Connected Vehicle Ecosystem | Why do EVs need connectivity and what does it entail?

The importance of connectivity for electric vehicles

Connectivity is beneficial in all types of powertrains because it saves time, provides owners with the latest experience, keeps software current throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle, and helps prevent costly recalls and repairs. With electric vehicles, connectivity software plays an even larger role.

EVs depend upon software to function properly. For instance –

  • Software in the power distribution ECU regulates the power supply to all other components, many of which have different voltage requirements.
  • The charging ECU depends on a failsafe that prevents charging unless initial conditions are met, such as charging station type and vehicle compatibility.
  • Even the software in the inverter ECU, which is considered the heart of the EV, plays a crucial role in power conversion.

These are only a few of the 80+ ECUs found in EVs, all of which require connectivity to keep software updated and to identify potential issues. OEMs can benefit from a vertically integrated connected platform to access data from every ECU from vehicle production to decommissioning (DAU – Data Acquisition Unit). It would allow them to send vital software and firmware updates to optimise vehicle performance and increase longevity. Without connectivity, owners would need to return to the dealer every time an update was required. In addition, faults might go unnoticed for months or even years, leading to critical problems or permanent damage.

Connected vehicle stakeholders ecosystem

OEMs, dealers, charging networks, customers, fleet operators, regulatory bodies, insurance providers, financial institutions, banks etc., are all stakeholders in the connected vehicle ecosystem and can derive valuable inputs for their respective operations.

A June 2021 survey led by Nissan revealed that among European ICE drivers, 56% did not believe there were enough charging points to consider purchasing an EV. A similar sentiment is echoed by Indian consumers considering an EV purchase. Charging network providers can help improve charging accessibility if they have access to data on traffic conditions, route choices, battery range, terrain, destination popularity, where people stop, and for how long. Charging infrastructure planning needs this information to make sound decisions on station placement and quantity.

Similarly, battery manufacturers, third-party service providers, and vehicle owners are also in a position to gain. Connected data can reveal inconsistencies or faults, leading to battery design improvements. It can also help determine battery usage patterns of various electrical and electronic components such as wipers, seat sensors, AC usage etc. This can be further fine-tuned for better range and performance metrics. Third-party stakeholders, such as apps and in-vehicle service providers, can utilise data to anticipate customer needs future product demands and streamline their billing processes. Meanwhile, access to novel data points will help EV owners anticipate their route-specific charging needs accurately.

Improving vehicle safety and reliability

Traditionally, once a vehicle hits the road, it is out of the OEMs hands, and they remain blind to in-vehicle data until the owner brings it back with an issue. Manufacturers then have to troubleshoot the problem with what limited information they have. Since EVs are so dependent on software, this approach is no longer practical. With embedded connectivity, manufacturers can gather in-depth information directly from each ECU and implement failsafe responses without having to bring the vehicle back to the workshop.

Let’s look at an example from a data logging standpoint. There are hundreds of cells in a battery. Each cell can vary slightly in temperature, charging efficiency, and other factors that ultimately affect the functionality of the battery. With embedded connectivity, all this data can be collected from the Battery Management System (BMS) every 10 milliseconds and relayed to the cloud every minute. So if there is a fluctuation or malfunction in any of the cells, the OEM will know almost immediately. Let’s say the temperature of our battery thermal systems has risen above the accepted safety threshold. Once the cloud receives this information, it will send a message directly to the driver–either through the vehicle’s infotainment systems or directly to the owner’s mobile phone–warning them to power down and move to a safe distance until the cells have cooled. This type of warning mechanism helps prevent hazardous situations, like the engine fires seen in Chevy Bolts last year that resulted in a recall of 52,414 units and a possible monetary loss of over USD 330 million for GM.

Connected vehicle data processes

An embedded software solution takes troubleshooting to the next level in the form of vehicle-wide updates. OEMs can filter vehicle data in the cloud to see exactly which units require an update. OTA (Over-the-Air) updates are sent to the affected vehicles, where they await owner consent before being installed on the necessary components. Safety-critical updates come with an approval window. As these are vital to ensure driver and vehicle safety, if owner consent is not received within a certain period, essential updates will initiate themselves the next time the vehicle is in a safe and secure state.

Driving into the future with connected EVs

Many manufacturers continue to struggle with the basic building blocks of connectivity as their current systems restrict over-the-air (OTA) updates to infotainment and navigation systems rather than supporting a fully connected vehicle. This has left EVs and ICEs OEMs alike scrambling to adapt their current solutions or build new ones from scratch. Both options require an extensive commitment of time and resources. An easier way is to integrate an out-of-the-box embedded software solution. From initial design to final product and beyond, integrated data management and connectivity keeps EVs healthy, updated, and on the road longer.


About the Author

Shivalik Prasad serves as VP of Sales and Strategic Alliances at Sibros, an industry leader for deep Over-the-Air (OTA) connected vehicle systems for OEMs worldwide. He previously served as Executive Director and Board Member for MapmyIndia. He also worked at IBM New York as a part of Automotive Consulting Practice. Shivalik played an integral role in Sibros’ recent partnership with Bajaj Auto, which will now be running Sibros Deep Connected Platform™ on their fleet of Chetak electric scooters.

The article was originally published in EVreporter Feb 2022 Magazine that can be accessed here.

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