AMS Interview | The technological advancement path of component companies such as Baolong, Chuhang Technology, Sensata, and Wanan in the field of intelligent chassis -2022 Shanghai Auto Parts Exhibition – Shanghai International Auto Parts, Maintenance, Testing and Diagnostic Equipment and Service Supplies Exhibition -2022 Frankfurt Auto Parts Exhibition.
Electromechanical hybrid chassis to intelligent chassis
The chassis system determines the dynamic behavior of a car with six degrees of freedom: longitudinal, transverse, and vertical, and is a necessary condition for the car to operate. In a broad sense, the chassis system consists of various components, including not only the driving, steering, and braking systems, but also the body, clutch, and other components; But if only standing at the angle of six degrees of freedom (longitudinal, lateral, and vertical) control, the chassis system includes subsystems including drive system, braking system, steering system, and suspension system. Looking at the development process of chassis systems can be summarized into three periods: the mechanical period, the electromechanical hybrid period, and the intelligent period.
From the current market performance, the chassis system is still in the period of an electromechanical hybrid: the combination of traditional mechanical hydraulic design and microcontroller control further reduces driving load while assisting the driver with better vehicle control through software control, greatly improving fuel economy, safety, and comfort of the vehicle.
In today’s wave of electrification and intelligence in automobiles, traditional power has been upgraded to a three-electric system, and traditional mechanical components on the chassis system have been streamlined, resulting in an increasing level of electronic control; At the same time, with the increasing popularity of auxiliary driving systems (such as ACC, AEB, etc.) and the gradual implementation of auto drive system, more and more new demands for intelligent scenes have been derived. The era of intelligent chassis is accelerating.
From mechanical chassis to electronic control, and now to wire control technology, is the technological development trend of automotive intelligent chassis products.
From the market share of these core technology products, most of them are mainly foreign brand giants with over a century of development history. For example, Bosch, Continental, ZF, JTEKT, NSK, Nexter, etc., based on the traditional chassis technology, continue to upgrade the new technology of the chassis system, occupying the main markets of brake by wire, steering by wire, and intelligent suspension. The market representative products of wire-controlled braking include Bosch’s iBooster, mainland MKC1, ZF’s IBC, etc.
Accompanied by the upgrading of chassis technology, leading domestic independent component companies have also begun to accumulate momentum many years ago and have gradually achieved some results in certain product fields.
Take the Wanan Group as an example. This automotive parts company, founded in 1985 with traditional brake products, is headquartered in Zhuji, Zhejiang. In recent years, Wanan Group has established joint ventures and collaborations with companies such as Haldex in Sweden, WiTricity in the United States, and Fuao Group. We adhere to the research and development of advanced driving assistance systems, electronic control systems, lightweight chassis modules, wireless charging systems, and the expansion of intelligent connected vehicle technology. We focus on the research and development, production, and sales of multiple series of products such as chassis modules, braking systems, steering systems, and clutch control systems.
At present, Wan’an has built a forward research and development base of ‘one place and three banks’, “said Wu Jiansong, Deputy General Manager of Zhejiang Wan’an Technology Co., Ltd. in an interview.” One place’ refers to the headquarters of Zhuji, Zhejiang. ‘Three banks’ refer to the research and development centers in Shanghai, Beijing, and Budapest, Hungary. The four R&D centers are specialized in the division of labor and coordinated development and continue to focus on the positive research and development of the advanced autonomous vehicle. Currently, Wanan Technology has 8 wholly-owned subsidiaries and 13 holding and participating companies, with Wanan investing nearly 5% of its annual sales in research and development.
Specifically in the field of intelligent chassis, Wanan has a product layout in terms of online control, wire-controlled steering, and lightweight chassis, and implements the strategy of “combining business and passenger”. The company’s leading products ABS, EBS, ESC, AEB, EPB, ECAS, EMB, EHB, aluminum alloy fixed calipers, lightweight chassis modules, wireless charging, etc. have accumulated a large amount of basic test data, and the product performance is stable and reliable. These products have been widely used and highly recognized by mainstream domestic and foreign car companies such as FAW, Dongfeng, SAIC, Shaanxi Automobile, Daimler, Volvo, Ford, FAW Volkswagen, NIO, Ideal, Xiaopeng, etc.
It is worth mentioning that the EBS system developed and mass-produced by Wanan Technology is a core component of automobiles and is a mandatory standard product for all dangerous goods vehicles and tractors and trailers with a maximum speed of 90 km/h or above, with broad market prospects and room for further improvement. The successful development of its X-EPS (circulating ball electric steering device) fills the gap in commercial vehicle electric steering for domestic enterprises. After mass production of this product, the energy consumption of the entire vehicle has been reduced by more than 4%, in line with the national trend of energy conservation and emission reduction.
110000 An X-EPS has developed over 10 products in 3 series, covering trucks and buses with a total mass of 3.5-7t. It is currently developing an EHPS that meets the requirements of models with a total mass of more than 10t. It is the only supplier in China with a full series and an overall system covering commercial vehicle electric braking and electric steering systems. The currently developed third-generation X-EPS product is mainly used in fuel and new energy commercial vehicles. At present, the bulk supporting vehicle enterprises for this product include Jinlong Bus, Yutong Bus, Futian, Jianghuai, XCMG, FAW Jiefang, SAIC Datong, Chery, etc.
The automotive industry is also showing a significant upward trend in the production of intelligent suspension products.
Two years ago, the assembly rate of air suspension in China was very low. In the past two years, almost all new car manufacturers and high-end independent brands, including models priced at over 300000 yuan for passenger cars and 450000 yuan for commercial vehicles, hope to be equipped with air suspension. Among the global automotive air suspension suppliers, Continental ContiTech, Wayback, and Firestone dominate the main market. In the past two years, domestic independent brands such as Baolong and Kong Hui have entered the supporting market in this field.
More and more domestic brands are choosing air suspension products for new car models, such as the NIO ET7, the ideal L9/l9/l8/l7 model, the Geek 001, the new car of Landau, and the new car of BYD. The market demand has exploded in a flash. “Li Ling, Deputy General Manager of the Intelligent Air Suspension Business Unit at Shanghai Baolong Automotive Technology Co., Ltd., continued to predict the market, We expect the market assembly rate of passenger car air suspensions to reach around 25% in the next three years, which means that the total number of air suspensions worldwide will double. “Baolong is one of the typical representatives of upgrading from traditional shock absorber products to air suspension products.
Baolong has been involved in the field of commercial vehicle air spring products since 2012, involved in the development of passenger vehicle air springs in 2016, and started to do the whole air suspension system algorithm and system integration in 2018. Until 2020, the first mainframe mass production project was obtained, which was the designated location for NIO ET7. This project took about two years to achieve mass production by the end of 2021.
Following the progress of the new four modernizations of automobiles, the technological advancement from chassis to intelligent tires is also worth mentioning. I refer to it as the ‘new four modernizations of tire pressure’ for advanced autonomous driving, “Sun Qi, Technical Director of Sensata Technology’s Intelligent Tire System, talked eloquently about the future development of intelligent tires.
The new four modernizations of tire pressure in Document 16 mainly focus on four aspects. Firstly, there is the broadband transmission. Compared to current RF transmission technology, Bluetooth transmission technology will be needed in the future, with a transmission bandwidth ranging from approximately 10 kbps to 2 Mbps.
Followed by tire sensor mounting. Currently, sensors installed on wheels mainly collect information such as temperature and pressure. In the advanced autonomous driving stage, it is necessary to collect a series of physical changes in the tires during driving, such as rolling resistance, load, tire wear, and other information. Therefore, attaching the sensor to the inner wall of the tire is the solution.
The third is to achieve energy collection. At present, the battery life in the tire pressure sensor is limited, and it cannot work after the battery energy is depleted, nor can it collect and upload any information. After the sensor is installed, it must be collected and uploaded through energy recovery to the battery. This requires collecting the vibration wave difference inside the tire through a pressure strain film attached to the inner wall of the tire, converting it into electrical energy, and then converting it into a usable power supply for the tire pressure sensor chip through a series of processing circuits. At present, this technology is still in the laboratory stage. The most optimistic estimate is that it will be applied by 2025-2026
The above three basic technologies have already solved the first two, and the fourth point is to achieve the intelligence of the entire tire through the combination of software based on the previous basic hardware technology, including the development of multiple functions.
Mainstream models contained approximately 10 million lines of source code in 2010 and reached approximately 150 million lines in 2016. In 2018, software accounted for approximately 10% of the total value of D-class cars or large passenger cars. According to estimates from relevant institutions, the value of software will reach around 60% in the future. The core of vehicle technology and engineering is shifting from traditional hardware to software. Volkswagen has stated that software innovation will account for about 90% of future automotive innovation.
Vehicle architecture is moving towards a service-oriented architecture based on a universal computing platform. In the future, vehicle differentiation will be more reflected in the user interface and experience level enabled by software and advanced electronic technology. The software will drive automotive technology innovation and lead product differentiation. Software-defining cars is the trend. Behind this is the full integration and collaboration of software and hardware.
The collaboration between radar and camera suppliers is a good case study. If one only pursues the performance parameters of a certain ‘big brand’ radar product, it may not necessarily solve the problem. More importantly, it is important to find a more suitable solution from the perspective of demand. For example, if a camera sees a false target and achieves it through hardware modifications or algorithms that require high computational power, it may require a relatively high cost, but in reality, it can be achieved through With the assistance of a camera, this scene can be covered and the problem can be solved effectively. In the future, it will definitely be a process of software and hardware collaboration, rather than fighting alone Chu Yongyan, CEO and founder of Chuhang Technology, also gave another vivid example of software and hardware collaboration.
If there is a small problem with our radar, solving a single radar hardware issue may cost a lot, but if we work together with our partners, our engineers can easily solve it by writing an algorithm in the backend system and applying a patch
In recent years, both OEMs and component companies have been increasing their investment in software, and news of traditional automotive component companies participating in software companies continues to emerge. Software is defining cars, and software is also defining components.
As a traditional sensor supplier, Sensata Technology shared their investment in software. When Sun Qi joined Sensata Technology in 2016, there were only two software engineers on the team. Nowadays, there are only over 20 people in charge of the tire pressure team, which will increase by at least 50% by 2025. Writing code is only a part of the current work of software engineers, who also need to analyze requirements, decompose requirements, define requirements, and design the entire system architecture, more commonly known as system engineers.
WanAn Group is no exception. Starting from the transformation of traditional automotive component manufacturing to intelligent manufacturing and the production of electronic and intelligent products, it has embarked on the path of self-subversion. While subverting traditional products, it continuously surpasses itself. Currently, nearly 13% of Wanan’s employees are in its technical research and development team, and in recent years, it has been continuously expanding its recruitment of software and hardware engineers.