Enhancing Vehicle Performance with Smart Actuators
| By: Christian Voegerl
Rising gas prices are driving renewed consumer interest in hybrid and electric vehicles. For consumers today, fuel efficiency is top of mind when purchasing a new car. Vehicle manufacturers are continually exploring ways to improve gas mileage and battery range to appeal to the growing number of eco-conscious buyers.
In addition to fuel efficiency, today’s vehicles are smarter than ever before with new features and functions added each year to improve safety and convenience. Many buyers are willing to pay more for enhanced systems such as heated and cooled seats, active aerodynamics and precise climate control. Automotive-grade smart actuators with drive electronics enable OEMs to easily add new functionality and maintain energy efficiency.
Optimize Aerodynamics for Improved Fuel Efficiency and Range
Automotive performance engineers are tasked with developing sophisticated designs in order to optimize vehicle aerodynamics. Historically, aerodynamic design was passive – once it was designed-in, the vehicle could not adapt to changing situations or environments which limited further improvements.
As driver demand raises the bar on fuel economy, automotive OEMs have been focused on exploring new solutions to improve vehicle efficiency. One option is to reduce drag dynamically by employing active aerodynamic systems such as tire deflectors, spoilers, speed lips, and grill shutters. By integrating smart actuators into a rear spoiler, for example, the mechanism can adapt to changes in speed to best optimize fuel efficiency.
Our active grill shutter actuator (AGA) – is able to precisely direct airflow to improve aerodynamics of the vehicle. In addition, when the vehicle is first started, the flaps can be closed to accelerate engine heating which brings the engine to the ideal temperature more quickly and thereby reduces CO2 emission. The AGA contains a brushless motor with integrated software and is LIN BUS capable. Integrating control of the BLDC into the actuator frees up valuable computing power within the vehicle controller.
Elevate In-Cabin Comfort with Dynamic Climate Control
Personalization is a growing trend in vehicle design and customization. Drivers want to have more control over the environment within their vehicle and be able to adjust temperatures, airflow and even humidity with ease. Long gone are manually adjusted air vents – new vehicles are able to direct air flow towards drivers and passengers based on preset preferences. In some vehicles, each user can even specify an exact temperature to maximize individual comfort.
Stepping motor actuators are an ideal solution for precise air mixing within vehicles. Their robust, automotive grade design can withstand extreme temperatures and vibration while maintaining high performance over the lifetime of the car. MinebeaMitsumi offers both direct drive and LIN BUS HVAC actuators and can customize features to suit your exact requirements.
New Applications for Automotive Actuator
From electronic seat adjustment to charge port door systems, applications for automotive actuators continues to expand. In the future, cars will be come equipped with advanced convenience features such as retractable cup holders, wireless phone chargers and rotating displays which can all be driven electronically using actuators. Condensing all passenger controls within a central system makes it possible to add more functionality while reducing the overall number of buttons and knobs within a vehicle. It will also be possible to operate most passenger comfort and convenience functions using voice activation – similar to our smartphones and smart home devices – forming a seamless interaction between users living rooms and vehicle cockpits. Smart actuators will drive this evolution to further engage drivers and create a sophisticated driving experience.
What other applications will emerge with the growth of autonomous vehicles? Our local engineering team is available to support new application development and feature design.