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IF I AM to believe predictions, we will all be driving, er… make that non-driving, autonomous battery electric vehicles in a few years. Yesterday here at SimanaitisSays, counter arguments were offered from Automotve News and the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers that autonomous BEVs make no sense. Today, let’s look at evidence from Wired magazine, Automotive News, and Hyundai.
Autonomous BEVs? Battery electric vehicles are already range-limited with this liability compounded by their operation in hot or cold climate. What’s the implication of adding autonomous-vehicle power drain?
The first autonomous prototypes back in the late 1980s were vans, their volume needed to fit computers of the day. Today’s autonomous-vehicle hardware has mitigated this, but the subsystem is still an energy hog.
Wired notes, “All the data needs to be combined, sorted, and turned into a robot-friendly picture of the world, with instructions on how to move through it. That takes a huge computing power, which means huge electricity demands. Prototypes use around 2500 watts.”
Wired quotes Wilko Stark, Mercedes-Benz vice president of strategy: “To put such a system into a combustion-engined car doesn’t make any sense, because the fuel consumption will go up tremendously.” On the other hand, Wired notes, “Switch over to electric cars, and that draw translates to reduced range, because power from the battery goes to the computers instead of the motors.”
“Maybe,” Wired says, “you’re old enough to have dealt with a parent who turned off the car’s AC to save gas. Now imagine having to turn off the self-driving abilities just to make it to your destination without running out of electrons.”
Chip Makers on the Case. Wired notes that Nvidia is working on a computer platform consisting of “two Xavier [new highly efficient] chips and two more GPUs” that can perform “320 trillion operations per second and keep power consumption to an acceptable 500 watts.”
Fuel Cells to the Rescue? Automotive News, February 26, 2018, reports “Hyundai: Fuel Cells Best Bet for Self-Driving Cars.”
In his analysis, Asia Editor Hans Greimel shares the Hyundai view that BEVs, with their relatively small battery packs, can not supply the necessary juice for full autonomous operation. But fuel cells generate their own electricity and do so extremely efficiently.
According to Hyundai engineers, full autonomy can consume as much power as 50 to 100 laptops. As for the fuel cell’s advantage over a BEV, the Hyundai Nexo generates more than triple the output of the company’s Ioniq battery electric.
Greimel quotes Kim Sae-hoon, vice president of Hyundai Motor Group’s fuel cell group: “If we get a perfect autonomous world, then the vehicle will need a lot of energy for computing. We think hydrogen can provide a beneficial platform.”
There’s still that “if.” But I believe autonomous BEVs won’t be part of it. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018