Delphi stays ahead of megatrends with ‘technology for the real world’

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Delphi’s wireless device charging system is designed to activate the moment a device is detected within the range of the charging pad and will fully charge the device at a rate comparable to most plug-in chargers.

On the road to innovation, Delphi tries to stay ahead of the megatrends shaping automotive industry developments. At an SAE 2012 World Congress media event played out under the company’s mantra of “Technology for the real world,” Delphi Chief Technology Officer Jeff Owens identified the megatrends as “safe, green, and connected.”

And while “everybody talks about innovation” in those terms, “not everybody can do it,” he said, speaking to media types and others, including about a dozen or so Delphi engineers, in a multitechnology display at Cobo Center in Detroit. “The real test is, can you bring innovative solutions to your customers? Can you execute complex technologies; can you have the technology ready to go when that car is ready to come off the assembly line?”

Delphi does that “exceptionally well every place around the world,” Owen said in answering his own questions. He noted that “last year, we were 95% flawless in our launch of all the complex technologies that we delivered around the world, and we did it at pharmaceutical-grade quality: two ppm [parts per million defects] out of our manufacturing facilities.”

That’s the kind of performance he expects out of the company’s global technical workforce of 17,000, about a dozen of whom were at their respective nearby technology displays while Owen delivered his remarks.

With 15 major tech centers, he continued, “we’ve basically localized our capability every place we do business around the world…so we can work hand in hand sitting right beside our customers to understand the nuances of their particular needs and the nuances of their particular markets.”

Among the technologies on display were two involving wireless energy transfer. One, targeted for MY2014, charges wireless devices such as cell phones and navigation units using magnetic resonance (MR) technology, according to Bob Fust, Global Product Line Leader, Data Connectivity, Delphi Packard Electrical/Electronic Architecture. Unlike conventional inductive charging technology in which the wireless device must be precisely positioned for charging, MR technology allows the device to be located some distance away from the source charging coil.

“I can place my phone in a cupholder and still be able to charge. That’s a pretty big enhancement” in terms of convenience and clutter over the use of cords and special bins and/or magnets to hold devices in a charging position, Fust told AEI.

The MR coil will be located out of view, according to Fust. Multiple devices can be charged at the same time, and customers may choose to install more than one coil for greater charging coverage throughout the vehicle interior.

Delphi began engineering on the technology in September 2010, before there was interest from OEMs, Fust said in relating to Owens’ remark about the company staying ahead of the megatrends. For its efforts, Delphi is now working with several OEMs. “We got a jump on where OEMs were going,” Fust said. There is no such technology on the market today, he added.

The larger separation between source coil and device enabled by MR technology for charging consumer electronics in the vehicle interior is also an advantage in the charging of plug-in vehicles. Delphi’s MR-based wireless charging system is much more forgiving than is inductive wireless charging systems in terms of alignment between the ground-mounted source resonator pad and the capture resonator fitted to the bottom of the vehicle.

Randy Sumner, Director, Global Hybrid Electric Vehicle Business and Technology Development, told AEI that an advantage of all wireless charging systems over the plug-in types seeing increasing use today is convenience, the former involving no plugs and cables. He said Delphi’s current technology involves a switch, but that in the future the system could be designed to turn on automatically when the car comes to a rest over the on-ground (or in-ground) source resonator pad.

The Delphi system can transfer 3.3 kW efficiently across air gaps in excess of 20 cm (7.9 in).

Sumner said Delphi expects deployment of the wireless chargers in MY2015 or 2016. He does not expect wireless charging to displace plug-in charging anytime soon and foresees vehicles in the future being equipped to accommodate both types of charging.

He noted that engineers at Delphi are making great progress in reducing the size of the in-vehicle capture resonator, which is important to automakers in terms of packaging.

The company’s new line of OCS connectors and terminals were also highlighted at the event. Connection integrity is ensured with OCS’s innovative component designs including low-profile connector locks, side-actuated connector position assurance locks with visual seat indication, and dual cantilever beam terminal contact geometries. Delphi believes these features will improve reliability issues in vehicles today, including connector disconnect and terminal continuity.

Delphi OCS connectors are available in sealed and unsealed versions for inline and device applications in multiple terminal sizes including 0.64 mm (0.03 in), 1.50 mm (0.06 in), and 2.80 mm (0.11 in). High-performing OCS terminals are available with Delphi-specific interfaces and proven crimp technology. The terminals are available in a wide product range of crimp sizes from 26 to 12 gauge.

Among the many other technologies displayed and discussed was Delphi’s aluminum cable, which offers mass savings of up to 48% vs. copper systems. This video goes into detail.

This AEI article covers Delphi’s thermal evaporator technology.

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