SMT007 Magazine

SMT-Mar2014

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March 2014 • SMT Magazine 11 The way i See iT ray rasmussen is the publisher and chief editor for I-connect007 Publications. he has worked in the industry since 1978 and is the former publisher and chief editor of CircuiTree Magazine. To read past columns, or to contact rasmussen, click here. ELEcTrIc carS arE ThE FUTUrE continues they don't pollute, directly. Their sources do, mostly coal and natural gas, but the rest don't unless you consider nuclear and its very long term, long life to be pollution. But an electric car powered by mostly wind, hydro or solar doesn't pollute, and it doesn't contribute to the U.S.'s need to keep petroleum supply lines open in the Middle East. It actually does contribute to the stability of the long-term U.S. energy pic- ture. It's a beautiful thing. What does this mean to us in the PCB and EMS industries? Not too much since more and more electronics have been added to ICE power trains over the years. Instead of ICE controllers and sensors, electronics in electrics will control and monitor AC motors, the transmissions and the batteries. The brake controllers will be a bit more sophisticated because of the regenerative braking. Electronics for safety and entertain- ment will likely progress along the same path as ICE electronics. Adding solar into the roofs of electric cars, which Ford just announced it will be doing, will contribute a bit more electron- ics, as well. I think we just need to be aware of what's coming. Will companies like Tesla emerge as major automakers in the coming years? One company already in prime position with Tesla is Viasystems, which makes all of the PCBs, as- semblies and battery buss bars for Tesla's cars. What about Fisker and BYD? Warren Buf- fet made a large investment in BYD a few years ago. They plan a bunch of new electrics in the coming years. Fisker is building a high-end Tes- la-like car. For our industry, it's more about the winners and losers. When the industry shifts to electrics, who will be left standing, and are they on your customer list? Check out this concept car from Rimac. They're calling it a "supercar." What we also see happening, as batteries improve, is a move away from gas-powered tools. Laptop batteries did a lot to advance this market. There are entire companies now build- ing lines of outdoor power tools to replace gas- powered lawnmowers, trimmers, blowers, etc., and you'll see more and more electric motor- cycles and bikes hitting the streets. They're working on electrics for planes (manned and unmanned). They're a lot quieter and more re- liable. Dyson, the vacuum cleaner maker, be- lieves that their new battery-powered vacuum cleaner, the DC59, could potentially replace corded vacuums—it cleans that well. All these products need electronic controls. That's where we come in. There is another major impact of the elec- tric car, which isn't being discussed too much: its impact on the fossil fuel industry. Combined with solar, the predictions are that within the next 10 to 15 years, many utilities will be out of the power generation business. That's the pre- diction in a new book from Stanford University lecturer Tony Seba. As the cost of solar drops, solar electricity will continue to be integrated into the energy mix. As consumers and busi- nesses alike choose to lower their energy costs by installing solar panels, there will be a con- tinual decline in the need for utilities to provide energy, relegating them to maintaining the grid as opposed to providing energy. Electric cars ac- celerate the consumer's move to residential so- lar systems since they help justify the system costs by offsetting the high price of gasoline. It's an interesting transition and we get a front-row seat in watching this transition from fossil fuels to an all-electric economy based on renewable energy. conclusion Electric cars don't just offer an alternative form of fuel like diesel or hydrogen; the tech- nology is disruptive. The dramatic reduction in fuel costs, the way the fuel (energy) is distrib- uted and the simplification of the entire power- drivetrain is a game-changer. That's why, once we get the batteries in place, the shift will hap- pen almost overnight. Buying an electric car, for most, will be a no-brainer and in many cases "free." We certainly live in exciting times! That's the way I see it. SmT

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