Analysis

100 Years Of Electricity In The Car

15th October 2013
Jacqueline Regnier

One hundred years ago, Bosch brought electricity into the car: a generator launched in 1913 powered the “Bosch-Licht,” the world’s first automotive lighting system. In the years that followed, the generator increasingly became the automobile’s power station. Today, it supplies power to things such as the car radio, power windows, air-conditioning system, and safety systems such as ESP(R). Now, in the Bosch boost recuperation system, it delivers 10 kilowatts of power to support the combustion engine, allowing a fuel saving of as much as 15 percent. “Bosch is turning the generator into a motor. In this way, we are making hybridization affordable. The Bosch boost recuperation system is a hybrid everyone can afford,” says Dr. Rolf Bulander, member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH. What makes this possible is a new form of hybrid based on appropriate components and a 48-volt on-board network.

Up to now, the standard has been 12 volts, with the generator tending to work in the background: a gray cylinder, hidden deep in the recesses of the engine compartment, driven via a belt by the engine’s crankshaft. Yet without the generator, the car as an everyday means of transport would be inconceivable. There would be no headlights for driving at night, no wipers for driving in the rain, and no electrical starter – the engine would have to started by crank handle.

Explosive mixtures give way to the touch of a button
In the early days, the generator was a means to an end: driven by the engine, it was intended to generate the power needed to operate electric automotive lighting. Prior to this, carbide lamps were the preferred solution. But long-distance drives using these lamps were a tiresome affair: they had to be extinguished when driving through many towns. This meant igniting the carbide lamps anew.
Things were simpler with the Bosch automotive lighting system, which could be switched on and off at the touch of a button. The first generators were launched in 1913, complete with headlights, regulator, and battery. The generator became an indispensable power station for all the electrical consumers that make today’s driving safer and more comfortable.

Generator for electromobility
One hundred years after the launch of electric headlights, Bosch is taking the development of the generator a decisive step forward: it is being transformed from a power supplier to part of the powertrain of an affordable entry-level hybrid. “The Bosch boost recuperation system makes the economical hybrid powertrain affordable in the compact class as well,” says Dr. Rolf Bulander. Apart from a more powerful generator, the system comprises a scaled-down lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 0.25 kilo-watt-hours, and a 48-volt onboard sub-network.
This innovative Bosch powertrain component brings four functions together in one system: recuperation, boost, start-stop, and coasting. The fuel saving that can be achieved is as much as 15 percent, with a further 10 percent possible in real operation when coasting with the engine stopped. The 48-volt onboard network quickly and efficiently stores the surplus energy generated when braking in the lithium-ion battery. On demand, this energy is returned to the generator, which then acts as a supplementary motor.

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