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EMC testing: paving the way for eMobility

Electric vehicles are stirring up the EMC test landscape – and vice versa

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Updated on 13-May-2024 🛈
Originally published on 01-Apr-2023

Although they are invisible, electromagnetic waves can still cause plenty of trouble. They can block garage doors or cause radio keys to quit working due to a disturbance on the same frequency as the wanted signal. To keep this from happening, electrical devices are tested for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC).

This is especially critical in the automotive industry. Unlike stationary devices, vehicles travel through a much larger environment and are constantly exposed to interference from diverse sources with different intensity levels. Since the onboard electronics is responsible for many safety-critical tasks like controlling airbags, it must function perfectly even in the presence of harsh electromagnetic interference. This is why EMC testing of vehicles is legally required and part of everyday life in the automotive industry.

New requirements due to electric vehicles

The trend toward electromobility is generating new momentum within the EMC test landscape. The inverters used to control the engines or batteries in electric vehicles produce much stronger electromagnetic fields than traditional combustion engines. Moreover, the field strengths are also dependent on factors such as how fast the vehicle is traveling and whether it is accelerating or braking.

The onboard electronics must deliver flawless performance under these completely new EMC conditions. Disruptions to the many radio services in a modern vehicle, such as vehicle access via ultrawideband or 5G connectivity, must also be avoided. The same applies to the sensors used for autonomous driving, including radar and GNSS.

Bringing the road into the lab

Of course, everything needs to be tested in the lab since tests performed on real roads are expensive and not reproducible. Nevertheless, realistic driving conditions must somehow be simulated in the lab. This is leading to a huge demand for new test systems and test cases to keep pace with the growing speed of development – both for automotive manufacturers as well as their suppliers, test houses and inspection organizations.

The growing cost of EMC testing has already been witnessed in the context of classic combustion engines. The obvious countermeasure involves test automation. Rohde & Schwarz is developing suitable methods in cooperation with well-known suppliers of test station solutions.

Besides EMC, testing of automotive radar sensors is another major application area for Rohde & Schwarz. The R&S®AREG100A automotive radar echo generator can be seen here.

How is Rohde & Schwarz involved?

Rohde & Schwarz is a world leader in the field of EMC T&M equipment. The company's product portfolio has everything that manufacturers and test laboratories need to perform EMC testing.

This is equally true when it comes to the new requirements for eMobility. One good example is the R&S®ELEKTRA EMC test software. This software was extended to allow automated testing of realistic driving scenarios in the lab in cooperation with test station suppliers. The test times are optimized and the high cost of road tests is avoided.

Radio communication testers from Rohde & Schwarz are also used for EMC measurements. Such testers can emulate a base station in a mobile network. For example, legally required emergency calls can be tested under EMC conditions. As another example, performance tests can be carried out to check for flawless streaming of video content inside the vehicle.

We are working with our customers to incrementally develop many new EMC and functional performance tests while optimizing the handling of the test landscape inside EMC chambers. The goal is to enable the next steps on the road toward electric vehicles and automated driving.

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