The IAA Mobile Conference in Munich, Germany provides a glimpse into the future of personal mobility. This is an event showcasing the latest transportation technologies, from electric bikes to self-driving cars. While the majority of exhibitors are still focused on Europe, it provides a glimpse of the future through the eyes of global industry leaders, from major electronic and mechanical components to some of the top OEMs. Notable companies participating in IAA Mobility include Bosch, Ford, Hyundai, Intel/Mobileye, Magna International, Mercedes-Benz, Polestar, Qualcomm, Renault, Siemens, Volkswagen, ZF and many other large and small companies. While I find e-bikes interesting, in this article I’m more focused on cars, the key magnetic platform for all the latest technology.
The key theme of the 2021 exhibition is sustainable energy / carbon savings in terms of manufacturing and electrification solutions. OEMs like BMW and Hyundai have been quick to set carbon neutrality goals. There is also strong demand for zero-emission vehicles, most of which are equipped with batteries (BEVs), with some focusing on the use of hydrogen fuel cells (FCEVs). BMW has gone the furthest in the field of sustainability with the release of a concept car called the Circular, which is made from 100% recycled materials and is itself 100% recyclable. However, when the company said it was aiming for production in 2040, almost 20 years later, it was disappointed that the car wasn’t even self-driving. This proves once again that, at least for the moment, it is easier to promote sustainable development than to actually implement it in a short period of time. The Circular car has some great features such as an unpainted aluminum body, headlights and car logo embedded in the grille. 20 years means four to five car design cycles, and the company may implement some of the features of the Circular concept in later cars.
Regarding FCEVs, Hyundai is actively promoting hydrogen as a viable battery alternative for electric vehicles and other applications. This is great because, from a sustainability standpoint, batteries still require large-scale mining of rare earth materials, and if every new car is powered by batteries, rare earth mining will increase significantly to support 700 million to 80 million electric vehicles. This is a topic that was not discussed at the event, but Thirias’ research identified a key factor in the electrification of personal transport. Interestingly, some electric motorcycle suppliers have also shown interest in future fuel cell designs. In the case of motorcycles, fuel cells would offer huge size and weight advantages over the maximum power limit. On the one hand, I would like to see an electric motorcycle with the speed and range of a gasoline version.
Occupying most of Munich’s huge International Congress Centre, the exhibition extends to various open spaces in Munich’s historic district. It basically occupies a large part of the city with exhibitions and events, which makes it a little difficult to see everything. In addition, media day press conferences were mostly held at vendor booths with little or no seating, causing everyone to crowd around the booth, which is frustrating to say the least. Three OEMs, BMW, Hyundai and Volkswagen, have even restricted access to their booths, and Hyundai has built a cage around the booth. I have news from these OEMs, Mercedes has more impressive vehicles in my opinion and I invite everyone to come and see what they have to offer.
The exhibition is full of technologies and products that support electric and autonomous vehicles. While AV wasn’t as prominent at this show as it has been at other events in the past, there were still plenty of demo rides showcasing some of the latest technology. So far, I’ve run a demo using Arriver and Mobileye, both of which showcase the latest machine vision platforms they’re developing. They are not perfect, in fact none of them recognize dogs or cats, but they are still impressive and getting close to being part of a viable solution for ADAS and autonomous systems.
Judging by the discussions at the auto show, three battles of electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles are evident, involving electronic components, batteries and drive components. Motor and drive system suppliers are doing everything they can to improve efficiency. ZF states that their system is 2% better than the nearest competitor, but does not name it. Even a 2% difference shows how intense the battle has become. While not a key part of the show, it is clear that battery suppliers are experimenting with new battery chemistries, prompting many OEMs to form close partnerships to develop better solutions. The latest front is in electronic components, where competition between SoC vendors and custom solutions developed by some Tier 1 vendors and OEMs is about performance and efficiency. The two main players present are Intel and Qualcomm, represented by the EyeQ and Snapdragon Ride platforms. However, the only major announcement in this area was made by ZF, which introduced an intelligent control module called ProAI that claims to support 3 TOPS of AI performance. Unfortunately, no one can provide me with information about the internal SoC.
A few things point to some notable changes on the horizon for the industry. Firstly, this is a change in the external light display. In the same way that flat-panel displays do away with gauges in a car’s cockpit, panels also do away with exterior lights, grilles, and even logos. BMW, Magna and Volkswagen have shown grilles that serve as headlights and integrate car logos in one form or another. Other vendors have similar rear light displays. According to BMW, this will increase the simplicity of the Circular platform and reduce costs.
Another change that has been brewing for some time is the separation between urban vehicles and road/rural vehicles. From bicycles to miniature cars, many personal mobility solutions have speed limits between 45 km/h (~28 mph) and 60 km/h (~38 mph), well below highway speeds but ideal for getting around in most cities. At lower speeds, the car can be made smaller and lighter. I would argue that many micro cars and e-scooters are nothing more than e-bikes, but that’s because my gearbox thinks that anything that can’t get to 160 km/h (100 mph) isn’t powerful enough.
With the shift to electric and autonomous vehicles, everyone is looking for a single drive platform that can be used in multiple vehicle configurations. So the company continues to show off a flat-drive platform or a snowmobile with a huge built-in battery pack. The downside of the snowmobile concept is the lack of a full array of sensors, wireless and/or vehicle network that can be easily connected to the infotainment system in the vehicle configuration, making it difficult to jump straight into a modular vehicle design. Magna is the only company to showcase a core platform including sensor arrays and a vehicle network. So I take my hat off to an efficient base platform. Ironically, it looks more like a regular car platform.
Tirias Research believes that the dynamics of the electric vehicle and drone industry put Tier 1 suppliers at risk. However, two Tier 1 companies can break the mold or even create a new business model for the industry. Magna not only supplies a wide range of automotive components and systems, but also designs and manufactures complete platforms for companies such as BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes and some Chinese brands. Magna even produces three EV platforms for its OEM customers. Will this be a new outsourced design and manufacturing model for OEMs? it is possible. OEMs only need to focus on the distinctive aspects of the vehicle, as well as sales, marketing and service. In addition, ZF has developed a complete autonomous vehicle platform and is testing it. While the company has no plans to sell the platform, it can be customized for OEM customers. Adopting this ODM-OEM model (proven in other markets with fast design cycles such as the smartphone market) may be essential for Tier 1 suppliers to survive in the rapidly changing automotive value chain.
One area of frustration is the electric vehicle charging system. While there are many storefronts, none of them are integrated with sustainable energy solutions that fit the theme of sustainability. Schneider Electric makes a smart home electrical panel that interfaces with renewable energy solutions and electric vehicle chargers, but Schneider Electric is not involved in IAA Mobility. In addition, none of the electric vehicle chargers are used for other forms of personal transportation, such as electric bicycles. Shouldn’t the charging system in my garage be set up to charge everything from e-bikes to scooters to cars? And there is no solution for wireless charging, but it’s still a technical issue.
ChargeX does have an interesting new platform that allows you to add additional chargers to more vehicles, so that a single electrical connection can support charging up to eight vehicles. However, it will not charge all cars at the same time. It charges each car up to 10kWh in 50 minutes before moving on to the next car and then returns to continue charging each car to a full charge.
No auto show is complete without flying cars or classic cars. Thirteen years later, PAL-V is approaching flying car certification in Europe and hopes to achieve it by the end of 2022. A car converted into a helicopter or, more precisely, into a “tricycle” is capable of traveling 1300 kilometers or 500 kilometers on one tank of fuel. It has two motors. It is used for both flying and driving. It can move at 160 km/h (100 mph) or fly at 180 km/h. And can take off and land on the grass at a short distance. A flight plan is not required if the pilot keeps the aircraft within the boundaries of a commercial aircraft. The company said it has seen interest from a wide range of potential customers, including ranchers, law enforcement, border services and consumers. However, the $399,000 ($599,000 limited edition) price tag won’t be a solution for the average consumer any time soon.
Finally, classic cars and supercars. No, they are not durable, but they are really cool. From classic Volkswagen buses to McLaren, everything is on show in the B5 showroom. There is one exception. Siemens has converted an Orange County Helicopter (OCC) into a dual-drive electric motorcycle. I tried to steal it through the back door, but I got caught. I’ll try again before the show ends.
The authors and contributors of Tirias Research do not own any shares in any of the companies listed above. Tirias Research provides tracking and consulting services to companies across the entire electronics ecosystem, from semiconductors to systems, from sensors to the cloud. Members of the Tirias research team advise not just one of the companies listed above, but technology companies in the automotive ecosystem.
Post time: Oct-25-2022