McLaren Applied
Electrification Concepts

Electrification Concepts

As the sun sets on the internal combustion engine, the future of vehicle propulsion technology offers a thrilling set of engineering challenges and opportunities. Among the principal obstacles to bringing electrified powertrains into mainstream acceptance is the high cost, weight and form factor of the batteries and their associated packaging.

At McLaren Applied Technologies we’re exploring a number of advanced automotive engineering concepts to address these issues, based on our racing experience.

The Combined Traction Unit (CTU) is an advanced integrated powertrain, combining an inverter, two motors and a torque-vectoring gearbox installed as an e-axle. Just as multi-speed transmissions enabled internal combustion engines to achieve higher efficiency, having access to more than one gear ratio is hugely beneficial to an electric vehicle’s range and performance.

Incorporating two motors enables fully independent control of each of the two wheels – and the control function is integrated into a single unit, providing quicker torque-vectoring input responses because there is no need for multiple units to interact with one another. Not only does this improve safety, it occupies a smaller volume and frees up space within the car to fulfil customers’ expectations for accommodation and luggage space.

Since high energy density and high power density are mutually exclusive in battery technology, sometimes it is prudent for a car to feature two different battery specifications – for instance, a high-performance car requires more power density when the driver is exploring its potential on track. Our Voltage Control Unit (VCU) is a high-powered DC-DC converter that can sit between two voltage sources – such as a high-power battery and a high-energy battery, or the elements of a fuel cell, to provide one output that drives the rest of the system. In essence, the VCU acts as an enabler for sophisticated battery system specifications.

As wide bandgap semiconductor technologies mature in the coming years, electric vehicles will benefit from being able to attain higher performance while using less energy. Our DC-DC Converter Unit (DCU) performs the relatively simple function of stepping high-voltage inputs from the battery down to 48V and 14V to power all the ancillary electrical equipment within the car. The sophistication lies in the detail: we are investigating the use of galium nitride (GaN), a wide bandgap material that can eliminate the majority of the energy that conventional semiconductor technology loses as heat during the conversion process. This will significantly reduce the mass of the unit and open the possibility of air cooling, where traditional semiconductor based converters require liquid cooling.

The common denominator between all these concepts is efficiency: by enabling electric vehicle manufacturers and consumers to go further with less energy, we will accelerate towards the low-emission future.

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