Sunday 18 August 2019

Forget going battery electric, says Continental, the real future is in the hydrogen revolution

Tomorrow's world

On the way: Next-generation stability control technology allows vehicles to communicate with each other and share information such as road conditions
On the way: Next-generation stability control technology allows vehicles to communicate with each other and share information such as road conditions
Continental has teamed up with Osram to create a smart digital headlamp containing more than 8,000 LEDs

Cathal Doyle

Despite being heavily involved in developing electric vehicle technology, automotive giant Continental has suggested that hydrogen will be the long-term solution to replace internal combustion engines.

Dr Felix Gress, Continental's head of corporate communications and public affairs, said that while fuel cell technology is not yet ready, within the next decade it will become increasingly relevant especially in long-distance passenger cars and trucks.

Battery technology will continue to have its limitations, he said, and will not generate enough range for some people's needs.

The major developer and supplier of automotive components has been showcasing new technologies we can expect to appear in cars relatively soon.

But for now, at least, the focus remains firmly on battery technology development.

Some of it is starting to appear in cars already, including 48-volt drive systems that make it possible to drive longer distances on electric-only power.

Up to now that has only been possible using high-voltage drive systems.

They tell us the mild hybrid system costs around 25pc less than other and offers 20pc better fuel consumption and emissions compared to combustion engines.

Also on the go now is the world's first fully-integrated, high-voltage electric axle drive for mass production, with 120kW and 150kW power outputs.

Safety system advancements include a fifth generation radar system that can identify if a cyclist is pedalling up on your blindside in traffic.

It can make an emergency stop if you are indicating to turn into the cyclist's path.

PreviewESC is the next-gen electronic stability control.

Vehicles communicate with each other to share information such as hazardous road conditions ahead, and if necessary can automatically trigger a braking pulse if the driver is approaching the hazard too quickly.

You'll be able to see better in the car of the future too.

Continental has teamed up with Osram to create a "smart digital HD headlamp" that uses more than 8,000 LEDs.

Most cars at present have no more than a couple of hundred.

Developments in infrastructure include using smart sensors to create intelligent intersections that can, for instance, warn a driver of concealed pedestrians or other more vulnerable road users, while Intelligent Street Lamps can guide a driver to the nearest available parking space.

We're starting to get used to digital cockpit displays, but how about a 3D instrument cluster that works without the need of 3D glasses to really bring your satnav to life?

Other technologies being developed include a more intuitive smart voice assistant, windows that can darken at the push of a button, driverless shuttle buses and the first series electric vehicle to have solar cells in its body.

But you can't talk about Continental without mentioning tyres. One exercise highlighted how grip levels differ on new and partially worn rubber.

Using the same cars we undertook an acceleration and braking test on a wet surface using the same premium tyre but with differing tread wear.

Setting a benchmark figure of 20.3 metres braking distance on brand new tyres, it took 2.1 metres longer for me to stop on tyres with 3mm tread depth.

It took a whopping further 3.8 metres - a total of 27.2 metres - before I could bring a car with 1.6mm (the legal minimum tread depth) tyres to a halt.

Food for thought for anyone looking to eke the last few miles out of their tyres.

Irish Independent

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