Why Use a Vehicle Control Unit (VCU) When Developing Your Electric Vehicle?

Melissa NewmanBlog, ECUs, Electrification

If there’s one thing everybody knows about building a good spaceship, it’s that it needs a command deck.

It’s no mystery why complex systems like spaceships of the future—and electric vehicles of today—should have some kind of centralized hub for making sure everything is running efficiently. Without a single point of control for data analysis, system feedback, and communications, there would be far too many opportunities for costly or even dangerous failures. 

Just as spaceships have command decks to prevent miscommunications and errors, electric vehicles have VCUs. 

What does a VCU do?

VCUs—vehicle control units—are essentially the command deck of electric vehicles. They’re control modules for centralizing all the communication channels and EV components such as the battery management system (BMS), onboard charger, traction inverter, driver interfaces, and more, so everything can function together smoothly and with as few opportunities for error as possible. You might be familiar with one of the VCU’s other names; eVCU, EV Domain Controller, or EV Supervisor.Get your electric vehicle production-ready with fewer headaches. Download the EV/HEV Feasibility Guide to learn how. Get the guide.

Why use a VCU when developing your electric vehicle?

VCU models like New Eagle’s EV Supervisor Template Library help developers build sophisticated vehicles without over-complicating the driving experience. But there’s more to it than that. Here are three reasons you should be using a VCU in your EV development.

It streamlines advanced in-vehicle communication 

If you don’t have expert knowledge of communication protocols, setting up a complex control system could be a long and daunting task. Although many components use the de facto Controller Area Network (CAN) for in-vehicle communications, some components use unique protocols such as J1939 or CANopen, which can feel like trying to speak and translate multiple languages at once without muddying the meaning. 

Employing traction inverters, VCUs facilitate communication across every electrical component, even when unique protocols are involved. This means engineers using VCUs can get all of their electric components talking to each other sooner.

It enables real-time end-to-end feedback 

Encouraging the general public to trust electric vehicles means EV developers must consider how to optimize the driver experience and ensure its safety. And right now, that means giving drivers a clear view into how their vehicle is functioning now — and how it will function 100 miles from now. 

There are a lot of factors electric vehicle drivers will want to keep in their mental rearview mirror as they’re driving. They want to know about power usage and range at all times, meaning the vehicle must be able to give constant accurate feedback so drivers can plan for recharging with confidence. 

It reduces time to market 

Speeding up your time to market means reducing complexity without cutting corners. This means taking advantage of as many out-of-the-box solutions as you can. While starting from square one may allow you more control over every detail and component, it will also seriously weigh down your timeline and bloat your budget.  

Off-the-shelf VCUs can come pre-programmed with software to interface with common electrical subsystems and powertrain components. This gives EV developers a head start on their project timeline, allowing them to jump right in using validated OEM caliber-level software instead of waiting for custom-made elements.

Control modules for the future

Off-the-shelf, customizable VCUs like New Eagle’s EV Supervisory Controllers -GCM48, RCM112, RCM80, and GCM196 are designed to provide the kind of communication systems and processing power needed to oversee your EV’s control functions. Paired with New Eagle’s EV Supervisor Template Library, they provide a full hardware and software solution that can get your vehicle on the road fast.

To learn more about New Eagle’s VCU options, contact one of our knowledgeable sales representatives.  

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