We all have a general understanding of how a vehicle works, whether it utilizes a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) method of propulsion or is a newer electric vehicle and utilizes a battery-driven method of propulsion. We can talk pistons and battery packs at a surface level, but for many of us, how the vehicle actually works is still a bit mysterious. A few months ago, we ran across a great resource (noted below) that showed how an ICE engine functioned using some pretty cool and easy to understand animations. So, we started looking for other examples of cool automotive animations. In this month’s article, we spotlight some pretty great resources that utilize helpful visualization tools related to the function of modern vehicles.
The Detailed Workings of the Internal Combustion Engine
This article, found on a blog by Bartosz Ciechanowski, provides some really great illustrations of how an ICE vehicle engine functions. One of the really cool aspects of the animations found in this article is that they can be rotated to enable viewing from different angles or perspectives. This allows the viewer to really see the way an engine functions from a 360˚ viewpoint.
And, the article doesn’t just show animations of an ICE engine in action, it also dives deep into the specific functional aspects of its different components. This includes piston operation, cylinder design, crankshaft function and more. As each component is addressed, additional illustrations are provided to fully explain its function and interaction with other components. Overall, we found this blog article fascinating, very informative and definitely worth a look.
Automatic vs Manual Transmissions
Just like the surface level knowledge that most of us have when it comes to internal combustion engines, most vehicle owners aren’t experts on the details of transmission design and function. Sure, we know that depressing the clutch disengages the transmission on a manual vehicle, allowing the gear to be shifted, but do we really know what that means? We also know that an automatic vehicle does not require the driver to depress a clutch to charge gears, but do we know what the automatic transmission does to replace that step? For most of us, that answer is a great big no.
Here is a YouTube video from Lesics that uses detailed animations to show the differences between a manual transmission and automatic transmission. And, when we say detailed, it really is detailed. The manual transmission animation starts with the basics and then begins layering in additional components to fully explain its function. Similarly, the automatic transmission automation breaks down the design concepts of the planetary gear and how it is incorporated into automatic transmission architecture as well as clutch pack function. For anyone wanting to gain a greater understanding of these systems, it is a great animated video.
EV Design Concepts and Functional Strategy
Like the ICE engine and transmission, we all understand that EVs derive their motive power from a large battery pack that is tied to an electric motor or motors. Yet, for many of us, that is where our understanding of the process ends. What kind of motor does an EV use? How is the motor controlled? What are the details of that battery pack?
Fortunately, the folks behind Lesics have also published several animations related to EV operation. This first video takes a look at the original Tesla Model S design, examining the entire powertrain, from the battery pack to the wheels. It starts by explaining the working principles of the induction motor. It then reviews inverter function, detailing how the inverter commands and controls the induction motor. Finally, it details the battery pack, noting how the individual battery cells are arranged as well as the steps taken to ensure that the battery pack does not overheat. Like the above examples, the animation in this video provides excellent detail to better understand these complex concepts.
The Rapid Evolution of EV Components
One of the things we can say about electric vehicles is that they are speeding up the innovation cycle for all vehicles, ICE and EV alike. When it comes to EVs, five year old technology is ancient. As a case in point, Tesla has already deployed a next generation electric motor in their recent model year vehicles, replacing their old-style induction motor with an IPMSynRM motor, which delivers both greater efficiency and improved torque. This video, also by Lesics, breaks down the differences in the two motor types and identifies the engineering challenges that had to be overcome in order to successfully bring this new motor technology to market. We’ll warn you that this video gets pretty deep into the weeds, but it is also very educational and informative.
One of the key technologies found on hybrids and EVs is regenerative braking. This quick video from Bosch outlines the general concepts around regenerative braking. While it is not as detailed as the other resources above, the video does a good job of showing how the energy created from the braking event is fed back through the electric motor (which has now taken on the role of generator) for conveyance to the high voltage battery. It also does a good job of showing how the regenerative braking system and traditional friction braking system work together on these vehicles.
Many of us are visual learners, where seeing a model or diagram that illustrates a concept really helps us process information and understand it better. Next generation animation technologies, combined with video and blogging platforms, have made it easier to generate media rich content that includes really cool and illustrative animations. These animations can make it much easier to grasp complex concepts, such as those related to vehicle operation and system component function. Internally here at Clore, we have found the above resources to be really helpful when it comes to helping our team better understand vehicle operation. We hope that you found them as interesting and helpful as we did.