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Hybrid thermal management

By autotech-nic on May 3, 2018

As an intermediate step towards pure electric, there are a growing number of vehicles that utilise hybrid technology, requiring a different approach to the service and repair of their air conditioning and thermal management systems.

For passenger cars, the term hybrid encompasses three classifications: micro hybrid – a standard car equipped with a start/stop function, mild hybrid – a car equipped with an electric motor to ‘boost’ performance, and full hybrid – a car able to rely solely on electric power, but which still has an internal combustion engine.

While micro hybrids still use a 12-volt system, both mild and full hybrids vary between 42 to 150-volt, so great care is required when undertaking work. This can only be carried out by personnel who have been made aware of and trained in the dangers of these high-voltage systems by a certified ‘electrical technician for high-voltage systems’. Furthermore, it is essential that tools which meet the specifications of the hybrid vehicle manufacturer, are used.

During an air conditioning check and service, it should be noted that the electrical air conditioning compressors are not lubricated with the common PAG oils. These do not have the necessary insulating properties, which is why POE oils are generally used.

When looking at the air conditioning system itself, technicians will be familiar with the conventional mechanically driven compressor that is directly dependent on the operation of the engine. However, although the compressor in a micro hybrid vehicle remains driven by a belt, the start/stop function causes a problem because when the vehicle comes to a halt and the engine is switched off, after just two seconds the temperature at the evaporator outlet of the air-conditioning system begins to increase. The associated slow rise in the temperature of the air blown in by the ventilation and the increase in humidity, can be annoying for passengers.

To tackle this problem, cold accumulators, or storage evaporators, have been developed comprising of two blocks – an evaporator and an accumulator. The air conditioning refrigerant flows through both blocks in the start-up phase or when the engine is running. In the process, a latent medium in the evaporator is cooled until it freezes.

In the stop phase however, the compressor is not driven and the warm air passing the evaporator cools and heat is exchanged. This exchange lasts until the latent medium has completely melted. Once the engine restarts, the process begins again and after just one minute, the storage evaporator can start cooling the air again.

By contrast, in very warm weather, the only way to maintain interior cooling for vehicles that do not have a storage evaporator, is for the engine to be started again after a short standstill time, somewhat defeating the emission/fuel saving benefits.

In full hybrid vehicles, the internal combustion engine is switched off during electrical driving. The residual heat in the water circuit is only sufficient to heat the interior for a short period. To provide aid, electrical positive temperature coefficient (PTC) heating elements, which take over the heating function, are employed. The principle is similar to that of a hairdryer, as the air taken in by the interior blower is heated as it passes the PTC elements and then flows into the interior.

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As this specific example makes clear, continuous education is required for technicians to be able to maintain and repair the complex thermal management systems found in these vehicles, which is why Behr Hella Service, supplier of thermal management solutions, has introduced its Advanced Training Academy (ATA).

Although the academy focuses on giving technicians essential updates on the technical developments of the HVAC system, it is also designed to refresh their memories on existing challenges and highlights industry best practice.

Head of Business Development for Behr Hella Service, Steve Hudson, says: “This is a really exciting initiative for the workshop, as it solidifies their knowledge concerning the current systems – making them more confident in their abilities – and also teaches them new things about technologies they may not have yet come across, such as the hybrid examples here.

“In addition, there is a host of technical information and advice available via the HELLA TECH WORLD website which will help them with practical tips and instruction.”

The ATA training is available through motor factors, so workshops need to let them know their requirements and they will liaise with Behr Hella Service. However, to register interest, technicians can complete the online form found here

The Behr Hella Service portfolio comprises over 7,500 references and covers all manner of components from compressors to Visco® fans. Grouped under two headings, the Premium Line range extends to around 4,500 part numbers and is sourced from OE manufacturers, while the remaining 3,000 references form the basis of the Standard product range, which is produced to OE specifications.

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Autotechnician is a magazine published nine times a year, delivering essential information to independent garage owners and technicians in the UK. Delivered both digitally and in print, autotechnician provides readers with technical, training, business advice, product and news, allowing our readers to keep up to date with information they need to run and work within a modern workshop.
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