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Rotary sensors for electric vehicles (Part 1)

Posted: 23 Nov 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:electric vehicle  EV  rotary sensors  resolver  encoder 

Cutting down the overall automotive carbon footprint and enabling vehicles to harness lost energy drives the automotive industry today. Due to this worldwide push, manufacturers are now investing in new technologies to solve this growing problem, while maintaining high quality standards and reducing overall system cost. One of the technologies at the heart of this automotive evolution is the electric vehicle (EV). In this article, we will discuss one of its major components, rotary sensors.

As we dive deeper into these sensing technologies, we will outline what technology works best under specific scenarios and the driving decisions behind the selection of a particular sensor over another. We will also consider the challenges involved in designing with these sensors and key things a designer must consider before finalizing the rotary sensor for the EV.

An introduction to hybrids
As the demand worldwide grows for more energy efficient means of transportation, hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) and EV will be at the forefront of the conversation. Therefore, to better understand the market, it is first imperative to know the types of vehicles we are referring to when we address this market. Strategy Analytics classifies each vehicle under the HEV/EV umbrella into one of four separate categories: mild hybrid, full hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric.

Each of these divisions takes into consideration the wattage of the electric motor in the vehicle and exactly what the motor is in charge of inside of the system. For example, Strategy Analytics classifies a mild hybrid as a vehicle that has one electric motor of <20 kW that is used to provide brake recuperation and torque assist, along with an internal combustion engine. Once there is an understanding of the trade-off between mild hybrid vs. pure EV, it will be easier to understand the total available market for motor position sensors in this sector. Table 1 shows the categories used by Strategy Analytics, which will be used throughout the rest of this article.

Table 1: Categories used by Strategy Analytics.

Now that there is an understanding of the types of vehicles discussed, let's delve into market analysis to have a better understanding of the potential addressable market for the motor position sensing technologies.

As you can see from the table above, there is a possibility of anywhere between one and four motors per each vehicle (four motors takes into consideration that every wheel has a motor of its own). Each motor then will need a position sensor to allow the system to have the visibility and granularity of control that is necessary. Keeping this knowledge regarding motors in mind, table 2, also from Strategy Analytics, gives an estimated snapshot of the units of each type of vehicle that will be in the market from 2015-2021.

Table 2: An estimated snapshot of the units of each type of vehicle that will be in the market from 2015-2021.

For a better understanding of how this translates into available motor position sensor opportunities, suppose that there are approximately two motors in both the mild and the full hybrid to account for a drive motor and a starter generator and, to be conservative (no motors per wheel), one motor for the other two vehicle categories. For 2015, that means the total addressable units more than doubles to approximately 7,916 ku potential position sensor opportunities. Following this trend table 3 summarises the growth of the market for position sensor units for 2016-2021 and the projected CAGR.

Table 3: The growth of the market for position sensor units for 2016-2021 and the projected CAGR.

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