#How to tune electric cars

04 / July 2022
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How to tune electric cars

Seletron Performance

Tuning electric and hybrid cars. But how does it work?


To talk about tuning electric cars or tuning electric and hybrid cars, we must first make some considerations about how they are made since they are not all the same. This is a vast topic and difficult to exhaust in one article, so we will probably have to come back to this topic again and again, but as they say, "we have to start somewhere." So why not start by explaining the differences (many) between combustion engine cars, power assist hybrid cars, hybrid cars, and pure electric cars?


Let us try to shed some light on these differences. Cars with only a combustion engine are familiar to us quite well, as they are very common. They can be powered by a diesel engine, an Otto cycle (gasoline) engine, by gas, or natural gas (let's leave out hydrogen-powered engines, which are very rare). In terms of tuning combustion engines, we could talk for a very long time (and to some extent, we still will), but if you look through our archive, you will find a lot of topics, some general about how to increase power and torque, and some specific articles that talk about tuning specific models. This category of cars, those moved by a combustion engine alone, has been considered "classic" until now. In a few years, we will have to revise the definition of "classic," and when we talk about cars, it will be necessary to specify whether they are diesel or gasoline as it will certainly not be obvious.


Power-Assist Hybrid Tuning


What does power-assisted hybrid mean? The term, as opposed to a full hybrid, means that the electric motor supports a conventional ( thermal) engine and is not the main or alternative powertrain as is the case with pure electric or full-hybrid cars, respectively. Cars with power-assisted hybrid propulsion have a diesel or gasoline engine on which an electric motor is installed. This is often a moto-alternator, i.e., a reversible machine that can act as an electric powertrain, power generator (instead of the classic alternator), or which can sometimes act as a starter motor for the thermal unit. This is used on many cars to have some advantages in terms of mileage and to improve low-rev momentum, especially on turbocharged combustion engines that are subject to turbo-lag phenomena. Typically, power-assisted hybrids use an onboard voltage supply of 48V. The higher voltage than that of classic 12V batteries is intended to keep power values at relatively low levels for the same power output of the electric motor. Remember that for the same power, the current value (amps) is inversely proportional to the value of the potential difference (voltage), meaning with batteries and a power line at 48V (as opposed to 12V), the wiring and connectors are suitable for carrying four times lower currents with obvious advantages in terms of thermal dissipation, cable production costs, connectors, and semiconductors for motor control. We could give several examples, but perhaps we will keep more dedicated points until we discuss models with specific engines. To give you an idea, Mercedes uses this technology on several models, like the GLC SUV, with a 2-liter turbocharged gasoline combustion engine with 258hp of maximum power, a choice also implemented on diesel versions. In these cases, the tuning is performed on the combustion engine, which for us means installing an additional chip tuning unit that intervenes on the fuel supply and supercharging (for turbocharged engines, whether diesel or gasoline).


Tuning Full-Hybrid Cars


Full hybrids can run with either the thermal engine or the electric engine. Generally, the operation of the electric engine alone is contingent on certain variables such as driving speed, battery charge, and driver performance demand. Lexus is one of the manufacturers that has the most experience in this area; several are full-hybrid models, even with three motors. An example of this is the RX450 of a few years ago that has a 3500 gasoline heat engine, an electric motor connected to the heat engine, and a second electric motor connected to the rear axle only; when maneuvering and up to a certain speed, the car can move forward with electric propulsion alone, but when more power is needed (or when the batteries need to be charged) the naturally aspirated gasoline engine is also activated. The engine mounted on the rear axle is used to achieve maximum acceleration and have temporary all-wheel drive. Many very different models use this technology, i.e., the combination of a combustion engine with an electric one that can single-handedly drive the car in certain conditions. Toyota has also been offering these solutions for a long time. To tune full-hybrid cars, the thermal engine, whether diesel or gasoline, is the target of tuning, as long as it is turbocharged, to take full advantage of the additional power units.


Purely electric cars, how does it work?


They are constructively the simplest and (probably) represent the near future. They may have an exuberant performance (like Tesla) that is even beyond the most powerful Ferrari or Lamborghini powered by a combustion engine. The main limitation of these cars is the driving range, and future developments in battery storage will probably greatly improve this aspect. From a technical point of view, they are the simplest and most efficient. They consist of accumulator batteries that store electrical energy (received from charging towers), the control unit (which generates sine voltages via PWM control), and the three-phase brushless electric engine. All very streamlined. The performance can even be exaggerated already as the standard, yet the weak point, at the time of writing, is the short range. To address this, SELETRON has developed kits specifically for this type of car used in racing that optimize the power delivery (limiting it) to increase the range in racing! If you own a Tesla or other pure electric car and would like more information, please contact us!


We'll stop here for now, but we are looking forward to talking to you more about the performance of both hybrids and pure electric cars. Follow our NEWS section to keep up to date with our developments, the possibilities for increasing power and torque in combustion engine cars, and to learn about new technologies related to the world of electric driving!


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