Toyota surprised us all this week with a very responsable and admirable move. It announced this week that it will grant royalty-free licenses on nearly 24,000 patents it holds (including some pending applications) for vehicle electrification-related technologies. Considering the amount of time, money and resources needed to develop sustainable mobility to help combat rising emissions and continuing to utilize currently available technology, Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) announced this measure related to its patents and technical knowledge to further promote the widespread use of electrified vehicles.
But that is not all. Toyota will as a
second, also most important measure provide fee-based technical support to
other manufacturers developing and selling electrified vehicles when they use
Toyota’s motors, batteries, PCUs, control ECUs, and other vehicle
electrification system technologies as part of their powertrain systems.
Ultimately, by granting royalty-free patents and providing technical support on its vehicle electrification systems, Toyota aims to help further promote the widespread use of electrified vehicles, and in so doing, help governments, automakers, and society at large accomplish goals related to climate change.
More specifically, the patents included are
for parts and systems, such as electric motors, power control units (PCUs), and
system controls. These are core technologies that can be applied to the
development of various types of electrified vehicles including HEVs, plug-in
hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV).
Together, Toyota will offer approximately 23,740 patents awarded over more than
20 years of electrified vehicle technology development. The grant period will
start immediately and last through the end of 2030. Contracts for the grants
may be issued by contacting Toyota and discussing specific licensing terms and
Brave new world, and Toyota is setting
(also) the pace… The company will continue the development and
diversification of electrified vehicles as it now turns its sights to include
the mass production of battery electric vehicles from 2020, starting in China
and India, followed by Japan, the United States and Europe.
The efforts to improve and increase the
diversity of electrified power train options is tied directly to Toyota’s
‘Environmental Challenge 2050’, wherein the company aims to achieve annual
electrified vehicle sales of 5.5 million units by 2030, as announced in
December 2017. To achieve its goal, Toyota unveiled plans to have 10 BEV models
available worldwide by the early 2020s, and from around 2025, the company aims
to have an electrified version available for all vehicle models across its
global lineup. Granting royalty-free patents and providing technical support is
an important additional step…which can only be applauded.
When talking about the production of the impressive Audi e-tron on the Brussels site, the batteries are an intriguing part of the driveline. We take a closer look at it here, and show you some very interesting drawings provided by Audi Media…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The large lithium-ion battery in the Audi e-tron provides for a range of more than 400 kilometers (248.5 mi) in the WLTP driving cycle. The battery operates with a nominal voltage of 396 volts and stores 95 kWh of energy.
The battery system in the Audi e-tron is located beneath the cabin and is 2.28 meters (7.5 ft) long, 1.63 meters (5.3 ft) wide and 34 centimeters (13.4 in) high. It comprises a total of 36 cell modules in square aluminum housings, each of which is roughly the size of a shoe box. They are arranged on two levels, known as “floors” – a longer lower floor and a shorter upper one. At market launch, each module is equipped with twelve pouch cells having a flexible outer skin of aluminum-coated polymer. In the future, Audi will use both technically equivalent prismatic cells in its modular concept, also in terms of a multiple supplier strategy.
The cell modules in the Audi e-tron can reproducibly discharge and charge electricity over a broad temperature and charge status window. The can be densely packed to achieve a very high output and energy density in the volume available.
A cooling system of flat aluminum extruded sections divided uniformly into small chambers has the task of maintaining the battery’s high-performance operation over the long term. Heat is exchanged between the cells and the cooling system beneath them via a thermally conductive gel pressed beneath each cell module. In what is a particularly efficient solution, the gel evenly transfers the waste heat to the coolant via the battery housing. The cooling system is first fixed to the bottom of the battery tray with adhesive. To protect the cooling system against stone and road debris, a base plate is installed, also to improve aerodynamics. At assembly, first the batteries/modules on both floors are placed into their locations, then the gel (also called gapfiller) is applied.
The battery and all of its parameters, such as charge status, power output and thermal management, is managed by the external battery management controller (BMC). This is located in the occupant cell on the right A-pillar of the Audi e-tron.
The BMC communicates both with the control units of the electric motors and the cell module controllers (CMC), each of which monitors the current, voltage and temperature of the modules, 3 modules at the time. In the whole battery system, therefore 12 CMC’s are present. The battery junction box (BJB), into which the high-voltage relays and fuses are integrated, is the electrical interface to the vehicle. Enclosed in a die-cast aluminum housing, it is located in the front section of the battery system. Data exchange between the BMC, the CMCs and the BJB is via a separate bus system.
Sophisticated measures have been taken to protect the high-voltage battery of the Audi e-tron. A strong enclosing frame of cast aluminum nodes and extruded sections, plus an aluminum plate 3.5 millimeters (0.1 in) thick protect against damage from accidents or curbs. Inside, a framework-like aluminum structure reinforces the battery system. Also comprised of extruded sections, it holds the cell modules like a typecase.
Including the housing with its
sophisticated crash structures comprising 47 percent extruded aluminum
sections, 36 percent aluminum sheet and 17 percent diecast aluminum parts, the
battery system weighs around 700 kilograms (1,543.2 lb). It is bolted to the
body structure of the Audi e-tron at 35 points. This increases its torsional
rigidity by 27 percent and contributes to the high level of the safety of the
Audi e-tron, as does the cooling system bonded to the outside of the battery housing.
Compared to a conventional SUV, the Audi e-tron offers 45 percent higher
torsional rigidity, a key parameter for precise handling and acoustic
During production and assembly, utmost care
is taken that screws which fix the modules into place do not cause insulation
faults, and before the battery unit is cleared for further assembly, the
differences in voltage between the cells and the modules are carefully
controlled that it meets Audi Premium Standards. Finally leak tests are also
carried out, both on the cooling system and the battery. Not less than 8 final
tests are performed, before the battery is then partially (re)charged and fit
for further assembly in the car.
Your servant will soon be your regular guide at the Brussels Audi site where the formidable Audi e-tron 55 quattro rolls of the production line. I will explain you in four languages, English, German, French and Dutch in a 2,5 hour factory tour all you want to know about the production of this formidable all-electric car. Soon you can start booking me (and my colleagues) on this tour, I will keep you posted when registration starts.
But in the meantime, in these columns I tell you already somewhat more about the Brussels factory; In further reports I tell you somewhat more about the Audi production techniques building the big Audi e-tron.
Of course, this series about the ins and
outs of Audi e-tron production is also an occasion to start with a regular
column about car factories of different brands and the way they build their cars.
So stay posted!
Hans Knol ten Bensel
In Brussels, the e-future has begun…
Since fall 2018, Audi Brussels has been
producing the first fully electric SUV from the brand with the four rings exclusively
for the world market. Actually, volume production of the Audi e-tron began on
September 3, 2018. Designing and producing the e-tron led Audi to establish numerous
in house competencies and it indeed has developed both the battery technology and
the drive by itself.
Also the Brussels factory was on a learning curve. The employees in Brussels received a total of over 200,000 hours of training to build the first fully electric Audi. Employees have replanned and implemented many production steps in production. Since summer 2016, the plant has comprehensively remodeled the body shop, paint shop and assembly shop step by step and has established its own battery manufacturing facility. With the intention of developing the Brussels plant further into a key component of the Audi production network, Audi has optimized the plant’s processes in accordance with the Audi Production System (APS).
Major features of the APS are group work and continuous improvement processes. To improve the process chains, Audi has closely integrated the external suppliers and service providers into the production process. Short throughput times in production, low inventories and a high proportion of added value are the objectives on which Audi Brussels focuses.
In addition to a body shop, assembly shop and paint shop, Audi Brussels also has a modern Analysis and Pre-Series Center. This links the areas of Production and Technical Development, ensuring the high quality of the Audi e-tron.
The Brussels site also has its own battery manufacturing
facility to support production of the battery-electric SUV. This makes it the key
plant for electric mobility within the Audi Group
The Brussels plant is the first in the world with certified carbon-neutral volume production in the premium segment. Audi Brussels compensates for all emissions that occur during production and at the location. This takes place predominantly through renewable energy but also through environmental projects. At Audi, environmental protection is part of the corporate strategy. This applies to technology as well as to the production processes.
The most stringent of environmental
standards are applied at the Audi Brussels site. In 2013, the Brussels region
recognized the plant as an “eco-dynamic company” – a regional environmental
certification that is awarded every three years. Audi Brussels was awarded the
highest rating of three stars. Since 2001, the Brussels site has also been
certified according to the environmental audit of the European Commission
(EMAS: Eco-Management and Audit Scheme). Audi Brussels installed a photovoltaic
system with a total area of 37,000 square meters at the site. As a result, Audi
Brussels operates the largest photovoltaic system in Brussels and generates
more than 3,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year and saves around 700
metric tons of CO2.
In late 2016, the plant received the
Business Award from the weekly magazine Trends. Audi Brussels was chosen as
Belgium’s most ecological company. The production of the first electric car of
the Audi brand will be carbon-neutral from the start of production in the
Brussels plant. To achieve this, Audi Brussels will procure green electricity
and purchase biogas certificates to make its heat-generation activities carbon neutral.
There are also compensation projects for emissions produced in part by the
company’s own fleet. Independent experts have certified the carbon-neutrality.
…and a bit of history
On August 1, 2018, the last Audi A1 of the first generation rolled off production line in Brussels. Since May 2010, a total of just under 910,000 units of the Audi A1 have been produced in Brussels. The successor model to the Audi A1 is now built in Martorell, Spain.
The plant in Brussels will turn 70 this
year. On April 7, 1949, the first vehicle rolled off the production line there.
The Audi A1 was the first model in the plant’s 70-year history to be produced
exclusively in the European capital. Before the plant was taken over by AUDI AG
in 2007, it had belonged to Volkswagen AG since 1970, producing various models
of the Volkswagen Group. Since belonging to AUDI AG, the Brussels facility has
assumed an important role in the Audi Group, and it now employs around 3,000
people. The start of production of the Audi A1 in 2010 marked the beginning of
a new era. Audi Brussels expanded its production in 2011 with the addition of
the Audi A1 Sportback and in 2014 with the Audi S1 and Audi S1 Sportback. In
2012, Audi Brussels produced the Audi A1 quattro as a special limited edition
Dual learning and focus on employees…
Audi Brussels cooperates closely with the
trade unions. In a letter of intent from 2007, management and the trade unions
jointly defined the framework conditions for good cooperation. One important
component is the working time account system used at Audi Brussels since 2010.
It offers the company and its employees much more flexibility. Audi Brussels
awarded with the title of “Top Employer” for the fourth time in a row.
Audi also invests in education and training. Dual education allows the students of the two partner schools to complete part of their training on location at the company. Here, Audi Brussels cooperates with the Flemish school “GO! TA Halle” and the francophone school “Don Bosco Woluwé Saint-Pierre.” The project gives students the opportunity to gain more practical experience during their training. Another goal is to convince more young people in Belgium to choose an attractive technical apprenticeship.
Audi Brussels currently employs 2,756 employees (as of December 31, 2018), Of these employees, 940 work in production-related areas, while 1,816 employees work directly in production. With an average age of 44.7 years, the employees have worked an average of 18.6 years at Audi Brussels. The three working languages are French, Dutch and German. In December, Audi Brussels was awarded the “Diversity Label 2018” of the Brussels-Capital Region. The award, which was started in 2008 by the Brussels employment office supports companies in the fight against discrimination. To obtain the Label, Audi Brussels developed a “diversity plan” and implemented it.
Audi Brussels focuses on the employees,
which the plant’s own health center shows. It offers a prevention program for
the entire workforce: the Audi Check-Up. Experienced nurses and doctors work to
maintain and improve the employees’ health and help to recognize any risk factors
at an early stage and to counteract them.
Excellent logistiscs are the key to success…
Automotive Park logistics and supplier
center Automotive Park, the state-of-the-art logistics and supplier center, is
connected with the assembly shops by a 450 meter long bridge. It provides the
infrastructure for efficient processes in the supply of materials to the
Brussels plant. Every day, trucks and trains deliver 5,000 parts and components
from 457 suppliers. Due to the close integration of external suppliers with the
plant’s internal logistics processes, productivity is further boosted on a
As said, in the next reports I will tell
you more about the actual production techniques and processes of the Audi
e-tron. Stay tuned!
(Premium) car manufacturers, unite: recently, BMW and Daimler announced in Berlin that they are launching five joint ventures that will offer mobility services such as solutions for car sharing, the search for parking spaces, and many more.
On February 28, the two manufacturers announced their intention to enter into a second new partnership. Daimler is planning to work together with BMW in the future on the next technology generation for driving assistance systems and on systems that enable conditionally automated driving on highways and automated parking functions. Why does this alliance make sense? The answer is simple: Because automated driving is a future-oriented technology that will radically transform our industry — and because in the long run we will be not only stronger but also more successful as partners than we would be alone.
What is already possible today: partial automation
The vision of autonomous driving is not only as old as the automobile itself — it’s also a central component of the strategy at Daimler. The vehicles you can see at your Mercedes-Benz dealer today can already do a great deal. Thanks to the Daimler active distance assistant DISTRONIC, the active steering assistant, the active lane-change assistant, and many other innovations, Daimler has already come very close to our goal of automated driving.
By means of currently available systems, a Mercedes-Benz can, for example, maintain the correct distance to vehicles ahead and drive partially automated on highways and country roads, as well as in cities. These systems also assist the driver with lane changes, evasive manoeuvres, and braking. And many models can be driven in and out of parking spaces via remote control from a smartphone — with the Remote Parking Assist.
At Mercedes-Benz, these features are called Intelligent Drive. With this, they have reached the level that engineers call SAE Level 2 or “partial automation.” This means that the car can already react automatically in many predefined situations — however, a human driver must always monitor traffic as well as the vehicle’s surroundings and be ready to react if necessary.
But above all, they have learned that the development of these systems is a bit like climbing a mountain. Taking the first few meters from the base station to the summit seems easy. But the closer you come to the goal, the thinner the air around you becomes, the more strength is required for each further step, and the more complex become the challenges you have to resolve in order to make progress.
From Level 3 to the summit
Further progress can be made more successfully and efficiently if the manufacturers are not alone. Daimler also believes that BMW is the perfect partner. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that Daimler has now signed, deals with the development of several automation stages up to Level 4. Level 4 means “high automation”: The driver does not even need to be ready to take over control of the vehicle — he or she could even be sleeping. The aim of our partnership is to develop systems that make automated driving scalable and take it to the next level in a variety of contexts — in China and in the USA as well as on the German Autobahn A8, which connects the BMW Tower in Munich with the Mercedes headquarters in Stuttgart.
A shared platform instead of isolated solutions
One thing is clear: BMW and Mercedes-Benz are competitors. The partnership will not become a new joint venture. Instead, we are planning to work together with BMW to develop a scalable and reliable platform that will bring optimal benefits to the customers of both brands. As part of this cooperative venture, we are also open to further partnerships that can contribute to the success of this platform.
It makes sense to distribute the technological and financial challenges of automated driving across a number of shoulders. It’s also clear that other existing partnerships and ongoing projects are not affected by intended cooperation between BMW and Daimler. For example, as Daimler has planned and already announced within the framework of our cooperation with Bosch, this year we will launch the first pilot for testing self-driving vehicles (Level 4/5) in urban surroundings in San José in Silicon Valley.
A long tradition of development at both manufacturers…
In spite of all the differences between BMW and Mercedes-Benz, they are also similar in many areas. For example, the men and women from Munich also have many years of experience in the areas of driving assistance and automated driving. BMW has worked on highly automated driving for a long time, and opened its Autonomous Driving Campus in Unterschleißheim – a suburb of Munich – in 2017, where BMW is consolidating all of its areas of expertise related to automated driving. The automation technology that the experts there are now working on will go into series production for the first time in the BMW iNEXT model in 2021.
At Daimler, long a leader in active safety systems, it programmed its systems largely in-house right from the very beginning. 2019 will see the launch in San José, Silicon Valley, of its first pilot programme, with Bosch, on self-driving vehicles (Levels 4/5) in urban environments. This will be the next milestone within the existing cooperation between both partners and the cooperation will continue as planned. Early next decade, Daimler will bring to the market not only highly automated (Level 3) vehicles but also fully automated (Level 4/5) vehicles. It is the only to the OEM in the world to be so well-positioned to apply autonomous driving in every relevant context, from passenger cars and vans to buses and trucks, and is therefore relying on scalable solutions to deliver automated driving.
The Memorandum of Understanding ensures that BMW and Daimler will pass the next milestone on the road to automated driving together. Their goal is to make the new technology generation available to our customers as early as the mid-2020s. It is all only logical: the suppliers who develop and produce elements of this automated driving architecture are for both manufacturers roughly the same… and it is crucial for these supplier/manufacturers to develop a broad (home) basis for their global ambitions…
Driving is believing, the saying goes. And at first, we almost couldn’t believe it: this Mirai just drives as smoothly and zestfully as an electric car. Which, actually, it is. Only, it does not take its electricity from batteries, but from a fuel cell. That is indeed, the major difference. This means, that you can refuel it in minutes, and then drive for another 340 kilometers or so. Just like an ordinary petrol engined car. Only it emits water, and nothing else.
Driving it was a refined and thoroughly enjoyable experience, just read on…
What better automotive adventures than to spend the last days of the year behind the wheel of a Toyota Mirai? None, we would say. After having enjoyed the smooth and refined qualities of this Mirai – which is Japanese (未来) for future- we are truly convinced that Toyota has fully succeeded to build a thoroughly stunning, reliable, useable fuel cell vehicle, which offers everyday practicality, comfort and a unique driving experience. In this first part, we show and explain its stunning technology.
At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the BMW Group will showcase the future of driving pleasure and the potential of digital connectivity in a variety of different ways. From January 8-11 2019, visitors will have their first chance to take a virtual drive in the BMW Vision iNEXT, accompanied by the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. In this way, the BMW Group is underlining its innovative capabilities in the fields of design, automated driving, connectivity, electrification, and services (D+ACES), which are all defined as key areas of future activity in its corporate strategy NUMBER ONE > NEXT.
The vision vehicle will be displayed alongside a sophisticated mixed-reality installation that, for the first time, provides a virtual and immersive impression of what it is like to drive autonomously, emission-free, and fully connected in the BMW Vision iNEXT.
To begin the simulation, the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant suggests an agenda for the day and plans the activities for the trip perfectly. See the photo here above.
With virtual reality goggles and a specially-designed spatial concept, visitors are able to immerse themselves in this virtual world: Initially, they drive the BMW Vision iNEXT themselves, but the vehicle soon takes over the driving function. In autonomous “Ease” mode, the driver interacts with the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, which makes suggestions and controls various digital services for the driver – from videoconferencing, to shopping, to smart home functions.
You don’t have to steer this wheel all the time: soon the vehicle takes over…
Quite an experience! For the moment, we can only show you some photos…
Here follows the second part of the interesting BMW conference held at the BMW Brand Store in Brussels, and here we focus on the presentation of Els Ampe, alderman Public works, Mobility and Dutch speaking matters in Brussels, on the mobility needs of the city of Brussels. She presented here on this photo the pedestrian space project in the centre of Brussels, adding civic pleasure and wellness to the streets in Brussels…
Recently BMW Group Belux organized a very interesting conference at their Brand Store in Brussels, where Eddy Haesendonck, President & CEO of BMW Belux (here on the right) gave us a status update on the world wide figures and trends of the BMW Group, followed more specifically by the figures and trends in Belgium for BMW Group Belux.
But the focus at this meeting was also on the outlook he presented, namely on how we prepare ourselves for the mobility of the future. This is where we will focus on mostly in this report.
Interesting was also the presentation by Els Ampe, (see first photo) alderman Public works, Mobility and Dutch speaking matters in Brussels, on the mobility needs of the city of Brussels. More on this in the second part of this report, which we will present soon here too in these columns.
E-driving is not only cool, it can also give you lots of driving pleasure. BMW has proved this point now already over 100.000 times last year with its E-fleet, more specifically i, BMW iPerformance and MINI vehicles with fully electric or plug-in hybrid drive systems. Of course, the i3 being its most popular icon. Indeed, this cleverly designed and styled car has grown into just that: a symbol of clever and durable mobility.
We drove for you the nimble and lively “s” version, and we loved every meter we drove it.