A new type of round pin electrical terminal, high-voltage connection systems, and other technologies essential for hybrid and electric vehicles are a new focus for Lear Corp., as it expands its research and product development into the growing vehicle-electrification arena.
"We established at our Southfield, Michigan, campus a center of excellence specifically for hybrid and electric vehicle applications. Lear currently has more than 200 engineers dedicated to working on vehicle electrification globally and 120 of them are here in Southfield," said Ray Scott, Senior Vice President and President of Lear's Electrical Power Management Systems.
Within the past 18 months, Lear has developed an assortment of charging systems, high-power distribution systems, and energy management systems. Many of the products will launch later this year.
"We've been very specific about which components and systems are core to our business going forward as it relates to vehicle electrification," Scott said.
The development of round pin terminals is a dramatic step beyond what can be handled by a conventional electrical terminal.
According to Aftab Khan, Vice President of Global Hybrid Engineering, "An in-vehicle terminal did not need to be durable beyond 20 cycles since the terminal was typically only unmated during vehicle servicing for diagnostic reasons. But with an electric vehicle, the need to charge the car necessitates a very durable terminal."
Instead of only two points of contact, the round pin terminal has several points of contact. "There is also a canted coil spring, and it has many small points that touch—that's why the insertion force is so little," explained Khan.
Lear engineers claim the company's patent-pending round pin terminal is capable of handling up to 600 A and durable to more than 10,000 cycles.
Under the high-power distribution product umbrella, Lear has developed a connector that is also a power distribution box. "We stamped the fuses into the blades of the connector and that eliminates the box," Khan said.
Lear engineers also are working with conductive plastics to negate electromagnetic interference (EMI). "Conductive plastics can replace aluminum housings for chargers, for power distribution devices, and for battery disconnect units," said Khan.
He noted that systems integration is a major focus of the company's design activities in the area of energy management.
"We're already working on the prototypes for integrating a DC-DC converter, a traction inverter, a battery charger, and a high power distribution box, which saves on the electrical components that are inside as well as saving weight and reducing the packaging size," said Khan.
The speed of change is reshaping things that have yet to reach a vehicle application.
"We're already on our third generation of technology improvements and packaging improvements, and yet we're just getting ready to put the first-generation product into production. It's a very fast pace for EV technologies," Khan said.