Allison Advances Commercial-Vehicle Electronic Controls

Next-gen platform supports Allison’s conventional products as well as its expanding eGen Power e-axle portfolio, according to VP of Product Engineering, Ryan Milburn.

Allison expects all OEM partners to transition to this next-gen controls platform by the end of January 2023. (Allison Transmission)

Allison Transmission continues to invest in and accelerate its electric-vehicle propulsion solutions, but it also remains committed to its conventional product portfolio, which the company expects to remain relevant for decades to come. Boosting the capabilities of both technology pathways is Allison’s next-generation electronic controls platform, which features advanced communications, functional safety, cybersecurity and over-the-air (OTA) programming capability.

Ryan Milburn, VP of Product Engineering at Allison Transmission. (Allison Transmission)

Allison partnered with multiple OEMs to build the first commercial vehicles equipped with the next-gen platform, which combines state-of-the-art microprocessor and software operating system technology. Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. has begun producing the first walk-in vans equipped with the enhanced electronic controls. Other OEMs using the new system include Mack Trucks in its medium-duty trucks, Prevost and MAN. Allison expects all OEM partners to transition to this controls platform by the end of January 2023.

“Many of the advanced technologies and capabilities offered through Allison’s next-generation electronic controls platform are at the forefront of commercial vehicle industry adoption,” said Ryan Milburn, VP of Product Engineering at Allison Transmission, who also is serving as the 2022 Executive Chair for the SAE COMVEC event this September in Indianapolis. COMVEC’s theme, “Powering Future Innovation ”, embodies the technology advances Allison and other companies are making in propulsion, as well as functional safety, cybersecurity and connectivity.

“The capabilities require integration at a vehicle system level,” Milburn continued. “System and vehicle level integration expertise is a core competency and differentiator for Allison, and we are proud to deliver these next-generation capabilities in partnership with our global OEM customers.” Hardware and software enhancements required to support the advanced capabilities include: a new control module and pushbutton shift selector, as well as a new software operating system, controls and calibration software and cybersecurity infrastructure.

The new platform initially supports Allison’s 1000 through 4000 Series product portfolio, as well as its eGen Power electrified propulsion solutions. The company plans to introduce a new fully integrated eGen Power e-axle this fall at IAA Transportation in Hanover, Germany. The new e-axle will complement existing products such as the twin-motor eGen Power 100D, which powers Hino Trucks’ XL Class 7 and 8 battery-electric trucks, providing a continuous output of 454 kW and a peak output of 652 kW.

Milburn shared additional insights with SAE Media following a recent press conference.

Can you expand upon the new platform’s key features?

We’ve implemented an AUTOSAR [AUTomotive Open System Architecture] real-time operating system – it’s kind of becoming an industry standard. [Common in the automotive industry, AUTOSAR seeks to standardize basic system functions and functional interfaces to enable development partners to more easily integrate, exchange, reuse and transfer functions within a vehicle network.] Obviously new microprocessors that support all the cybersecurity and functional safety – we made a number of functional safety enhancements as required to segregate the various applications on the controller. And obviously continue to add feature capabilities as well.

Why was the move to this next-gen platform necessary?
The next-gen platform combines state-of-the-art microprocessor and software operating system technology. (Allison Transmission)

It enables functional safety, which is emerging as a requirement in the commercial vehicle industry, cybersecurity and it also enables over-the-air programming. So through the vehicle telematics solution you’ll be able to actually provide new software updates, whether that be turn on new FuelSense features or address any issues that arise. [FuelSense uses a ‘learning algorithm’ to support key features such as DynActive Shifting to determine the optimal shift point; Neutral at Stop, which reduces the load on the engine when the vehicle is stopped; and Acceleration Rate Management to mitigate aggressive driving by automatically controlling engine torque.]

Allison recently expanded its Vehicle Electrification + Environmental Test Center (VE+ET) in Indianapolis? What are some of the main enhancements?

Allison has made significant investments in facilities as part of our commitment to innovation…As the demand to test and validate larger and higher-capacity battery and hydrogen-fuel-cell electric vehicles increase, Allison expanded the test center’s battery emulation capabilities. This capability uniquely positions Allison to test and validate around the clock, eliminating the need to stop to recharge onboard batteries.

We also added bulk hydrogen supply to support validation of fuel cell electric vehicles, eliminating the reliance on the vehicle’s onboard hydrogen tanks. The VE+ET provides Allison engineers, customers and industry partners with enhanced capabilities to conduct testing in one centralized location where we’re able to replicate extreme environments. This facility moves us beyond [just] powertrain innovation, enabling Allison and our partners to bring new, innovative technology and vehicle systems to market faster and more efficiently.