Continental showcases full hybrid with 48-volt drive system

Continental has introduced a 30 kW, 48-volt high-power drive system for full hybrid vehicles, which it says is cheaper than the high-voltage systems used up to now.

Until now, manufacturers have typically used 48-volt systems in “mild hybrid” vehicles, in which the electric motor doesn’t drive the vehicle directly, but only assists the ICE. Full hybrid vehicles can drive on electricity alone, but typically need high voltages – up to 800 volts. Continental says its engineers have developed a 48-volt hybrid system that boasts features similar to those of a high-voltage electric drive and can drive vehicles without help from an ICE.

The 48-volt high-power system is comprised of an electric motor, integrated power electronics, and a battery. Continental says it reduces fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by around 20% compared to similar ICE vehicles.

In the latest stage of development, Continental engineers repositioned the 48-volt system from in front of the ICE on the crankshaft to behind it, between the combustion engine and transmission (P2 hybrid). The key component in the system is a new water-cooled electric motor with a peak output of 30 kW, double that of previous versions. Continental says that electric-only driving is possible up to a speed of 80 to 90 km/h.

The company also says the 48-volt system delivers a lower cost than high-voltage systems, as it requires less insulation protection and electrical components are smaller and cheaper. The system is also more compact because it requires smaller gaps between the individual components.

“With the new hybrid system, we are making the most of what is currently technologically possible for a 48-volt system,” said Stephan Rebhan, head of Technology and Innovation at Continental’s Powertrain business.

Source: Continental

  • freedomev

    About 3 yrs too late. Though would make a nice lightweight EV drive.

  • Daniel

    Maybe a good technology route.

  • Roger J. Zamofing

    Great stuff and finally another EV-player that re-invented and recogonized that a “low” 48-Volt-drive system could also be the primary source in a drivetrain, while the rest of the industry goes for high voltage with it’s numerous disadvantages.

    However this is already fully realized by Swiss company nanoFlowcell in their flow cell electric car quite some time ago; several times already present at the Geneva Motor Show! Their claims showed all the advantages over high voltage systems already and their working prototypes are on the road with homologations and have prooven reliability tracks already under “real life” conditions and not only in the lab.

    But at least Continental is on the right way and should however therefore also help to exchange classical and far too complicated ICE by a much better solution, e.g. the still very inventive Huettlin Kugel-Hybrid-Engine – Porsche people once laughed about in earlier times, but the system anyhow continued to be improved and European industry could loose the lead in innovation, when not able to see what is already done locally also by smaller inventors and companies – which builds with at least 30% less parts and massively reduced internal friction losses. It’s compact construction is perfectly suitable also for new EV designs and offers the best of both worlds as long as there are no “gas” stations for electrolytes for the nanoFlowcell’s genious concept to save massively on infrastructure investments that are at present more or less NOT FOR THE FUTURE and still with NO GLOBAL STANDARDS (CHAdeMO, DSS, Tesla etc.).

  • George

    That’s a lot of investment in a technology that due to its limited 90 kph max speed is just not suitable for full battery electric operation, given that in only 5 years battery electrics will cost less than pure ICE vehicles, much less hybrids.

    This would have been great around 2000 – a real game changer during the relatively brief age of hybrids.

    Very interesting tech, though!

    • Jeremy Clements

      What if they pair this motor with a higher-voltage battery (480-600V), and just use the drive to output the 48V for the motor? Give it 2-4 of these little motors (1 per axle or 1 per wheel), and you could have enough power to cruise down the highway.

      I don’t know how stepping the voltage down at the drive would affect efficiency, but it would potentially reduce strain on the battery at FLA when accelerating from 0.

      Regen from the brakes would have to step the voltage back up, but that shouldn’t be much trouble (assuming the drivetrain is AC).

      • George

        Well, the stated advantage was to avoid dealing with high voltages. DC doesn’t work with transformers – the output is inductively linked to the input – so DC voltage transformation isn’t as efficient as AC and will negatively affect range. I just don’t see the point in trying to pair high-voltage batteries when low-voltage motors, but perhaps I’m an insufficiently clever electrical engineer.

        • Jeremy Clements

          Nothing in the article stated 48VDC. If the motor is DC, then what I posted is moot. However, if the motor is AC, it can easily be stepped up/down with a transformer.

          Many drives (VFD/VSD) have a base voltage that is stepped down to a different voltage, based on the motor. If just the battery is 600VDC, and the drive outputs 48VAC, then you have a much lower current draw from the battery (assuming the same power at a higher voltage).

          I’m not an engineer (and didn’t claim to be), but the advantage of a lower current from the battery seemed like a plus. From what I have seen, the primary issues with EVs seem to all be battery-related, so I was just wondering if reducing strain on the battery would be of benefit.

          Again, if the motor is DC, then you are absolutely correct that it is not worth it to step the voltage. If it’s AC, would it make sense?

          • George

            I checked their website, continental-automotive dot com, to confirm it’s a DC system.

            Would an AC system have made sense? I don’t have enough information to judge that. Even if it were a little more efficient, that advantage might be swamped by the efficiency of scale achieved by the rest of the industry as it mass-produces millions of 400VDC EVs.

            My real concern is that pure EVs seem poised to increasingly dominate the auto market in the coming couple of decades, which is likely why GM cancelled their highly-regarded Volt plug-in hybrid. I just don’t see much promise in a better mild hybrid in the face of pure EVs solid near-term promise.

            But I’ve been wrong before. 🤔

          • Jeremy Clements

            Tesla and other EVs use AC motors, which is why I initially made that assumption.

            When it comes to Hybrids, I think we are still in a time where EVs are unable to meet the needs of the general market, and we will still need an in-between product to bridge the gap. In my mind, at least, the “bridge” will probably be some form of range-extended EV.

            With EV manufacturers looking to build larger and longer-range vehicles, larger batteries become an expensive proposition that can suppress sales. Rather than adding ever-larger and more expensive batteries, a series hybrid (all-EV drivetrain with an onboard generator) looks like the best option.

            Though this article is about a parallel hybrid, I was still interested in whether it could essentially scale-up to a more efficient all-EV motor.

            Just guessing, but I might be wrong more often than you.😔

    • AWD_Terror

      That top speed is perfect for many countries.

      • George

        People never exceed 55 mph in which countries? Honest question, I’m quite surprised. I’d still want to see a pretty significant cost advantage for a 48V system over more mainstream and much higher volume 400V solutions.

  • Henry

    This would make a great sailboat motor. There are lots of 48V batteries for marine use.