In my follow-on to Chris Jacobs’ excellent blog post coming out of the recent media day we held in Limerick, Ireland, I’d like to touch on a couple of trends I shared that are influencing the future of the automotive industry: e-mobility and cabin experience.

Much has been written about autonomous transportation, which is something Chris addressed in his blog post. Perhaps less well understood is the interplay between electrification, infotainment applications and the transition to self-driving vehicles.

Leading Electric Vehicle Batteries to a Renewable Future

Let’s start with e-mobility. We are at the dawn of a shift from measuring vehicle energy efficiency in miles per gallon to miles (or kilometers) per millivolt. This is much more than a semantic change; it speaks to the way cars and trucks will be manufactured in the future and how they will operate.

What does this mean? The recent COVID-19 crisis has shown all of us the importance of maintaining a healthy environment. Government regulations, lower vehicle costs, more expansive charging networks, and an overall superior customer experience are all driving the growth of electric vehicles (EVs). The supply chain for EVs is much simpler than for gasoline vehicles, using only about ~3,000-10,000 parts per vehicle, versus the 30,000 needed for gasoline-powered vehicles. Europe alone has set an aggressive target of 90 g/CO2 carbon emissions for 2020 and 32 percent of its energy coming from renewables by 2030. Each one of the major OEMs has committed publicly to an electric future. All of this means that a shift away from internal combustion engines and toward EVs will increase the two million or so EVs sold in 2018 by a factor of 10 in the coming decade. 

For a technology innovator like Analog Devices, this evolution has massive implications. For starters, electrification is about much more than the car and its components. It spans an ecosystem that includes everything from the battery chemistry itself, the battery makers, automotive OEMs, the charging infrastructure, the smart energy grid and even the very source of power generation – all markets that are heavily served by analog innovation.

Our view is that every part of the value chain must be sustainable, environmentally friendly and ethical. For the battery itself, which depends on analog technology to manage battery formation and test, precision battery management, isolation, powertrain inversion and energy storage, this also means ethical practices even for the battery chemistry. For this reason, we see a growing trend toward battery chemistries such as lithium iron phosphate (LFP), which is not only cheaper and safer than other chemistries, but is zero cobalt, meaning it totally avoids the ethical issues surrounding cobalt mining.

Furthermore, about a third of the cost of an electric car comes from the battery itself, which means the battery is then not just the determining factor governing the range of the vehicle, it’s actually a valuable asset in the vehicle. What does the industry do with that asset? Our approach is to develop technology that leads the battery life cycle “journey” all the way from battery formation through its second life.

For example, the useful life of the battery is determined by several factors that extend beyond how well it is made. What were the precise conditions during cell formation? How carefully was the cell handled at the warehouse, during transportation and during battery-pack manufacturing and assembly? What were the conditions during its operation in the vehicle and over the road? Our technology is developed to understand the state of health of the battery cell through operation to determine how the battery cell might be used in second-life applications, for instance powering an airport shuttle, a forklift or an electric bike, storing energy from renewable sources like wind and solar or ending up as a cell in the vehicle charging network.

The decision to treat batteries as a quasi-renewable asset means fewer resources end up in landfills. And, during operation, there is the benefit of saving carbon emissions from the atmosphere. ADI has been supplying the EV market for more than 10 years. When we looked at our electric vehicle battery management systems, we found that in 2019 we were on track to save 75 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent of 80 million acres of mature forest.

Additionally, our precision voltage measurement technology allows consumers to more accurately charge and discharge the battery to maximize its usable capacity. Our calculations show that our technology can increase the usable capacity of the battery anywhere from 10 to 20 percent, providing longer vehicle range per charge. This capability is especially valuable, since vehicle range remains the #1 most influential factor in the consumer decision to buy an electric vehicle.

Creating a Healthy Cabin Experience

Complementary to protecting our global environment is the expectation of a healthy experience in the vehicle cabin environment. While batteries and electronics govern vehicle range, our infotainment products help create the driver and passenger experience. A lot of attention has been paid to the audio aspect of infotainment, especially in terms of designing an in-cabin experience that allows the driver and passengers to create customized audio zones.

Less well known is the reverse scenario, where road noise is actively canceled out by the electronics. Our technology is the first in the world to be in production for all digital active cancellation of road noise (RANC). Not only does the technology enable an improved cabin experience, it has a positive sustainability impact, since each RANC system saves up to 80 pounds of vehicle weight. Recently, ADI announced with Hyundai Motor Company the launch of the world’s first all-digital road noise cancellation system. In doing so, Hyundai is partnering with ADI on technology for Automotive Audio Bus (A²B®), SHARC DSP Processors and IMU technology for fundamental audio connectivity and infotainment applications across its automotive fleet.

The full system solution involves not only automotive processors such as ADI SHARC® audio processors but also ADI IMUs, all communicating over A²B connectivity to cancel out noise in real-time. ADI collaborated closely with Hyundai to architect its system to reduce equipment cost, weight, and design complexity, and in turn, improve overall fuel efficiency. This means that not only is the technology good for the consumer cabin experience, it also enables vehicle size to be minimized and saves up to 80-100 pounds of noise cancelling materials to save fuel. So, it is good for the environment as well.

Furthermore, each vehicle contains anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 meters of wire. Saving wire is what led to the development of our A²B technology. This unique bus technology delivers high-fidelity audio and supports multiple applications such as voice recognition and active noise cancellation, all while increasing energy efficiency. In fact, customers who have switched to our unique A²B technology save up to 100m of wire and 35 pounds of weight in every vehicle.  Higher speeds, power delivery, ethernet tunneling, and more features are also coming soon.   The Car Camera Bus (C²BTm) is similar to the A²B in that it uses low-cost, unshielded twisted-pair wires to provide very high data rates. For something like a rearview camera, this delivers fantastic image fidelity while reducing weight, size and power – key metrics when trying to extend the range of an electric vehicle.

Edge Processing and Software Value Capture

Today, each vehicle contains up to 100 million lines of software code.  As we look ahead, we see edge processing becoming ever more important in vehicles, not only for Audio, but for other functions as well.  The edge processors are required to offload the central processing unit to help manage the ever-growing lines of code in the vehicle and ensure tight loops at the edge for critical safety functions in the vehicle. We are pursuing additional applications of our ADI SHARC DSP in the vehicle, and also beyond the vehicle in other applications such as sound bars, medical devices, and more. In fact, we are very proud that our SHARC DSPs ship into respirator equipment used to help save lives during the COVID-19 crisis. 

We see our DSP as a computing platform enabling ADI to develop software content, enabling new business models for revenue generation.  Stay tuned as we unveil more information about edge processing and growing our software business.

Leading the Future

With electric vehicle adoption forecast to grow by 10 times over the next decade, it’s clear that long-range EV batteries, immersive audio, connectivity, edge processing, driver monitoring and other innovations are all part of the solution as vehicles become mainstream while we continue to reduce our carbon footprint. All these applications are being served by our innovative technology, which has earned Analog Devices a leadership position within the electrification and infotainment ecosystem. ADI is excited to help drive the future of mobility as it takes us on a course that greatly improves the driver experience while also helping to reduce carbon footprint and regenerate the environment.

Watch the complete video of the “Automotive and Electrification” presentation I gave in Limerick here.

Our next "ADI Press Day in Limerick" post will come from Leo McHugh, Vice President of Marketing and Customer Experience. Leo was formerly Vice President of Instrumentation and Precision Technology and his blog will discuss bringing precision environmental monitoring out of the lab and into the field.