Supercapacitors can quickly charge and discharge at higher rates than lithium-ion batteries, but they don’t retain high energy levels or require a liquid cooling system. - Photo: Eaton

Supercapacitors can quickly charge and discharge at higher rates than lithium-ion batteries, but they don’t retain high energy levels or require a liquid cooling system.

Photo: Eaton

Tightening diesel emissions regulations are putting additional strain on engine and vehicle manufacturers to meet reductions targets with traditional 12- and 24-volt electrical architecture. Eaton say the answer lies with 48-volt components that will help reduce emissions and improve fuel economy and performance.

Eaton’s Vehicle Group has developed suite of 48-volt technologies such as cooling fans, HVAC compressors, pumps, and electric heating for aftertreatment systems to assist on- and off-highway commercial vehicle customers in transitioning from traditional 12- and 24-volt vehicle systems.  

Electrifying the cooling fan provides additional benefits, as it could be reduced in size and strategically placed within the engine bay, allowing for aerodynamic design flexibility to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions.

“Forty-eight-volt power will also be used to power systems such as HVAC and the engine cooling fan, which are traditionally run by the engine,” said Ben Karrer, manager of technology development for Eaton’s Vehicle Group, in a press release. “Today’s systems are not intelligent — you can’t control when they’re on or off or adjust the levels. Converting those components to electric alternatives allows you to intelligently control them and eliminate mechanical loads.”

Many vehicle systems are powered directly from mechanical power generated by the engine, which runs 12-volt systems such as air conditioning and pumps. Eaton is developing 48-volt systems that include motor generators and inverters that generate 48-volt DC power for the vehicle. Eaton also produces 48-volt DC/DC converters that step power down from 48-volt vehicle architectures to power 12- and 24-volt systems.

Eaton is also developing power electronics for 48-volt electric catalyst heating, which provides heat directly to the vehicle’s aftertreatment system. This active heating helps catalyst components reach efficient operating temperatures faster upon engine start and maintains those temperatures during low-load operation. This will be an essential strategy for reducing emissions to the levels required by future regulations.

“This development comes as global vehicle manufacturers are making decisions to adopt new technologies to meet emissions regulations,” Karrer said. “Of the options available, 48-volt architectures are becoming more popular because they can decrease both CO2 and NOx simultaneously, which helps both our customers and the environment.”

48-Volt Batteries, Supercapacitors

Eaton’s Vehicle Group is also developing a range of 48-volt energy storage solutions, including lead-acid batteries and supercapacitors. Eaton says lead-acid batteries are inexpensive compared to lithium-ion packs and offer a safe and more efficient solution. Supercapacitors can quickly charge and discharge at higher rates than lithium-ion batteries, but they don’t retain high energy levels or require a liquid cooling system. Supercapacitors also have longer lifespans than lead-acid or lithium-ion batteries.

“We’re integrating various energy storage technologies into a larger storage pack including controls, fusing, and contactors,” Karrer said. “Eaton’s Electrical Components Group is our partner for supercapacitors, and we will be working with most commercial vehicle battery manufacturers for lead-acid batteries.”

This suite of technologies is an example of how Eaton is working to achieve its 2030 Sustainability Targets, which include reducing the carbon emissions from our operations by half and lowering product and supply chain emissions.

 

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