Havelaar provides greener and cost-effective powertrain technology for electric vehicles. Image Credits: buffaloboy / Shutterstock.com
Canada-based company Havelaar recently garnered international attention for its game-changing powertrain solutions for all-electric vehicles by being named on the prestigious 50 to Watch list from the Cleantech Group.
The company’s all-electric powertrain technology also won this year's Commercial Vehicle Cleantech Challenge, a competition for viable, low-carbon logistics solutions.
According to Havelaar, one of the most prominent features of its award-winning technology is the elimination of a heavy on-board charging system, which is commonly found in other all-electric powertrain solutions. On its official website, the company says this lower weight translates to fewer parts, superior performance, lower cost, and greater vehicle design possibilities.
Havelaar also notes that its powertrain solution has a larger range than other electric vehicles thanks to its H-150 inverter, which transforms direct current coming from the car’s battery to alternating current that is needed to drive the vehicle. The company also says its energy recapture system used to recharge batteries during braking is superior to that of other systems.
All-electric powertrain solutions becoming increasingly more efficient are crucial to the success of this emerging industry. Commercially viable electric vehicles have been under intense scrutiny since they debuted in the early 2000s, with the idea of preferring an electric vehicle over conventional alternatives being somewhat politically charged.
As all-electric powertrain systems evolve and offer greater commercial competition as a result, the all-electric vehicle will be seen less as an esoteric, politically charged option and more as a viable option for the average person.
Developing a Next-Generation, All-Electric Powertrain
Havelaar is the brainchild of Tony Han, who says he chose a career in all-electric vehicles after witnessing the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. Han says the impact on Japan’s electrical grid and the related hardships inspired him to develop more sustainable forms of transportation through the establishment of Havelaar.
In 2017, the company unveiled its prototype – an all-electric pickup truck called Bison. The truck has a dual-electric motor and all-wheel drive. It is capable of driving around 300 kilometers on a single charge.
The truck was developed through a partnership between Havelaar and the Electric Vehicle Research Centre (UTEV) at the University of Toronto, where Han attended graduate school. The partnership continues to focus on developing all-electric powertrain technology, as well as energy management and autonomous driving solutions.
The defining aspect of all-electric vehicles is a powertrain driven by an electric battery, not a combustion engine. The standard approach to developing electric powertrain technology is to focus on a battery linked to a conventional voltage converter, which can limit research to incremental steps. To extend the range of electric vehicles, the UTEV-Havelaar partnership takes a more holistic approach to advancing powertrain technologies.
One aspect of that approach is the development of better power electronic converters. The Havelaar converters allow the linking of energy sources, including renewable energy sources, to an electric vehicle. These electronic converters facilitate cost-effective EV charging and can have a considerable influence on the features and range of all-electric vehicles. According to UTEV, the efficient integration of driving and charging topologies can decrease the need for power electronic converters in all-electric vehicles.
Another fundamental focus of the public-private partnership is expanding charging infrastructure, which is necessary for the greater adoption of these vehicles. Better charging infrastructure means more charging stations and improved onboard charging systems. The UTEV-Havelaar partnership focuses on leveraging this aspect of its system for electrical grid support applications, which can increase value for customers. Influenced by the massive power outrage Havelaar founder Han witnessed after the 2011 Japan tsunami, the charging system being designed by the company is intended to be used as grid support on a large scale.
A third core focus of the public-private partnership is energy storage technology. Research in this area is also essential to the greater adoption of all-electric vehicles. Superior battery technology means extended lifetime and range while opening up further capacity.
UTEV has spoken about its comprehensive plan for taking batteries from scrapped all-electric vehicles at the end of their lifetime and repurposing the batteries for second-life applications.
The battery inside an electric vehicle must be powerful enough for the vehicle to achieve a range expected by consumers. Key developments in battery technology have drastically improved energy density while keeping costs manageable for an all-electric vehicle. However, the lifetime of these batteries can surpass that of an electric vehicle. UTEV has said it is working to develop ways to utilize electric vehicle storage technology for the entire lifecycle of the battery. Once its main role in an electric vehicle has been completed, the battery could be used in second-life applications such as supplying backup energy to remote communities, offering support to the electrical grid and mitigating issues caused by the natural fluctuations coming from renewable sources such as solar and wind. These secondary applications allow for the most return on investment on the costliest part of an electric vehicle - its battery.
The UTEV-Havelaar collaboration is also concentrating on autonomous vehicle technology. According to UTEV, the electrification of cars offers a unique opportunity for the development of autonomous vehicles, with the efficient integration of autonomous operation offering superior performance and safety for all-electric vehicles.
Heading Down the Road with All-Electric Vehicles
The electrification of passenger vehicles is about much more than transportation and clean technology. It presents a distinct opportunity to expand the use of personal transportation.
Through its partnership with UTEV, Havelaar has envisioned the all-electric vehicle as a platform that can be leveraged to introduce a whole new range of possibilities, particularly as a source of power and power storage. The all-electric vehicles of the future won’t just take you to work or family. They may provide grid support in the event of a natural disaster or a place to store excess electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind turbines. Or, they may be able to offer a strong source of mobile power that will enable all kinds of uses.
References and Further Reading
The Powertrain Reimagined. Havelaar. https://www.havelaarcanada.com/products-1
Electric pickup truck developed by U of T grad on display in Markham. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/electric-pickup-truck-developed-by-u-of-t-grad-on-display-in-markham-1.4138734
University of Toronto Electric Vehicle (UTEV) Research Centre. https://www.ece.utoronto.ca/research/centres/university-toronto-electric-vehicle-utev-research-centre/