48 Volt Power Supply: Survey Results
Traditional light duty vehicles run on a 12 volt power supply. However, as manufacturers continue to integrate more and more sophisticated features into their vehicles and environmental considerations intensify, the requirements on the power supply also increase. Recently, a discussion has ensued around a future 48 volt power supply and a number of German OEMs have rallied around it.
Automotive IQ surveyed our international contacts working in and around vehicle power supply and electronics to confirm the most important drivers toward 48 volt technology, discover the main obstacles and learn what areas have the most to gain from this innovation. Additionally, we asked respondents to let us know if their companies plan to change the amount of R&D spending on 48 volt technology in 2014.
Drivers of 48 Volt Power Supply
Our survey confirmed that the most important driver of 48 volt power supply development is the need to meet the increasing demands of E/E features in new vehicles (40% of respondents). Another 30% noted that more stringent global C02 fleet targets are a main driver. Some features aim to specifically reduce the environmental footprint of the vehicle such as the stop/start feature for traffic lights. In extreme cold weather, some 12 volt systems struggle to restart the car and a 48 volt solution is welcomed.
Outcomes with the Greatest Potential
The introduction of a 48 volt system is likely to lead to several outcomes including the creation of new standards. Our survey revealed that reduced CO2 is the most likely outcome/benefit of the upgraded power supply.
Inhibitors to 48 Volt Development
Overall, our survey revealed that the greatest inhibitor to 48 volt system development is Return On Investment (ROI) as 70% of those surveyed gave that answer. Looking specifically at OEMs, 3 out of 4 respondents answered for ROI. In in-depth interviews with experts, it has been noted that a further decision needs to be made whether to run tandem 12 and 48 volt systems or to develop a purely 48 volt system. The costs of the latter are likely to be significantly higher and therefore it is unlikely that a pure 48 volt system will appear in vehicles anytime soon.
Nearly 53% of those surveyed stated that their companies plan to invest at least marginally more in R&D on 48 volt systems in 2014 relative to 2013 spending. Interestingly, 81% of our OEM representatives will increase their R&D investment in 48 volt
Clearly there are a number of benefits to a higher voltage power supply system but there are still several areas for development including within wiring harnesses to ensure safety reduce size and weight. Some believe that 48 volt is merely a bridge technology to true high voltage systems and time will reveal whether or not the technology will provide a significant return on investment or if the manufacturers who are currently holding out will prove to be the wiser.
Will Hornick is the Managing Editor of Automotive IQ