Guest blog: Long-term view of electric vehicle testing


Anoop Gangadharan from Yokogawa takes the long view for testing electric and hybrid vehicles

In the rapidly evolving automotive sector, the need for reliability in testing to enhance safety, efficiency and performance has never been greater. This contrasts with the past, where it might have sufficed to take a short-term view on evolving standards and changing requirements.

Today’s developers of electric vehicles need to adapt to fast-changing needs, meet changing standards and customer requirements, and at the same time achieve the all-important speed to market.

Testing in this pressurised environment calls for custom measurements and consistent accuracy, but the specific demands of the automotive marketplace add other challenges. For example, meeting consumer demands for greater charging capacity, shorter charging times and greater travelling range will require thorough positive and negative cycle evaluations of battery charge and discharge characteristics. Similarly, the evaluation of inverter signals needs to account for the harmonic superimpositions from switching circuits. Reducing the interference from this switching noise requires isolated inputs, high-speed sample rates and long-time observation.

With the advent of contactless charging, such evaluations will need to be done at lower power factors and frequencies in the hundreds of kilohertz: areas that are outside the scope of traditional test instruments. In addition, motor-drive technology has become more complex in recent years, with pure sine-wave PWM signals becoming less common.

These developments require a versatile test platform that not only delivers reliable measurements today but is also ready for the challenges of tomorrow. Hence the next generation of power measurement instruments will need to achieve accuracies that stay relevant for years to come.

Moreover, as pure sine-wave PWM signals become less common in motor applications, these high-accuracy measuring instruments also need to include the ability to carry out high-frequency measurements. With mean voltages increasingly differing greatly from the fundamental voltage waveform, harmonic measurements are needed to establish the values of derived measurements such as active power. Similarly, addressing the challenges of measuring parameters such as powertrain efficiency, harmonic content, battery charge and discharge processes, and ECU communications buses will require both progressively greater accuracy and consistency in measurement over the specified ranges and conditions.

Again, the use of brushless DC motors and PWM (pulse-width-modulated) waveforms demands the simultaneous measurement of normal values with harmonics for overmodulation analysis of PWM waveforms and the high-speed measurement of power fluctuations.

These needs will increasingly drive the market’s expectations of the ideal power measurement instrument thus, with rapid advances in automotive technologies, engineers have to contend with faster development cycles, greater complexities and greater expectations of cost, quality and time to market. For this they will need instruments that offer consistently reliable measurements over the long term and the ability to adapt to changing test requirements.  

Anoop Gangadharan is product marketing manager for test and measurement at Yokogawa in Europe


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