LINcast U.S. Episode 9: The Future of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles

LINcast host Gabe Duverge is joined by Pierre-Luc Lapointe, Project Manager of the Mechanical Division for Innovative Vehicle Institute and Aris Khechen, Account Manager for LINAK Canada. The group recorded live at the Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo 2019, discussing the latest advancements in electric and autonomous vehicles.

Prioritizing safety for trucks and mobile agriculture equipment.

Full Transcript

Gabe Duverge: Hello and welcome to the latest episode of the LINCast, a LINAK podcast featuring conversations, exploring research and innovation behind actuation solutions. We are improving people's quality of life and working environment through smooth and reliable movement. My name is Gabe diverge and today we have a special episode.

We're recording live from the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo just outside of Detroit, Michigan and I'm joined by two guests here today. The first is Aris Khechen. He's an account manager from LINAK Canada out of Toronto. Aris, thanks for joining us.

Aris Khechen: Thank you for having us.

Gabe Duverge: And Pierre-Luc LaPointe, he's the product manager from Innovative Vehicle Institute out of Quebec. Thank you for joining us Pierre-Luc.

Pierre-Luc LaPointe: Thanks for having me.

Gabe Duverge: Yeah, absolutely. So this is a very interesting show. We're recording and talking about electric vehicles and Pierre-Luc thanks again for joining us. I wanted to start with talking to you because I think you're coming from a very interesting background where your organization IVI, they're actually a nonprofit. If people who are listening were not aware. And we were having a little bit of conversation before the show, before recording and about how interesting it is the work you do. So if you could, you know, let the audience know about your background and your company's background in some of the work you do.

Pierre-Luc LaPointe: Yeah, of course. I'm a mechanical engineer. I've been working with IVI for the past nine years now. My worked on different kinds of projects. From complete electric vehicle integration, to batteries, motors, and drive trains. So IVI is a nonprofit we are associated with a college in Quebec. So we have some funds from the government, but most of our funding is true projects with actual customers. So those guys, they, plan to do R&D with a purpose. So, we're really more into the applied research and the spectrum. So we do work with different clients that want to put vehicle in the road, vehicle in the market, right. And yeah, it makes for very interesting projects. So we have worked with school buses, with litter pickers, and with motorcycles.

Gabe Duverge: Wow.

Pierre-Luc LaPointe: It's really a broad range of vehicles and it goes from the very small to the very big like city buses.

Gabe Duverge: Yeah. There's quite a quite a variety.

Pierre-Luc LaPointe: Yeah, exactly. So it makes for a very interesting and very exciting project.

Gabe Duverge: Yeah. You always have a different challenge, I'm sure. And Aris, I know it's pretty interesting how LINAK and LINAK Canada got involved with IVI. Could you share some of that? Cause I think that's a cool story.

Aris Khechen: So it was about, three years ago, so I've been with LINAK for four years. IVI contacted us through our online portal. They were inquiring about our actuators for an autonomous lawn mower. And so they wanted to adjust, the blades essentially. So they were looking for something compact that, if I remember correctly, it was located under where the seat would be. And I don't think that this was a project that, that was meant to be commercialized by any means. But it was more to showcase what, what they're doing and the future of where this headed to? I remember seeing a video afterwards where, where it was taking care of a whole as soccer field on its own. So it's pretty impressive and I can't even imagine how it's gonna be 10 years down the road with all these new applications. And I think that IVI is, going is definitely a good a segment to be in. I mean, as we can see at the show here, it's.

Gabe Duverge: And I definitely wanted to talk about that. We were just talking before we recorded about the future of electric vehicles, how that coincides with the growth of autonomous vehicles, both on highway, off highway in farms and everywhere. So Pierre-Luc, what have you seen walking around the show? What are some of the unique applications? You've seen anything that's kind of caught your eye, that kind of illustrates where this, where you think this industry is going?

Pierre-Luc LaPointe: Yeah I believe the main thing I've noticed this year, compared to the previous year I was at the at this show, is how mainstream the electric vehicles are becoming. In the sense that it's not anymore a matter of are we able to do it. It's, when are we doing it? Which platform are we focus focusing on? Which ones are the priority? So which ones are going to come first? It's really the change we've noticed this year. So there's so many battery manufacturers, backers, right? Robotic cells for batteries, activators of all sorts, all kinds of drive trains as well. So big companies are stepping in. It's not like a marginal market. It's growing. The main focus of many major companies. So that's the main difference this year compared to the last time I came.

Gabe Duverge: Absolutely even, you know me being a layman and watching, walking around the floor, a lot of names, I recognize a lot of names I think any person in any house would recognize, and it seems like all types of people or all types of companies of all different sizes are in this industry and it's completely growing in unique ways.

Pierre-Luc LaPointe: Yeah, exactly. So that's probably the biggest focus is now you have so many options to choose from compared to even two years ago. It was difficult to find a drive train for heavy duty vehicles. Now big companies are stepping in, there's many options and the same thing with all the different components. Now it's easier for integrators to select whatever components you need and be able to have a complete system. So it really changed. That's the main difference.

Gabe Duverge: What do you think, you know, we've been talking a lot about what we'll see in 10 years, you know, where this industry is headed. What do you guys think are the roadblocks, the biggest challenges that need to be solved to get to this future where everything is electric or we have autonomous things included in that?

Pierre-Luc LaPointe: Well on the electric side that the cost is always a major driver. But this year there is a lot of focus on types of batteries. So the next generation after the lithium-ion we are seeing now. So there's a lot of focus on that. And there's the charging solutions as well. So, we add the level one charger and then level two, level three came along the way with 50 kilowatt. And then people are talking now 150, 300 kilowatts and what are going to be the impacts on the electrical networks? So the electricity suppliers are going, are they going to be able to support those kinds of applications, those fleet of vehicles that are coming, we're talking megawatts of power for a fleet of trucks or school buses and it's becoming a problem.

The substations might be too small to power them. And so those are the next few roadblocks. On the electric side. The autonomous vehicles are a bit trickier because it's always about safety. Are we going to cover all the different scenarios you can expect on the road that's not a given. So I believe what we're going to see like pretty soon are specific applications, so field, off-road where there's a constraint or space where you can apply those techniques be able to do it safely. So I believe that's going to be the first real autonomous applications.

And then on the road we are going to see more driver aid. That Tesla self-driving. So those are still driver assistance in the sense you cannot leave the, the steering wheel and fall asleep despite what you may have seen on the internet. So hopefully you're still aware of, of course surroundings. So I'm eager to see what's going to happen in years. It's difficult for me to, to have a different answer for on-road vehicles, it's so complex.

Gabe Duverge: So it seems you're even dealing with legal problems at that point.

Pierre-Luc LaPointe: Yeah. So for sure it's going to change and just shake the industry all over again.

Gabe Duverge: For the farmers out there. There'll be seeing it much more before we see it.

Pierre-Luc LaPointe: I believe so, yes. So I believe those are the types of applications, factories as well. So there's a lot of robotics. Of course these AGVs are a big thing now.

Aris Khechen: Yeah. We have a few projects going on in Quebec. I'm sure there's more across the globe. That's definitely a segment we're getting more requests for. I think not even in the next 10 years it's sooner than that. Again, with the current projects we're working on, in various industries, again, not on road, but for anything that's off road there's a massive push to electrification and autonomous vehicles.

Gabe Duverge: It definitely makes a lot of sense. So as I think, you know, what, what is most exciting you guys about, you know, what's happening in the industry, where would you say is one thing in particular that you're most excited about?

Aris Khechen: I think just the, you know, the, the innovation aspect to it, the, the, the whale to, to change, uh, the technology to something that is a seemingly cleaner, uh, and hopefully it will, again, I mean, what a peer Luke was mentioning about the power requirements, uh, down the road. I mean, who knows what the impact of that will be. Uh, hopefully still better than the current, you know, engines and gas that we were using. Right, right. But who knows, right there. Of course, a lot of docs, uh, behind that and you know, the batteries and all of that. But what's really exciting, yeah. It's just, uh, that, that will, uh, to before for that, uh, cleaner or those cleaner solutions and, and more efficient and, and uh, I mean the modern, yeah. The modernization of this whole, uh, applications and like this whole industry. So yeah.

Pierre-Luc LaPointe: Yeah. I think the most exciting might be there's a border need of these for those who are willing to push into electrification. There's business supporting entity opportunities. So we're at the turning point where for some companies or for delivery companies. They are thinking about switching part of their fleet electric of course, because the incentives or the total cost of ownership begins to make some sense for them.

So for the bigger scheme of things, the planet and all that, I believe it's good. It's going to drop emissions if those major companies are pushing to electrification. So it's both ways we can push for greener transportation, but at the same time it's a business opportunity and it drives down the total cost of ownership from the fleet.

So it's a win-win situation. We all benefit from it. It's just to put those solutions in place, it takes some time and effort. It's easier to replace an existing diesel vehicle with the same model from the same manufacturer. Right, of course. But yeah, if you're willing to put the time in and study the electric solutions, you might already find something that's going to benefit your company and that makes for very exciting and budget it is for everyone.

Gabe Duverge: Yeah, absolutely. It definitely feels like we're getting there. And with that, I think we will wrap this up. This has been incredible conversation and thank you so much Aris and Pierre-Luc for joining me today. And I hope the audience enjoyed it as well. It's been great being here at the EVT expo and we hope that you'll listen to any future podcasts we have. You can explore more topics on electric vehicles and all kinds of other applications at linak-us.com.

About Pierre-Luc LaPointe

Pierre-Luc Lapointe graduated in mechanical engineering at Université Laval. He has many years of experience in multidisciplinary digital simulation (structural, thermal and fluid analysis via finite element and 1D multidisciplinary analysis on vehicle dynamic behavior and energy efficiency). His fields of interest are lithium-ion battery modeling and dimensioning, particularly the influence of various parameters such as temperature, electric current and voltage levels on the service life of accumulators). He currently works on mechanical power transmission for the dimensioning and control of different types of transmission (CVT, hydrostatic, automatic and automated manual transmissions). Pierre-Luc joined ITAQ in January 2011.

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