Software control advances make EVs and PHEVs more fun to drive

System integration and software control expertise will help accelerate public acceptance of electric vehicles

The driveline in GKN Automotive’s All-Twinster Hybrid System demonstrator, the GTD18, is unlike many of the concept cars produced by Tier One automotive suppliers. Instead of just showcasing a new mechatronic system, the concept sets out to demonstrate advances in system integration and software control – advances that will be critical to automakers looking to take advanced hybrid and electric vehicles to the next level.

The GTD is capable of front-, rear- and all-wheel drive with torque vectoring and can demonstrate ICE, pure electric and hybrid driving modes.

A 280kW gasoline engine powers the front wheels with a 3600Nm Twinster enhancing the traction with up to 2000Nm of torque vectoring at each wheel. On the rear axle propulsion comes from a 120kW eDrive, GKN Automotive’s torque-vectoring eTwinster 2speed electric drive system. The eTwinster module can also vector up to 2000Nm to each wheel, while the two speeds mean it can provide power and regenerate energy at any speed up to 250kph (155mph).

Updates to the software control show how much is now possible using hardware already proven in production. The specific driveline architecture is unlikely to enter production: the GTD 18 is designed to demonstrate the impact of different products, architectures and functions on the driving experience.

Feedback from automakers is that the electric front-wheel drive mode with torque vectoring offers low-cost sporty cars – high performance C-segment models – a lot of benefits. GKN Automotive’s software control delivers behaviour similar to the cross-locking devices used on some sports cars and outstanding performance on split-mu surfaces.

The combustion-powered rear-wheel drive torque vectoring is best suited to high-performance executive models, impressing with its level of fun-to-drive. GKN Automotive’s software control uses the torque vectoring to manage oversteer and to give the driver a cool drift function.

The flexibility in the all-wheel torque vectoring is the main achievement, says Freiburg. The independent control of each wheel offers a range of opportunities for automakers to do more for their drivers.

It can be used to improve safety in slalom scenarios. As the system can manage more of the driving, only relatively small steering inputs by the driver are needed. In automated driving modes, it could help calm corners or stabilise the car without brake interventions.

Hardware innovations remain a key driver in electrification, but the power of driveline software control and system integration to alter the driving experience makes advances in this field critical. With the right software control and system integration, hybrid and electric vehicles unlock a different kind of opportunity for automakers and engineers.