Innovation and electrification: preparing for the future, now

By 2030, 15 percent of vehicles around the globe will be powered by electricity – 20 percent if you include hybrids, says Jeff Lowinger, president of Eaton Corporation’s eMobility. “That’s a big change over the next ten years,” especially considering the number of battery-operated vehicles he estimates are on the road today – one to two percent.

As prices of electric vehicles fall, their growth will only accelerate, Lowinger predicts. “People will become very supportive of electric vehicles,” setting the stage for an unprecedented increase in sales of the battery-operated cars.

It’s a market that eMobility – created to take advantage of Eaton’s core strengths in power electronics and distribution protection systems – is positioned to capture as a supplier of electric car products to auto manufacturers.

The business, which officially launched in March 2019, supports customers in Asia, Europe, India, and North America, and focuses its engineering, manufacturing, marketing and technology expertise on a future where electric vehicles will be commonplace.

Products range from converters that change a battery’s higher voltage to one that’s lower (for in-vehicle entertainment systems, for instance) to intelligent power distribution systems that keep track of how power is consumed in the car. They also manufacture protection devices that detect dangerously high voltage levels to prevent electrocution, and transmissions for electrified buses and medium-duty trucks, among other electric car products.

How will electrification impact the auto industry?

In a way best described as transformational, Lowinger says. “Only companies that get out front of electrification will win the race, while others will continue to struggle,” especially as we change the way we use cars.

“Today, you might put 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year on a vehicle,” notes Lowinger. But in a future with more autonomous and shared driving options, cars may be driven as many as 120,000 miles a year. “The lifespan of the vehicle will have to significantly increase to support [increased mobility options] over the coming decades,” a feat for which electric cars are much better suited.

Indeed, a family of five may rely on one autonomous vehicle to get them back and forth. “The car drives you to work, goes home, takes the kids to school, goes back home,” before it’s used for errands, and return trips to school and work to bring everyone home.

Generational differences will also play a role. They are already: “[Younger people] don’t care if they own a car, but they like to have weekend access, and are more than happy to have fractional [shared] ownership, especially in an urban environment.”

Lowinger will be the keynote speaker for the Center for Advanced Automotive Technology’s (CAAT) 2019 conference, “Is Electrification the Future?” on Friday, May 10, 2019 at Macomb Community College. He’ll talk about innovation within the new technologies, how quickly the market will adopt electrification, as well as the need to develop new skills, to the mostly academic audience.

“Today, adoption rates can be very quick,” Lowinger says, citing the 17 days it took Pokemon GO to reach 50 million users as an example. As far as electrification, “the time is now and the acceleration of this industry is coming. … How do you get prepared for this and are we really training the next generation properly to take complex solutions to market?”

Higher education must rethink current engineering curriculum, he says, suggesting more cross-training and less calculus, perhaps four semesters instead of two. And companies should also cross-train their employees to round out traditional engineering skills.

Businesses that do are in a better position to win in the market. “Don’t always look for the perfect individual to support [the new technologies. Assume the employees] have learning agility, and they will figure it out.”

Jeff Lowinger, president of eMobility with Eaton Corp. will speak at the CAAT Conference on May 10.

Photo of Jeff Lowinger courtesy of Eaton Corporation.
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