Since engines were first installed into vehicles, thermal management has been essential to efficient operation, powertrain longevity and occupant comfort. Ricardo is a proven architect in the design, development and optimization of vehicle thermal systems, creating the highest-level tools and processes that are widely currently utilized across multiple market sectors by our customers.

Traditionally, thermal engineers only focused on managing one primary source of heat—the engine, with approximately one-third of the energy from the fuel needing to be dissipated via the cooling system.

With the arrival of the first level of vehicle hybridization and electrification, Ricardo engineers recognized that a revolutionary approach was requir4ed for thermal management. Now, all the system components demand even more thorough and individual thermal consideration. Batteries must be either cooled or heated; e-machines need constant cooling; and with the new generations of Silicon Carbide and Gallium Nitride power electronics operating at higher powers and temperatures, thermal becomes one of the most dominant characteristics of the hybrid or completely electric powertrain.

Electrification adds additional challenges:

  • “3-in-1” e-axles, where the e-machine, power electronics and mechanical gears are packaged, provide a new dimension for cooling. Each item craves a unique fluid and thermal solution, which is neither a practical nor cost effective answer.
  • The rise of hydrogen fuel cells brings intriguing challenges—fuel cells are more efficient than engines but, unlike an engine where a fair amount of thermal energy exits down the exhaust pipe, most of the thermal energy needs to be directly cooled. During the past 20 years, Ricardo’s fuel cell integration labors have produced abundant innovative solutions to fuel cell cooling.
  • Rapid recharge of batteries is demanded by industry and consumers and the latest high-power charging systems can recharge batteries in a fraction of time compared to only a few years ago. Such high-power charging causes significant heat in the battery and power electronics with 45kW or more of heat needing to be dissipated from the vehicle while stationary. For example, there are no benefits of mass airflow through the vehicle.

From single- or two-phase immersion cooled batteries to direct oil jet cooling of power electronics and directing oil through rotors and stators, Ricardo is providing safe, efficient, integrated vehicle-level thermal management solutions tailored to address the future of the connected transportation space.