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31 Jul 2020

Powertrains and Electric Vehicles: An Introduction for Mechanical and Electrical Engineers - Part 1

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Skill-Lync

Powertrains and Electric Vehicles: An Introduction for Mechanical and Electrical Engineers. 

This article is an introduction to what electric powertrain controls are and why it seems to be picking up the pace. We will then move on to look into how we can upskill ourselves in this regard. 

Once we get the basics down, we will look into what are the trends in powertrain followed by an insight into electrified propulsion and how it is disrupting the automotive sector, especially in India. 

What is Powertrain? 

Powertrain basically refers to a train through which torque or power flows, starting from the engine and ending at the wheels. Although power and torque are two completely different things in physics, the term has been kept the same due to the conventional practice.  

The powertrain, also known as torque train, starts to form the engine and ends at the wheels passing through the bell housing, transmission, driveshaft, and differential.  

You should note that there is some amount of loss in the torque as it passes through each of the components above. Hence, the torque at the engine and the wheels are never the same. 

Disruptors of the Electric Vehicle Industry 

Robert Anderson

The Scottish inventor Robert Anderson was the first person to invent an electric vehicle. He made the world’s first electric vehicle all the way back in the late 10th century. This goes to show how old and historic the ideas of electric vehicle technologies and concepts are.  

Chetan Maini

Chetan Maini is known as the father of the electric vehicle industry in India. His startup created the first electrically powered automobile in India called Reva Electric from scratch. This idea, which was way ahead of its time, was later acquired by Mahindra & Mahindra.  

Presently, Chetan Maini is developing and building infrastructure for charging stations for electric vehicles.  

Alex Severinsky

Alex Severinsky is known as the modern godfather of electric vehicles because he invented the power split electric vehicles architecture that is used by hybrid electric vehicles like Ford Escape. 

Early Electric Vehicles 

Although the concepts and rudimentary technology of electric vehicles arrive in the 1890s and the early 20th century, it was not until about 2015 that we saw a significant boom in EVs on the roads. This delay is mostly due to the slow development of battery technology.  

In the early days of electric vehicles, the battery efficiency and capacity were very low that made electric vehicles expensive and unreliable. This drawback helped the fossil fuel industry race ahead in the competition.  

Fast forward to the 21st century, and battery technology has seen a tremendous advancement. This, combined with the immediate necessity to adapt greener solutions to combat climate change, has made the electric vehicle the go-to for those looking for cost-efficiency, luxury, and better user experience. 

Indian Automotive Market 

As the carbon footprint of countries becomes larger, their resources start to deplete. It also results in extensive global warming and climate change. 

We are at the tipping point in terms of climate change, and government officials across the globe are starting to realize this slowly. Although most governments do not significantly understand the consequences of climate change, the Indian Government is be pushing forward with electric vehicles.  

The introduction of regulations like Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric (FAME) Scheme is a good push for EVs in India. Moreover, electric vehicles are charged 12% Goods and Service Tax (GST), while other internal combustion engine passenger vehicles incur about 29% to 53% GST.  

Electric vehicles still have a long way to go before becoming the single most passenger vehicle segment in India because of the other challenges they pose. For example, the waste disposal methods for batteries, reliable charging ports, and recharging infrastructure and more have to be innovated. However, EVs have begun to coexist with internal combustion (IC) engines on a larger scale.

Emissions and EVs 

As the laws become more stringent and favourable towards reducing global warming, global carbon dioxide emissions are also likely to decrease.  

The grams of CO2 emitted per mile due to electric vehicles is a staggering 60% lower than that emitted by internal combustion engines. This number is only bound to improve even further as battery and automotive technology advances.  

All the tier 1 and tier 2 Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) like Mahindra & Mahindra, BMW, Tata Motors, Ford, Toyota, General Motors have to function in a way that they can meet the 2025 EU target for the grams of carbon dioxide emitted per mile. 

Technology Trends 

There are four disruptive technology-driven trends: 

  1. Electrification
  2. Connectivity and IoT
  3. Diverse mobility
  4. Autonomous driving

Electrification is the first step that is followed by the rest. All the four steps, however, are not mutually exclusive. They wrap around each other and create a loop that complements the entire process. 

Why Should You Upskill in Electric Vehicle (EV) Development  

The world of electric vehicles is very vast and diverse. In layman terms, an electric vehicle is like a huge smartphone with many electrical components on wheels that carries people and goods around with high efficiency.

The development of an electric vehicle involves people from the automobile, electrical, and electronics industries to work together on a common project towards a common goal. Hence, it is a multi-disciplinary approach.  

In fact, the electric vehicle industry will not predominantly require automobile engineers; instead, it will actually call for automobile engineers who are upskilled or are willing to upskill themselves in the electrical and electronics engineering domain.  

Furthermore, EV development requires skilled personnel in battery technology, control systems, and validation. This drives home the point that the development process of an electric vehicle requires many engineers of different backgrounds. 

In Closing

With EVs rapidly rising in popularity across the world, engineering freshers can benefit from an in-depth understanding of the features and techniques behind this green technology. You can read part two of this series - here.

Check out Skill-Link's flagship course - the Post-Graduate Certification in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Design and Analysis. Students who enrol in this program will study in state-of-the-art purpose-built study centres-the skill centres, which are currently operational in Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. Students will have access to individual workstations where they will work on industry-standard projects; students will also have access to workshops conducted by industry leaders and will have a chance to be mentored by them.  

Take a virtual tour of the Skill-Lync Skill-Center at Chennai in this video - Skill centre video.


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Akhil VausdevH


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