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Automotive energy efficiency lies in motor control

20 Dec 2013

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Electric vehicles can become more energy-efficient if their motors are modified to maximise torque power out and minimise power in, according to Texas Instruments' Chris Clearman. He utilises TI's InstaSPIN-FOC motor control solution to demonstrate enhancements that reduce energy usage and help contribute to the global effort in energy conservation.

A great deal of attention is paid to energy efficiency much of it centred on smart buildings, smart cities and individual contributions to improve energy consumption. In reality, electric motors are the single biggest "consumers" of electricity in the world and they should be the first place we focus our efforts to optimise and conserve.

One of the top things I hear from customers is, "How can I make my motor system more efficient?" Well, that's a very broad topic that actually starts with the motor and inverter design. But from the control side the first thing you have to recognise is that to control the efficiency – power out divided by power in—you need to adaptively maximise torque production (power out when it's required) while minimising the current necessary for the motor to produce that torque (power in).

Efficiency is the fundamental purpose of field-oriented control (FOC) and the specific enhancements we have created with our InstaSPIN-FOC solution:

  • Precise alignment of the stator field in relationship to the rotor field to maximise torque production capability of the motor design
  • Precise current controlled magnitude of the stator field, adaptively controlled to precisely meet torque production requirements (either directly or requested from a well tuned velocity or position controller)
  • Allowing for proper design and sizing of motors to the application
  • Precise control of the flux of the motor to allow for high torque density motors which can be controlled to high speed through field weakening when required
  • High speed motors – which today use thicker magnets for a larger air-gap to create very low inductance motors to achieve voltage stability for simple control techniques – can be built more economically by using thinner magnets (smaller air-gap, more inductance) and FOC.
  • Stable control of the magnetising current of induction motors which allows for adaptive control of the rotor flux to meet only the exact torque requirements for any specific speeds or loads. Essentially allowing you to adaptively re-size your motor in real-time to meet the application demands!
If more control system designers can be empowered to implement these efficient techniques on more motors—combined with properly designed and sized motors and inverters – we just might have ourselves a magnetic revolution.

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