Bringing the Juice
TE's Chad Taylor discusses the challenges for hybrid and electric vehicles, the company's teaming with university engineering programs, and some not so obvious benefits of working with Andretti's Formula E Racing Team.
Electrifying Google Hangout. TE's Chad Taylor and Steve Rohr recently participated in a hangout from the company’s offices in Troy, Michigan, focusing on emerging green vehicle technologies. TE, with its long-standing experience in automotive connectivity systems, offers customers a complete line of connectors, relays, harnesses, contactors and disconnects to safely connect and protect the flow of data and power for hybrid and electric vehicles.
The Drive Home
TE’s Chad Taylor doesn’t need reams of data, advice from consultants, or lengthy studies to understand exactly what will drive the sale of hybrid and electric vehicles in the years ahead.
Taylor, senior manager for business development for TE’s Hybrid and Electric Mobility Solutions group, said consumers just want to know that the green cars, trucks and SUVs they buy will be able to get them not only to where they want to go but back again.
‘’A big concern is refueling,’’ he said in a recent Google Hangout with Steve Rohr, director of technology strategy for TE's Transportation Solutions unit. ‘’When I get to the end of my trip am I going to have enough juice to get back home?’’
Taylor and Rohr spent nearly an hour in a live event on TE’s Google+ page discussing the company's work in emerging green technologies, TE's teaming with university engineering programs, including the Venturi Buckeye Bullet, VBB-3, at The Ohio State University, and its work with Andretti Technologies and Formula E racing.
While improvements in hybrid and electric vehicle technologies will play an important role in growing market share against gasoline-powered vehicles, Taylor told Rohr that the education of consumers and, in turn, the building of their confidence, will also be a major factor.
‘’We use terms like fuel cell, electric vehicle, plug in, hybrid, full hybrid, and micro,’’ he said. ‘’You throw all of that at the normal consumer and they won’t have any idea what you’re talking about. People shy away from things they don’t understand.’’
It can seem like there are a multitude of electric vehicles on the market today but they largely center around four types of technologies:
- Battery Electric Vehicles, which run on a battery and electric drive train. They don’t have a conventional engine and must be plugged into an electrical source for charging. They are sometimes called BEVs.
- Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles, which run primarily on batteries that are recharged using a power source. They do have a conventional engine, which can also recharge the vehicle's battery. They are often referred to as PHEVs.
- Hybrid Electric Vehicles, which have electric motors that recharge using power from the vehicle’s conventional engine and from so-called regenerative braking.
- Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicles, which, as the name suggests, uses a fuel cell, with oxygen from the air and compressed hydrogen, to power an electric motor. These vehicles, also known as FCEVs, are considered to have zero emissions.
Despite gas price volatility, hybrid and electric vehicles have owned around 3 percent of the new vehicle market in the past few years, according to industry trade publications. Market share for full electric vehicles is reported to be less than 1 percent.
Consumer polls have found that nearly half of adults surveyed say they’d consider buying a hybrid vehicle and around 25 percent would kick the tires on an all-electric model. As expected, price and range are the top priorities of potential buyers though many also are concerned with the newness of the technology.
Buckeyes Have a Bullet
They aren’t just doing this to get extra credit or pass the time by. They are actually working on a project that will actually be used by someone who will get a benefit from it.
- Chad Taylor,
- TE Hybrid and Electric Mobility Solutions
Wolverines to Cross the Outback
But while hybrid and electric vehicle technology is new, it’s also improving. Taylor outlined TE’s work with universities around the globe, including Ohio State and the University of Michigan (U-M), in programs aimed, in part, at improving green vehicle performance and safety.
At Ohio State, TE works with a team of students on the Venturi Buckeye Bullet. The car is the world’s fastest electric vehicle, having hit speeds past 300 mph. TE’s high-voltage, high-power and harsh condition connectors, and its high-voltage relays, are used on the VBB-3.
At U-M, TE has worked with students on its Solar Car program. In October, the university’s team will take its car across the Australian Outback on an eight-day, 1,800 mile competition. U-M's team has finished third in the race three times and it has won the American version of the race eight times.
‘’What they are doing is real,’’ Taylor said of the students in the programs. ‘’They aren’t just doing this for a grade. They aren’t just doing this to get extra credit or pass the time by. They are actually working on a project that will actually be used by someone who will get a benefit from it. They can see that and it gives them value and helps them grow.’’
The relationships give TE the chance to develop and test its products and components in a challenging, harsh enviromnent while giving students exposure to working with top engineers and leaders at TE. Moreover, it allows the company a chance to build relationships with students who may someday become employees.
‘’It’s a win, win, win situation,’’ said Rohr. ‘’I’ve had the opportunity to go to Ann Arbor (where U-M is located) a couple times and the students there are absolutely inspiring in their dedication.’’
Racing With Andretti
Formula E Race Team
TE’s contactors, relays and sensors will also be used on a different kind of fast car. The company is expanding its relationship with Andretti Technologies and is now the major sponsor of its Andretti Formula E Race Team.
In the hangout, Taylor called the relationship a learning opportunity for TE.
‘’Any data we get from that – a vehicle that has to travel at speeds of 200 mph and make very agile moves – helps us,’’ he said, adding that the demanding schedule of a race team has also brought a lesson in logistics.
‘’These vehicles with these races have very tight schedules they have to meet;’’ he said. ‘’That trains us to stay on task and on point with our delivery. We are going to take those lessons and bring them back to our customer base.’’
The FIA Formula-E Championship is the world’s first fully-electric racing series. The second season of the championship begins in Beijing on October 17, 2015 and runs until the season finale, a double-header in London.
TE's orange branding will be seen on the Amlin-Andretti Formula E cars at pre-season testing prior to the launch of the 11-round season.
The Andretti Autosport brand was born in 2009, is based in Indianapolis, Indiana and led by racing icon Michael Andretti. The organization boasts four IndyCar Series championships, two Indy Lights titles, one Pro Mazda championship, one USF2000 championship and has won the Indianapolis 500 three times.