Goodwood Festival of Speed 2022 Highlights

Article By : Nitin Dahad

Highlights from Goodwood Festival of Speed, with technology highlights from Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz, McMurtry, and Molicel.

If you want to see the future of automotive technology, a good place to look is in the world of motorsports technology. The Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K. provided that venue last weekend. This year, some 200,000 car enthusiasts and motorsports fans spent four days ogling over a vast array of both combustion engine as well as electric Formula 1 cars, supercars, hypercars, vintage cars, as well as watching their favorite cars aim to break the record on the famous Goodwood 1.16 mile hill climb.

Goodwood track-McMurtry
The McMurtry car at Goodwood (Image: McMurtry)

We were pleased to have had a chance to speak to the people behind one of the record-breakers on that hill climb, the McMurtry car. A common theme for McMurtry and others I spoke to was around power, torque delivery, optimization and efficiency, battery cell technology, weight reduction. That is not surprising given that the ultimate goal for many of these cars is to go as fast as possible, and with more and more fully electric cars, to get maximum power and performance, as well as range, from the battery cells.

So that’s why an event like Goodwood FOS is not just for the enthusiasts. With car designs becoming large electronics systems on wheels, it’s the advances in the electronics and powertrains that make a difference. For example, this year Mercedes had its VISION EQXX electric research vehicle on show, after just completing a 1,202 km journey from Stuttgart in Germany to Silverstone in the U.K. on a single battery charge. I spoke to the engineering team to understand the design and challenges.

In this article, I’ll take you through the topics important to some of the executives and engineers I spoke to responsible for the engineering and technology, based on conversations with Lamborghini, Mercedes, McMurtry, and Molicel. Others will follow in future reports from Goodwood.

Lamborghini: The path to electrification, supercapacitors and ML

Lamborghini CTO Rouven Mohr explained to EE Times Europe the various aspects of the company’s technology strategy. In our chat, we covered everything from Lamborghini’s electrification strategy to supercapacitors, and how machine learning in their cars would provide an extremely personalized driving experience.

Goodwood FOS 2022 Lamborghini CTO
Rouven Mohr, CTO of Lamborghini, with Nitin Dahad. (Image: Nitin Dahad)

The path to electrification was already outlined last year, and Mohr reaffirmed, “This year is the last year of celebrating being only combustion engine. Starting from next year we have our company strategy called Cor Tauri – the path to electrification. We start next year with the first plug-in hybrid car, and then at the end of 2025 we have a full range of plug-in hybrids, and then later on in the decade we will have the first full electric car that we are already working on.”

On supercapacitors, he said a few years ago they had launched a limited series car which had used a supercapacitor to enable increase in power delivery, and how they had worked together with MIT on developing this. He commented, “We strongly believe this could be a good combination between the high power density of the supercapacitor and the high energy density of the battery. The combination of both could open some doors in the future, so we are still investigating the potential.”

Mohr was keen to emphasize the increasing focus on hardware and software in cars, and the ability to draw on the resources of its parent company for its development. “In the future, it will be more and more mandatory that you have the right electronic architecture in the car combined with the right software. Therefore, we have a big advantage because we are part of the Volkswagen group and in the group we have really strong electronic development, and with the new software company Cariad, so for sure we have the full availability of all the state-of-the-art electronic architecture as a backbone.”

“Nevertheless, for the human interface, we can also define our own necessary requirement, that a Lamborghini is really a unique Lamborghini. But if you think about the cars of the future, to have the right electronic architecture, that will be the success factor of the future.”

On the communications and network infrastructure in the car, he added, “If you think about performance cars, and you want to use the full potential of the reactiveness of the electric motor, for sure you come to a point where the communication can be the bottleneck and to avoid this you need the proper setup regarding the architecture and also regarding the communication speed between the different control units. This is one of the differentiation factors for the future. In the past, you can imagine that the size of the fuel pump was decisive. In the future, the electronic network makes the difference.”

Mohr also talked about using ML for learning about driver behavior and automatically adjusting for it. He said, “ADVI is our intelligence in the car that controls all the dynamically relevant functions like rear wheel steering, torque vectoring and so on.  And to be honest, in the future, we will even invest a little bit more on this because if you speak about machine learning, for instance, you can imagine that you have a control unit that even understands your driving style and adapts the reaction of the car, especially to individual driving style. This can be very cool.”

Looking behind the Mercedes VISION EQXX 1,200 km trip on a single charge

Meanwhile, among its cars, Mercedes-Benz was showing its VISION EQXX, which beat its own efficiency record in real-world driving with a 1,202 km journey on a single battery charge. In April, the research vehicle achieved this on a road trip from Stuttgart, in Germany, to Silverstone, in the U.K. The key to achieving this was the innovative thermal management system, which helped achieve an average consumption of 8.3 kWh/100 km in the face of heavy traffic and summer temperatures.

Goodwood FOS 2022 Mercedes VISION EQXX
The Mercedes-Benz VISION EQXX (Image: Nitin Dahad)

The challenges of summer temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius, paired with increased traffic density around Stuttgart and in the southeast of England, meant that cooling and the thermal management system was critical. The efficiency of the electric drive unit meant it generated only minimal waste heat. This helped keep the thermal management system extremely small and lightweight. The carefully engineered interaction of aero-shutters, coolant valves and pumps ensured the electric drive unit maintained the most efficient temperature balance at minimum energy cost.

It encompassed a combination of innovative air-flow management and a cooling plate installed in the vehicle floor, enabling it to take advantage of the air flowing along the underside of the VISION EQXX. This is the most aerodynamically efficient way of keeping the electric drive unit cool under normal conditions, allowing an increase in range of around 2% in the most aerodynamic mode.

Goodwood FOS 2022 with Simon Cawthorne - Mercedes
Simon Cawthorne, Mercedes AMG (left), with Nitin Dahad (Image: Nitin Dahad)

I spoke to Simon Cawthorne, head of hybrid technology at Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP). He explained some of the challenges and how they managed to get the efficiency that enabled this long-range trip on a single charge.

He said, “So we had a powertrain [target] efficiency of better than 95% battery to drive shaft. We had to go all the way back to scratch to think, ‘OK where can we get that from?’ We looked at our Formula E experience which we have a lot of experience from, and AMG Project One and Formula One. We’ve taken technologies from those, re-reviewed a lot of new technology that we hadn’t done before, and packaged them all together to achieve that 95%. We also worked with our colleagues in Stuttgart with a new motor and gearbox development and packaged the whole thing together.”

I also asked about some of the details on the powertrain and battery management. Cawthorne said, “On the inverter drive, we’ve worked with partners such as onsemi with silicon carbide MOSFET, and taken our known technology from AMG One and matched that with that technology from Formula E. In the battery, we’ve done a lot of work with Analog Devices, using some of their base components and new development components as well to deliver a powertrain.”

“The battery system includes active balancing. EQXX is the first car to run active balancing, and we’ve had some really good benefits seen already with that system. Beyond just getting it working.”

“A lot of it [our innovations] was around really detailed design component selection, which is difficult in this day and age at the moment with difficulty with component availability. We’ve used a thing called the Eaton breaktor which is the first time that’s been used in a vehicle, so we’ve had a close relationship with them.”

“To hit those targets, to hit less than 10 kilowatt hours per 100 km has been a massive achievement, both from an aerodynamics and a powertrain electronics perspective, so that has been a real combined effort from both teams.”

It’s all about the battery cells

On the Sunday, the outright hill climb record was broken by the McMurty Spéirling car, driven by Max Chilton in 39.08 seconds. This was significant because the official record had not been broken since Nick Heidfeld set the standard back in 1999, with the VW I.D. R coming close back in 2019 when it set a time of 39.9 seconds in qualifying.

McMurtry Automotive is a British electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer backed by entrepreneur Sir David McMurtry. In 2016, he asked a team of former Formula 1 engineers to design and build the ultimate high-performance car, which was revealed to the public at Goodwood last year (2021). The company makes a point of reimagining what a car design should look like, starting with a ‘clean sheet design’, from first principles (rather than following what processes had been followed before). The result is a fully electric, compact vehicle designed around the twin goals of driver engagement and vehicle performance. The purpose of the Spéirling is to “herald a new era of electric track capability, hasten wider EV development and showcase McMurtry Automotive as EV innovators for road and track cars”.

Part of that design process is in choosing the right battery cell technology to deliver the required capacity to deliver performance and range. At Goodwood, we spoke to both the engineer responsible for this as well as Molicel, the battery technology partner that is working with McMurtry to push the limits of power and energy density for the McMurtry car.

First, Kevin Ukoko-Rongione, chief engineer at McMurtry, explained how and why the relationship with Molicel came about. “Right at the outset of the project we thought it was very important to have batteries that would offer very good power and very good energy density. We wanted high capacity, high power delivery from cells. This would be key to achieving the highest performance car. Normally you either go with lots of cells specializing in doing high power or some others are high energy, so we wanted one that would do both.”

“We looked at all the cells in the market. We tested all the cells from all the biggest manufacturers in the world and what we found is that even though many manufacturers would claim that they would be able to do a certain capacity, after testing them on the test bench and after about 50 cycles, that capacity would be completely degraded. So, it would start at a capacity of 10 and would end up becoming 6 after just 50 cycles. Whereas Molicel, the capacity with which they started, after 50 cycles, there was still very high capacity, much higher than the other cells. So that’s why we thought, we need to use Molicel because it’s not just what the car can do after you charge it the first time, it’s how the car performs six months down the line, a year down the line, and Molicel gave us just the best durability.”

He added, “Since starting this technical partnership with Molicel, we’ve been able to work very closely together, and they’ve given us a very good overview of all the new chemistries and the new cells that are coming in the next few years and it’s been amazing to see how quickly they’re working, how fast they’re developing their cells, or the chemistry inside the cells is just evolving so quickly.

“And the cell which we have at the moment is a cell that was available a year ago. We’re going to replace a cell with a new cell that’s coming out at the end of this year and just by switching to that new cell, even though the weight, the mass will be the same, the power delivery will be the same, but we will increase the capacity by up to 15%. And we’ve also started working on the road car and working with Molicel, we’re able to see what cell is coming next year. And what cells will be available for us when we launch the road car. And just by knowing that we can already say we know that the road car will have a 25% improved capacity, so that’s just extra range without any weight penalties and still being able to deliver the same power.”

McMurtry used Goodwood FOS to announce its strategic technical partnership with Molicel, working together on a number of new projects to advance new cell implementation. At the event, Casey Shiue, president of Molicel, told us, “We are focused on making high power and high discharge, high charge and also high energy density batteries. We truly believe that the meaning of energy is not to store it, but to transfer it more efficiently. That’s why we focus on high power.”

Goodwood FOS 2022 Molicel - Casey Shiue
Molicel president, Casey Shiue (Image: Nitin Dahad)

Shiue also explained what differentiates the Molicel battery cell technology, compared to say Tesla. He said, “As everyone knows, Tesla applies the NCA (nickel-cobalt-aluminum oxide) cylindrical cells. We also use the NCA as the cathode material. But something [makes us] extremely different. They are focused on the energy, while we are focused on the power. We can be in the same level of the energy density, but we do hope that our cell can provide more energy in the shorter time and can be charged faster.”

Talking about the McMurtry car, which has over 6000 cells to provide the performance achieved at Goodwood FOS, Shiue added, “We hope that this kind of the car is not just produced in ones or twos. We truly believe that this kind of the car can be produced in over hundreds of thousands so that everybody can use [this technology]. Of course, the zero to 100 acceleration in less than 1.5 second is a little bit crazy, but we believe that this kind of the car is much more environmental and green than rest of the ICE (internal combustion engine) supercars.”

Asked to explain why it is greener, he said, “Think about this. When the batteries are charged fully, they can easily achieve really high speed like the 250 or 300, and the driving range can be long, but without any emission of the carbon, that’s key. On top of that, our cells can generate less heat. Because with high power – we have just the 50% of the resistance compared with cells other car makers use, so less heat, and less carbon emission. Everything is green, with no trade-off on performance.”

This article was originally published on EE Times Europe.

Nitin Dahad is a correspondent for EE Times, EE Times Europe and also Editor-in-Chief of embedded.com. With 35 years in the electronics industry, he’s had many different roles: from engineer to journalist, and from entrepreneur to startup mentor and government advisor. He was part of the startup team that launched 32-bit microprocessor company ARC International in the US in the late 1990s and took it public, and co-founder of The Chilli, which influenced much of the tech startup scene in the early 2000s. He’s also worked with many of the big names—including National Semiconductor, GEC Plessey Semiconductors, Dialog Semiconductor and Marconi Instruments.

 

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