NXP Aims New Motor Control MCU at Software-Defined Vehicles
NXP’s S32M2 IC enables software reuse across a variety of small vehicle motors, such as fans, pumps, sunroof openers, trunk openers, and more.
Seeking to offer improved performance and efficiency for denser EV integration, today NXP announced the latest member of its S32 platform: the S32M2. The new chip builds off of previous generations of NXP automotive silicon and offers designers a new method of bringing the performance and versatility of software-defined electronics to electric vehicles.
The NXP S32M2 brings computing and analog hardware into a single package, allowing designers to scale both hardware and software to fit a variety of applications.
As EVs become more prominent, many engineers are discovering new problems that didn’t previously exist with combustion-powered vehicles. In addition, advances in processing power and networking technology have made software-defined vehicles a true possibility. As such, EV designers require a healthy combination of computing performance and efficient power electronics in order to realize the next generation of smart vehicles.
To learn more about the new NXP chip, we sat down with Thomas Ensergueix, Senior Director for Integrated Solutions Automotive Processing at NXP Semiconductors, to understand how NXP expects the S32M2 chip to change the way designers develop EVs, and how the chip itself could aid in producing software-defined vehicles (SDVs).
Solving Unique Problems
As EVs gain more traction amongst consumers and designers alike, both groups are discovering problems that come into focus for EVs exclusively. One problem actually emerges from a lack of noise produced by the engine. “When you look at EVs, the powertrain now is so quiet that any of the noise in the cabin becomes much more noticeable,” says Ensergueix.
A scalable solution such as the S32M2 gives designers more flexibility to develop new EV innovations, such as the pictured folding steering wheel.
This is exactly the problem that NXP hopes to solve with the S32M2 chip, offering designers a system-in-package that can improve the efficiency and performance of small motors in the cabin such as sunroof control or power seat adjustment. “Thanks to the higher performance, thanks to the kind of motor you can drive, we will see we can reduce the motor noise and system noise to be back at the right level,” says Ensergueix.
In addition, as the number of motors and electronic components continues to increase, with futuristic ideas such as folding steering wheels becoming a possibility, the ability to rapidly scale both hardware and software will be extremely valuable for the future of SDVs.
Compute and Analog in Package
The S32M2 includes multiple dies under a single package. One of these accomplishes the necessary processing and is modeled after the S32K series of microcontrollers from NXP. The other die contains analog hardware needed to offer communication, power regulation, and 3-phase FET gate driving.
The S32M2 includes a scalable MCU unit to fit the required performance and analog hardware that can drive a variety of FETs to ensure proper power delivery.
The inclusion of analog hardware helps save space and improve performance, says Ensergueix.
“We are saving further components, putting all the high-value capability into the IC, into the die, and all that you got around it is just some decoupling capacitors, some resistors, and the MOSFET small footprint. It also helps the Tier One and OEM to streamline the supply.”
The scalability offered by the S32M2 will also help designers reuse software across designs. By including both the compute and analog hardware in a single chip, designers can readily reuse or migrate software using NXP libraries and can quickly scale a motor driver solution from tens of watts to kilowatts, speeding time-to-market and reducing development costs.
Software-Centric EV Development
In addition to pure performance benefits, a standard motor control solution could ultimately allow more complex computing strategies to provide secondary benefits to designers. In one example regarding motor material quality, Thomas says, “When you see them shrinking and shrinking, you will see in production different quality levels or different quality variations. And the great thing is that, now that it’s highly software-defined and software-controlled, we have an algorithm here to compensate. So we can analyze this and we can compensate for it.”
The flexibility of the S32M2 allows it to benefit designers using a variety of EV architectures, broadening the applicability of the chip. (Click on image to enlarge)
So, while it may not be in the next year that SDVs become the norm, the push toward providing more versatility to EV designers is a benefit that could continue beyond the status quo and drive future innovation.
All images used courtesy of NXP Semiconductors