On May 29, 2022, the IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society Brac University Student Branch Chapter conducted an informative and engaging webinar titled “ECU: The Brain of Battery Electric Vehicle.” This webinar was organized in response to the audience’s overwhelming enthusiasm and desire to learn more about Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV). The primary topic of this webinar was the Electrical Control Unit (ECU) of the electric vehicle, how it functions as the brain of BEVs, and its future tendencies. The speaker discussed the design of the ECU following the Top-level design requirements (Drive cycle, Power/Energy/Mass budget, Speed profile, and energy efficiency). In this webinar, the notion of ECU as a whole was explained.

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) is getting popular due to their low energy consumption, zero adverse effects on the environment, simplicity, and adaptability with the most recent AI concept. It employs electric motors and motor controllers in place of internal combustion engines (ICEs) to propel the vehicle and is powered by chemical energy stored in rechargeable battery packs. There are several subsystems of a BEV, like the Powertrain, Structure, SAT (Steering, Axle, and Tire), Electrical Control Unit (ECU), etc. Among them, ECU (Microcontroller, CAN BUS, Relay board, Dashboard, etc.) works as the brain of the BEV. The ECU is the central processing unit that works based on the signals from sensors, analyzes the data, and sends commands to the actuator/indicator. ECU’s core is a microcontroller and is controlled by embedded software.

The honorable speaker for the event, Dr. Arifur Khan, is an Associate Professor of Practice at The University of Texas at El Paso. His research involvement was Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) to prepare MOSFET, Transistor, p-n junction, etc., development of a passive spacecraft charge neutralizer (Electron Emitting Film, ELF) and Surface Charging Monitor (SCM), double Langmuir Probe (DLP) with space grade circuitry, 3D printer for spacecraft, etc. Moreover, he was/is an active member of various satellite projects such as Horyu-II, Horyu-IV, BIRDS-1, (Japan), Micro-Dragon (Vietnam), OF-II (UTEP), etc. Most recently, he has been mentoring a group of students to develop a highly energy-efficient battery electric vehicle (BEV) to complete the Shell ECO MARATHON, a worldwide student-made car competition. Dr. Khan is a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronomic (AIAA) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). 

In the previous session, he elaborated on the subsystems of BEVs, their development process, and the significance of knowledge and skills in many fields. Consequently, this session concentrated primarily on the subsystem ECU, which is a vital component of every vehicle. A few examples of ECU-controlled systems are cruise control, an automated braking system, an indication for blind spots, lane help, and a signal for a break. For example, the lane assistant will continually check whether the vehicle is traveling inside the designated lane, and if, for whatever reason, the vehicle deviates from the lane, it will return the vehicle to its lane. Another example would be the usage of blind spot indicators, which employ sensors to detect other cars passing a certain area of the vehicle and show a warning signal on the dashboard or rearview mirror. The tea-break function is intended to aid drivers on lengthy journeys; after driving a long distance, the ECU will signal the driver to take a break so that he or she may relax and drive more safely. High voltage components such as the motor, battery, MCU, charger and charging port, HV BUS line, and low voltage components such as the DC-DC converter, lighting, windshield wiper, dashboard, and Power Distribution Unit (PDU) are included in the Electrical subsystem. It also contains the CAN-BUS (Controllable Area Network), which is responsible for power distribution and command transmission among all other units. Our outstanding speaker ensured that the webinar was entertaining and educational enough to maintain the attendees’ attention without getting tedious by presenting the ECU schematics of the project he is currently working on and explaining each component in detail. The Relay Box, the Battery, and Shutoff system, the Motor Control Unit, the Electrical Control Unit, and the Dashboard.

In addition, he provided some intriguing insights into future trends that could be implemented with more advanced ECUs to improve the driving experience and safety of the user. Numerous automakers have already invested in Physical Health monitoring and Driving Pattern tracking capabilities. The ECU will collect and analyze data from various sensors and immediately assess the driver’s health (such as Blood Pressure, Blood sugar, Body Temperature, and Fatigue) and driving pattern (self and nearby) and if the driver appears physically unfit and/or if the driver’s driving pattern has been quite unstable, it will not grant permission to drive and the engine will not start.

Following a brief question-and-answer section, the event concluded with the presenter’s speech of gratitude. Raihana Shams Islam Antara, Research Associate at Brac University’s Laboratory of Space System Engineering and Technology (LaSSET), exchanged greetings. The webinar was unrestricted and available to the general public, and a respectable audience of 30 people participated, given that it was an online event.