Going the Extra Thousand Miles

Wilmer Companioni

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

The Future Is Now

It is coming. And it is coming faster than we can anticipate. It’s only a matter of time before we see people chauffeured around in cars that look and behave unlike anything we have today. No steering wheel, no “driver’s side”, no engine, but loads of technology. Our commutes to work or school will become a time to relax, unwind, watch a movie, read a book (or likely an e-book), or catch up on sleep. Autonomous vehicles will give us the greatest gift of all—time. Time that was previously lost to stopping and going, changing lanes, making turns, avoiding obstacles, navigating, and negotiating off ramps. Some studies have found that over the course of their working lives the average American will spend 61 days stuck in traffic. Two months! What would you do if you had two extra months back in your life? Pretty soon autonomous cars are coming to resolve that issue sooner than we think. I have an 8-year-old daughter. She will likely not have to learn to drive. More than that, she will not want to drive. Who wants that stress? She can just sit back and watch the latest interactive media experience over the 6G network on her iPhone 20 on her way to school. I welcome the machines. This vision of the future will be here before we know it and we need to be ready today with products and devices that can stand the demands of future technologies.

New Tech Needs New Mission Profiles

As it is right now, the average vehicle is on and driving for about an average of an hour a day. The rest of the time it just sits there. Waiting to be used. In engineering terms, we call that a duty cycle of only about 3.5%. In the future, the concept of a personal conveyance will be a thing of the past. Cars will patrol the streets automatically, waiting to be called to pick someone up for a trip. Very similar to how Uber works today, but instead of human drivers, the cars will control and drive themselves. In this future, the duty cycle of 3.5% will go up to nearly 100%. No rest, no downtime, no stopping. These cars will be operating 100% of the time. The mission profile of these cars will have to be drastically re-thought. Our current set of tests for characterization and validation will no longer be valid. Components that were previously robust enough for the traditional mission profiles will need a much closer look. The mission profiles that engineers use to test the robustness and reliability of autonomous cars will be much more stringent than the ones we use today. They will be re-imagined to reflect the nearly constant “on” time of tomorrow’s autonomous vehicles.

Taking Components to New Extremes

One of the current automotive requirements placed upon passive components is that they must survive without failures at a condition of 85°C, 85% relative humidity, for 1,000 hours. This test standard has been commonly used for many years and it has proven to be more than enough to get a strong sense of the relative robustness of components. KEMET is taking that to the next level. We have introduced new versions of our KO-CAP Tantalum Polymer capacitors that can go far beyond what has been expected of them. Our latest formulation of materials and construction techniques has allowed us to develop a 470 uF, D-case capacitor at 2.5 V. Even more impressive, the amount of cap contained therein has single digit ESR. Meaning, switching regulators, which are very prevalent throughout electronic systems, can operate more efficiently.

Our new devices not only exhibit extremely stable ESR under harsh conditions such as those put upon by autonomous vehicles, but they also offer additional robustness where polymer capacitors were previously vulnerable. Anyone that has used a polymer capacitor knows that exceeding the rated voltage is a major faux pas. They will fail almost instantly. This is no longer the case. We understand under certain conditions it can be very difficult to ensure transients never pass the rated voltage of the capacitor. Knowing that, our automotive-grade polymer capacitors have added robustness to withstand surge voltages.

As a reference, when the new automotive polymer capacitors are tested against the older mission profiles, it is obvious how by how much they exceed today’s requirements. When tested to older internal combustion engine mission profiles, our capacitors well exceed the requirements of the 8,000-hour profile. In addition, when tested with the new mission profiles for autonomous vehicles, 131,000 hours, they also show excellent performance.

Advancements Continue

KEMET will continue to expand our portfolio of ultra-robust automotive polymer solutions that are future-proof and ready for even the toughest challenges. You can learn more at: http://go.kemet.com/T598-2000hrs. Or if you’re ready to buy, you can do so here.