to the last detail, and the cells themselves are tested for battery life and thermal behavior.

For this purpose, BFFT has developed a cell simulator, with which the experts can simulate and manipulate the various components of a battery management system, using programmable test cases. Within the prototype itself, the Battery Management System (BMS), developed in-house, ensures that the cells within the battery pack are tested for expected temperature fluctuations, varying conditions, as well voltage and currents. The BMS communicates with the vehicle and continuously keeps it up to date on the current levels of energy in the storage system.

BFFT’s in-house battery management system ensures that the vehicle’s energy storage system is always operated in accordance with the right temperatures, voltages, and currents. (Credits: Alexander Bernt / BFFT)

Functional testing and ensuring that complex systems are protected and secure is particularly important for such delicate components as high-voltage batteries; it is especially important here because malfunctions can have drastic consequences. That is why BFFT, together with its team, puts all its products through stringent tests: In addition to detailed optical analyses, completed with the aid of state-of-the-art computer-based digital microscopes, thermal analysis has likewise become a standardized component of the developers’ test programs. Here, the temperatures in the components are constantly checked, and the temperature distribution is accurately analyzed.

Using 3D models, the testers can create precise temperature profiles and, if necessary, pinpoint critical temperature peaks. (Credits: BFFT)

In this way, our colleagues from the Energy Systems and Electrification Department ensure that our transition to future modes of mobility is made as easy as possible, despite the increasingly complex and interconnected components.