The development of new vehicle technologies, and their eventual adoption, is a long road with multiple challenges—some predictable, others not. The path of electrified vehicle development has been no exception.
The single shot fired by Toyota with its original 1997 Prius has grown into a fusillade of hybrid competitors in 2012. Recent figures show how hybrids are becoming part of the global auto industry’s normal product-development strategy. An April 2012 feature article in SAE’s Vehicle Electrification magazine showed 12 OEMs currently producing 58 different hybrid nameplates for sale in the 2012-13 model years. In addition to the hybrids, one battery electric vehicle (EV), the Nissan Leaf, and one plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), Chevrolet’s Volt, soon will be joined by a growing current of new EVs and PHEVs during 2013-2015.
Clearly a new technological paradigm has emerged, but it will take time for the transition to take place. Economies of scale must be achieved, and technical advances made in energy storage and distribution. Consumer acceptance of hybrids and EVs must rise, and costs reduced, for electrified vehicles to be sold at high volume.
An interesting twist to this trend is that the technology supposedly being supplanted—the internal-combustion engine—also is getting more efficient in response to the same environmental regulations, public concerns, and escalating fuel prices that are driving hybrid and EV development.
The conclusion: moving forward means full charge ahead, often with multiple technologies competing in the same markets. Amid this steady revolution, engineers responsible for developing the technology require cutting-edge information on a daily, sometimes even hourly, basis. The demand is so intense there is no time to waste looking for bits and pieces in different places.
The need for comprehensive information
“Today’s development engineers are tasked with a formidable goal: converge mechanical, electrical, and chemical knowledge into vehicles that are reliable, economical, and fun to drive, using a completely new propulsion technology,” observed Michael Thompson, Manager of Electronic Publishing at SAE International.
From SAE’s ongoing dialogue with its members, the need for comprehensive information—available on a cloud-based platform and accessible 24/7—became obvious.
“All the conversations we had with engineers, who were knee deep in the business of vehicle electrification, highlighted the difficulty of finding the right information quickly, without having to go from site to site, and back to a traditional library,” Thompson explained.
These extensive voice-of-the-customer exchanges made it clear to Thompson’s team that a focused product, bringing together SAE International’s regular content with that offered from other respected sources, would be welcome to the market, he noted.
This led SAE International to create its new Global Technology Library (GTL) concept. A series of dedicated databases, which zero in on very narrowly defined “information verticals,” they bring together a mix of technical papers, industry standards, books, magazine articles, expert input, patent reports, international and domestic regulations, and news.
The first GTL to launch at the end of June focuses on ground vehicle electrification. Built from the ground up using agile-development techniques, with multiple interactions with industry-based testers, SAE’s GTL-EV is a unique subscription product.
“The objective we always kept in mind was: make it simple, make it meaningful, make it work,” said the product’s technical editor, Ben Scheiner. To achieve that goal, the GTL-EV automatically links document references to the original documents, cross-references related technologies, and allows for collaboration and sharing among end users. It is also updated daily.
According to Thompson, his SAE team learned a lot from its conversations with engineers. Their predominant message was, “Good information is valuable, and the faster they have access to it the better,” he said.
Momentum from the GTL project opened the doors to creatively engage other publishers, who also saw the value in being visible and available to an information-hungry community of engineers worldwide.
“The content-acquisition strategy was based strictly on quality and fitness to purpose,” said Scheiner. The search for content partners was based on the input from the future users of this database. From that perspective, it made sense to look for content covering competitive and market intelligence, legislation analysis, patent information, technical presentations, and multiple sources of news feeds.
For the launch, SAE International has secured various strategic partnerships, with providers such as Bloomberg BNA, InterRegs, SupplierBusiness, Advanced Automotive Batteries, The Patent Board, Honda, Cars21.com, and ABOUT Publishing.
“We continue to look for new opportunities to bring valuable content to the product. This is only the beginning,” said Thompson, who is responsible for the full suite of Global Technology Libraries.
SAE International’s overall initiative will continue to produce new “verticals,” all based on customer demand and detailed market-gap analysis. Credit the growing electrified-vehicle space for sparking the need.
For more information on the SAE Global Technology Library, Electric Vehicle edition, contact Michael Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monica Nogueira, SAE International Content Acquisition Manager, wrote this article for the SAE magazines.