Eaton developing suite of 48-V technologies to help vehicle manufacturers meet new global emission regulations
Most vehicles have traditionally operated with a 12-volt (V) system, but with tightening fuel economy regulations and new, advanced power-consuming components being added, increasing power needs are driving the move toward 48-V systems.
Power management company Eaton recently announced its Vehicle Group has developed a series of 48-V technologies to assist its global on- and off-highway commercial vehicle customers transitioning from traditional 12- and 24-V vehicle systems to systems that include 48-V architecture.
Eaton's supercapacitors are able to quickly charge and discharge at higher rates than lithium-ion batteries. [Credit: Eaton]
These 48-V systems can power new, advanced energy-consuming components and can help reduce emissions and improve fuel economy and performance.
"Of the options available, 48-V architectures are becoming more popular because they can decrease both CO2 and NOx simultaneously, which helps both our customers and the environment," said Ben Karrer, manager, Technology Development, Eaton's Vehicle Group.
Many vehicle systems today are powered directly from mechanical power generated by the engine, which runs 12-V systems such as air conditioning and pumps. Eaton is developing 48-V systems that include motor generators and inverters that generate 48-V DC power for the vehicle. Eaton also produces 48-V DC/DC converters that step power down from 48-V vehicle architectures to power 12- and 24-V systems.
Collectively, new emissions regulations aim to reduce tailpipe NOx limits by up to 90%, accelerating the need for global engine manufacturers to employ additional emissions-reduction strategies.
Eaton's Vehicle Group is also developing power electronics for 48-V electric catalyst heating, which provides heat directly to the vehicle's aftertreatment system. This active heating helps catalyst components reach efficient operating temperatures faster upon engine start and maintain those temperatures during low-load operation. This will be an essential strategy for reducing emissions to the levels required by future regulations.
"Forty-eight-volt power will also be used to power systems such as HVAC and the engine cooling fan, which are traditionally run by the engine," said Karrer. "Today's systems are not intelligent -- you can't control when they're on or off or adjust the levels. Converting those components to electric alternatives allows you to intelligently control them and eliminate mechanical loads."
An electrical engine cooling fan and electric air conditioning compressor are also under development. Electrifying the cooling fan provides additional benefits, as it could be reduced in size and strategically placed within the engine bay, allowing for aerodynamic design flexibility to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions.
Eaton's Vehicle Group is also developing a wide range of 48-V energy storage solutions, including lead-acid batteries and supercapacitors. "We're integrating various energy storage technologies into a larger storage pack including controls, fusing, and contactors," said Karrer. "Eaton's Electrical Components Group is our partner for supercapacitors, and we will be working with most commercial vehicle battery manufacturers for lead-acid batteries."
Lead-acid batteries are inexpensive compared to lithium-ion packs and offer a safer and more efficient solution, with a longer lifespan, according to the company.