INDUSTRIAL INFO-TAINMENT Wiring Harness News SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2022 31
Ensuring Wire Harness Connection Reliability in Electric Vehicles
Wire harnesses in cars are often compared to the human body ’ s circulatory and nervous systems : Both are responsible for transmitting critical energy , signals and information . Utilizing 5G , AI , and IoT technologies , tomorrow ’ s electric vehicles ( EVs ) and autonomous vehicles will send more signals , process more data , and make more decisions , than ever before . The average car features more than seven hundred connector assemblies that support thousands of individual terminals and this number is expected to increase to over one thousand connectors in the next few years with the addition of these new technologies . This poses OEMs with a new set of engineering challenges and added risk as a new potential point for failure arises with each additional connector added to a vehicle .
In EVs , high-current connectors are required to transfer power from the battery to the motor . Charging station plugs are another example where the reliability of high-current connectors are crucial to the operation of hybrid vehicles and EVs . When it comes to EVs and increasing autonomy levels from advanced driver-assistance systems ( ADAS ) to full autonomy , these failures can result in much bigger issues than just a quiet radio . Traditional mechanical and hydraulic systems are being replaced with electronically controlled systems like brake-by-wire and steer-by-wire technology . Connectors also play a critical role in transmitting a wide range of electronic data and control signals that are required for safety features like pedestrian detection , lane departure warning , automatic emergency braking , and blind spot detection – all of which must operate without a hitch .
The failure of wire harnesses in EVs can pose safety issues , increase recall and warranty costs , negatively affect technology adoption , and impact brand reputation . Therefore , preventing connector failure should be a top priority for design engineers . Corrosion , fretting , water intrusion and high insertion force are all factors that can lead to connector failure . Luckily , all these issues can be prevented with specialty connector lubricants .
Protect Against Corrosion The automotive environment challenges even the highest quality connector . Corrosion protection will become even more important as EVs and their components often get higher usage and are expected to last longer than vehicles with traditional internal combustion engines .
Many connectors in EVs must survive heating and cooling cycles as well as water , road spray , and road grit . Power mirrors , door locks , and other external systems are exposed to rain , snow , and car wash detergent solutions . High levels of humidity can also threaten connector performance between door panels .
All of these conditions are catalysts for oxidation and corrosion , which create resistive oxides and in turn result in intermittent faults or electrical failure . Connector grease acts as a seal to protect connectors against water , dirt , and other corrosive elements that can lead to power failure . For automotive assemblies , a connector grease with good water washout and salt spray properties are recommended .
Reduce Insertion Force
When a thin layer of grease is applied to a connector , it reduces friction between the connectors which eases mating . If mating force is reduced , it puts less physical strain on assembly workers — keeping the manual assembly force within the legal limits set by OSHA and reducing the risk of work injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome that may occur when repeatedly mating connectors with high force . Insertion force isn ’ t just a problem on the assembly line , high insertion force can also negatively impact the quality of connections . Even though most connectors have a locking mechanism , high insertion force can prevent proper mating , resulting in increased electrical resistance or a separated connector . A properly selected lubricant lowers insertion force by decreasing the coefficient of friction between mating surfaces . It reduces mechanical wear by placing a film of oil between the mating surfaces . Lower insertion force ensures solid connections and reduces the physical strain on assembly line workers , which can reduce worker compensation claims .
One of the most common reasons for electric connector failure is fretting corrosion – when electrical ter-
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