In 2020, the spread of COVID-19 made it difficult for us to travel freely. Ever since the mobility, which we had taken for granted for a long time, was restricted, various changes have been taken place.
Among the means of transportation, cars are attracting renewed attention as personal transportation spaces that are different from public transportation. On the other hand, there has been a sharp drop in air pollution resulted from the elimination of traffic congestions due to the traffic restrictions. We were reminded of the environmental impacts of mobility.
How will the mobility change from now on? At the very least, cars must be sustainable means of transportation that would not harm the environment. How can we balance convenient transportation with environmental protection?
To balance environmental considerations and comfortable urban mobility
Technology has made it possible for people to travel farther and faster. On the other hand, there are challenges arising from the progress of mobility. That is the impact on the environment. About 18.5% of CO2, one of the causes of global warming, is emitted from transportation sector.
Various regulations have entered into force all over the world to reduce the environmental impact of mobility. The use of cars in urban areas is restricted, and the use of mobility with internal combustion engines, especially gasoline and diesel cars, is subject to stricter regulations.
Oslo, Norway, has been working on a project to establish a "car-free" city in which cars do not drive into the city. From 2015 to 2019, the use of cars in the city was gradually restricted. By the end of 2018, 700 parking spots in the city center were all eliminated.
In Madrid, Spain, there are also movements to restrict the entry of cars into the city center. Furthermore, movements are under way in Paris, France, in Athens, Greece, and in Mexico City, Mexico, to restrict internal combustion cars, such as diesel cars, to access to the city centers, by 2025.
It is still not widely known in Japan, but the worldwide movement has begun to restrict the use of cars in urban centers. If nothing is done, cars could be deported from the city as a threat to the environment.
In order to ensure that people can travel comfortably without harming the environment, cars need to be more environmentally friendly.
Product brands that make mobility sustainable
The electrification of cars to make them more environmental friendly is being progressed worldwide. DENSO promotes electrification of mobility in all layers, such as mobility system, products, and components, which are required for the movement above. Development of the electrification products is one of the parts of the important challenge. DENSO aims to realize sustainable mobility by developing and spreading components with improved electric cost (power consumption rate of electric cars and motorcycles) required for electrification products.
In 2018, DENSO created a new brand for its all electrification products, and named it "ELEXCORE" after the DENSO’s tag line "Crafting the Core" with the hope of becoming the leading company of electrification. Under the name of ELEXCORE, DENSO is developing products to create added value that cannot be found in conventional electrification products and to spread the products to the mobility around the world.
We interviewed the respective development staff members, Yoneda of Electric Components Eng. Div., Inamoto of Electrification Components Eng. Div. 2, and Shindo of Electrification Components Eng. Div. 1, about the characteristics of "ELEXCORE", focusing on three products: "motor generator", "Battery Management Unit", and "inverter". First, we will introduce the roles that each component plays in EVs, along with the characteristics of each component.
A motor generator is a product that functions as a motor that drives an automobile and a generator that converts tire rotation into electricity. "When an electric car starts or accelerates, a motor generator acts as a motor, or a power source, and when a car stops by applying the brake, it acts as a generator that generates electricity by using the energy generated by the rotation of tires. This product has succeeded in downsizing and weight reduction by taking advantage of the unique wire winding technology that DENSO has cultivated through the production of the SC alternator (automotive generator) and the insulation technology against high voltage that has been refined through the development of electrification products."
The battery management unit measures the voltage, current, and temperature of the battery, to use the battery safely. "If batteries are not properly managed, they can cause problems such as fire hazard. The battery management unit helps prevent such problems and keeps the battery safe. The product DENSO is developing is characterized by its high voltage measurement accuracy and reduced number of parts required for measurement. If the measurement accuracy is improved, the battery can be used up economically and the mileage of the electric car can be extended. ” (Inamoto)
An inverter is a product that converts DC(direct current) electricity from a battery into AC(alternating current) and sends it to a motor generator. "When we try to convert electric power with an inverter, there is an energy loss, and if the loss is large, the energy efficiency deteriorates. In order to improve the power cost, it is important to reduce the loss, and in order to reduce the size, it is important to efficiently cool the heat generated by the loss. The DENSO’s technologies for semiconductor, control and cooling are used in this area. If we can reduce loss for cooling down, the inverter can be powerful even if it is small in size, so we will be able to achieve downsizing and high output.” (Shindo)
Pursuit of quality leads to protection of the human life and the environment
To make it possible for people to drive safely for a long period of time, and from the time we produce cars to the time we dispose them, we need to make them environmentally friendly in the long run. In order to realize these values, DENSO is focusing on three key points when developing products.
The first point is high quality.
A manufacturer produces tens of thousands of cars, but for a customer, the car he/she owns is the precious and the only one. To be able to continue to drive the car safely and comfortably, we must be thoroughly concerned with the quality. In addition, even a single failure of an automobile component carries a risk of human life. For the safety of people, DENSO designs products from the early stages of design through to production and pursues quality by developing parts that would not break.
“In manufacturing (MONOZUKURI), DENSO is involved in every process from the design stage to improve quality. In factory production, we adhere to the slogan, 'zero defect' to eliminate defective products. When something goes wrong, we immediately provide feedbacks from the production site, then we go back to the design to find the cause and solve the problem. "(Inamoto)
The second point is high performance.
The high performance of electrification components greatly affects the electric cost of cars. The better the electric cost, the less energy the vehicle needs, the longer it can run, and the lower the running costs.
To create these values, DENSO focus on the performance of the entire system when combining products, not to mention the performance of individual products. When we design, we try to improve the overall electric cost by combining ELEXCORE products to achieve the best performance.
"When you drive an electric car for a long distance, you need to install a large capacity battery, but because the battery is very expensive, the vehicle price becomes very high. However, when combined with ELEXCORE products, even with a small battery you can drive a car for long distances, reducing the cost of the battery. As a result, the total vehicle price will be reduced. In addition, the running cost will be lower because the energy efficiency will be better and the electric cost will be improved." (Shindo)
The third point is downsizing.
The smaller the products installed in the vehicle, the more room the vehicle will have and the more comfortable the traveling time will be. In addition, the smaller the product, the less resources required for each product and the less waste generated during the development process. We can say that our efforts for downsizing also contributes to environmental problems.
Focusing on these three points, DENSO places importance on the development process in order to create value for our customers. All ELEXCORE products are developed in-house using technologies DENSO have cultivated over the years. This in-house development leads to making values for both customers and the environment.
The more widespread ELEXCORE becomes, the more cost-effective the mobility becomes and the less impact it gives on the environment. The ELEXCORE developers shared their thoughts on the environment.
“We heard that the spread of COVID-19 caused people to refrain from driving cars, resulting in cleaner air. Cars are required to be electrified so that they no longer have a negative impact on the earth. We would like to contribute to solving environmental problems by improving the performance of ELEXCORE and promoting its use." (Shindo)
To realize both the joy of free mobility and the environmental protection
ELEXCORE's value is not limited to cars. ELEXCORE aims to be the core of all types of electric mobility in the future, as various types of mobility become electric.
With ELEXCORE mobility, you can travel far with less energy and still ride safely for a long time. When more ELEXCORE products are used in mobility, the environmental impact will be decreased, and the mobility will be more sustainable.
In the time to “Coexist with COVID-19”, there is a need for both the realization of personal and comfortable mobility and the preservation of the global environment, which appear to contradict each other. In order to achieve both of these goals, DENSO will continue to craft the "core" in which all mobility can be friendly to the earth and coexist with people and the earth.