(19)
(11)EP 3 293 077 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
14.03.2018 Bulletin 2018/11

(21)Application number: 17189914.9

(22)Date of filing:  07.09.2017
(51)Int. Cl.: 
B62D 21/02  (2006.01)
B62D 29/00  (2006.01)
B62D 25/20  (2006.01)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME
Designated Validation States:
MA MD

(30)Priority: 07.09.2016 US 201662384298 P
06.09.2017 US 201715697314

(71)Applicant: Thunder Power New Energy Vehicle Development Company Limited
Central, Hong Kong (CN)

(72)Inventors:
  • MAIER, Jens
    Central Hong Kong (CN)
  • VIERLING, Maik
    Central Hong Kong (CN)

(74)Representative: Loustalan, Paul William 
Reddie & Grose LLP The White Chapel Building 10 Whitechapel High Street
London E1 8QS
London E1 8QS (GB)

  


(54)FRONT WALL


(57) A firewall for an electric vehicle includes a front cross beam having a left portion, a medial portion, and a right portion. The left portion and the right portion are bent rearward relative to the medial portion. A floor structure includes an upper mounting interface and a lower mounting interface separated by an angled medial section that slopes downward from front to back. The upper mounting interface is coupled with a bottom end of the front cross beam. A subfloor cross beam is positioned underneath the floor structure and coupled with the lower mounting interface such that the subfloor cross beam is spaced laterally rearward of the medial portion of the front cross beam. The firewall is configured to separate a passenger compartment of the electric vehicle from a motor compartment of the electric vehicle.




Description

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION



[0001] The present application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/384,298, filed September 7, 2016, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference for all purposes.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION



[0002] There are many problems unique to electric vehicles, oftentimes due to the presence of large and/or numerous batteries used to power the electric motor and other components of the vehicle. These batteries are often bulky, and add significant weight to the vehicles. These considerations present challenges in designing a particularly efficient and practical electrical vehicle. Additionally, these batteries may be particularly susceptible to damage during a collision. Damage to a battery may be especially dangerous by presenting a fire and/or corrosive hazard. As such, protecting the batteries from damage remains a difficult challenge unique to the field of electric vehicles.

[0003] Vehicle manufacturers have added a number of new structural features to vehicles to improve safety and/or performance. Many of these structural features are applicable to electric, hybrid, and non-electric vehicles equally, while others place a greater emphasis on the vehicle motor type, such as a vehicle base plate with increased thickness for protecting an electric car battery over a specific region of the vehicle. Structural improvements that increase either safety or performance without a significant compromise of the other remain important objectives of vehicle manufacturers.

[0004] Electric vehicles are becoming an increasingly viable alternative to traditional vehicles with internal combustion engines. Electric vehicles may have advantages in their compactness, simplicity of design, and in being potentially more environmentally friendly depending on the means by which the electricity used in the vehicle was originally generated. The prospect of using renewable energy sources to power automobiles in place of gasoline has obvious advantages as oil reserves across the globe become increasingly depleted.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



[0005] In one aspect, a firewall for an electric vehicle is provided. The firewall may include a front cross beam having a left portion, a medial portion, and a right portion. The left portion and the right portion may be bent rearward relative to the medial portion. The firewall may also include a floor structure having an upper mounting interface and a lower mounting interface separated by an angled medial section that slopes downward from front to back. The upper mounting interface may be coupled with a bottom end of the front cross beam. The firewall may further include a subfloor cross beam positioned underneath the floor structure and coupled with the lower mounting interface such that the subfloor cross beam is spaced laterally rearward of the medial portion of the front cross beam. The firewall may be configured to separate a passenger compartment of the electric vehicle from a motor compartment of the electric vehicle.

[0006] In another aspect, a firewall for an electric vehicle may include a front cross beam having a left portion, a medial portion, and a right portion. The left portion and the right portion may be bent rearward relative to the medial portion. The front cross beam may define an interior including a plurality of ribs extending along a length of the front cross beam. The firewall may also include a floor structure that may include an upper flange generally planar aligned with a vertical axis of the firewall. The upper flange may be coupled with a bottom end of the front cross beam. The floor structure may also include a lower flange separated from the upper flange by an angled medial section that slopes downward from front to back. The lower flange may be generally aligned with a horizontal axis of the firewall. The firewall may further include a subfloor cross beam positioned underneath the floor structure and coupled with the lower flange such that the subfloor cross beam is spaced laterally rearward of the medial portion of the front cross beam. The subfloor cross beam may define an interior having at least one rib extending along a length of the subfloor cross beam. The firewall may be configured to separate a passenger compartment of the electric vehicle from a motor compartment of the electric vehicle.

[0007] In another aspect, a method of absorbing a front impact with an electric vehicle is provided. The method may include receiving a collision at a front end of the electric vehicle and absorbing at least a portion of a force from the collision at a front crash beam by crumpling a portion of the front crash beam. The method may also include transferring at least a portion of the force from a rear edge of the front crash beam to a firewall of the electric vehicle. The firewall may include a front cross beam having a left portion, a medial portion, and a right portion. The left portion and the right portion may be bent rearward relative to the medial portion. The firewall may also include a floor structure having an upper mounting interface and a lower mounting interface separated by an angled medial section that slopes downward from front to back. The upper mounting interface may be coupled with a bottom end of the front cross beam. The firewall may further include a subfloor cross beam positioned underneath the floor structure and coupled with the lower mounting interface such that the subfloor cross beam is spaced laterally rearward of the medial portion of the front cross beam. The firewall may be configured to separate a passenger compartment of the electric vehicle from a motor compartment of the electric vehicle.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION



[0008] A further understanding of the nature and advantages of various embodiments may be realized by reference to the following figures. In the appended figures, similar components or features may have the same reference label. Further, various components of the same type may be distinguished by following the reference label by a dash and a second label that distinguishes among the similar components. If only the first reference label is used in the specification, the description is applicable to any one of the similar components having the same first reference label irrespective of the second reference label.

FIG. 1 depicts an electric vehicle according to embodiments.

FIG. 2 depicts a top view of a power system of an electric vehicle according to embodiments.

FIG. 3 depicts an isometric view of a tunnel of an electric vehicle according to embodiments.

FIG. 4 depicts a cross-section view the tunnel of FIG. 3 according to embodiments.

FIG. 5 depicts a side cross-section view of the firewall of FIG. 2 an electric vehicle according to embodiments.

FIG. 6 depicts central cross beams for an electric vehicle according to embodiments.

FIG. 7 depicts a seat mounting system for an electric vehicle according to embodiments.

FIG. 8 is a flowchart depicting a method for absorbing a front impact with an electric vehicle according to embodiments.


DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION



[0009] The subject matter of embodiments of the present invention is described here with specificity to meet statutory requirements, but this description is not necessarily intended to limit the scope of the claims. The claimed subject matter may be embodied in other ways, may include different elements or steps, and may be used in conjunction with other existing or future technologies. This description should not be interpreted as implying any particular order or arrangement among or between various steps or elements except when the order of individual steps or arrangement of elements is explicitly described.

[0010] The systems and methods described herein relate generally to improvements for electric vehicles. Due to the size and weight considerations of the batteries required to power such vehicles, as well as the need to make electric vehicles as safe as possible, each component within the electric vehicles must be designed with particular characteristics in mind. Specifically, considerations related to the weight and structural integrity of each component must be weighed to ensure that the electric vehicles are both efficient and safe to operate. For example, the body of the vehicle must be stiff, efficient, and lightweight. A lightweight body helps counteract the additional weight of the batteries, which may be in the form of several large batteries, or numerous (sometimes thousands) of smaller batteries wired together. The stiff body helps make the vehicle more stable during cornering and also helps limit damage to the body and batteries during a collision. Protection of the batteries during a collision is particular important, as the large number of batteries pose a significant fire hazard and may also expose passengers and others to highly corrosive material. Due to this high safety risk, it is imperative that the body structure be designed to withstand high force collisions from any direction.

[0011] Turning now to FIG. 1, one embodiment of an electric vehicle 100 is shown. While shown here as an electric automobile, electric vehicle 100 may be any motorized vehicle that is powered by electricity. For example, electric vehicle 100 may include vehicles such as cars, buses, trains, trucks, trams, watercraft, aircraft, and/or any other type of transportation mechanism.

[0012] Here, much of the main body 102 of the electric vehicle 100, especially those components designed to form the skeleton of the vehicle and those components used for collision protection, are made of aluminum or alloys containing aluminum, although it will be appreciated that other materials may be considered. Aluminum alloys provide strong, yet lightweight components that help shed weight to compensate for the high weight of the batteries necessary to power the electric vehicle. For electric vehicles, an increased emphasis is placed on protection of the batteries as damage to battery cells can cause explosion and fires within the vehicle. Such problems are compounded due to the large amount of space batteries must occupy within electric vehicles in order to maintain practical driving ranges. Therefore, vehicle alterations that provide increased protection along edges and comers of the vehicle battery are advantageous. Such alterations may include considerations related to, but not limited to providing: (1) increased rigidity of the vehicle, (2) increased absorption of energy from a collision, and (3) increased efficiency of transfer of energy/force stemming from an impact to the vehicle's body to lessen the potential impact applied to the vehicle battery and to passengers in the vehicle.

[0013] Battery elements 104 (shown in FIG. 2) are positioned underneath a floor structure 106 of the electric vehicle 100. Such positioning provides several benefits. First, the battery elements are isolated from the passenger compartment, largely by an aluminum (or other metallic material) floor structure 106, which helps increase passenger safety. The placement of the battery elements 104 underneath the vehicle 100 also allows the battery elements 104 to be connected to electrical systems of the vehicle 100 from underneath the floor structure 106. This enables the battery elements 104 to be changed out from the exterior of the vehicle 100. For example, the vehicle 100 may be raised up and the battery elements 104 may be decoupled from the underside of the vehicle 100. As just one example, a number of bolts or other fasteners may be removed and the battery elements 104 may be lowered from the vehicle 100. The battery elements 104 may be disconnected and new battery elements 104 may be connected and fastened to the underside of the vehicle 100. This allows old batteries to be replaced easily, and also enables a quick swap of depleted battery elements 104 for charged battery elements 104, serving as a method of rapidly charging the vehicle 100 for longer trips. The placement of the battery elements 104 also places much of the weight of the vehicle 100 near the ground, thus lowering the center of gravity of the vehicle 100, which allows the vehicle 100 to corner better and reduces the odds of a rollover.

[0014] Unlike automobiles that utilize internal combustion engines and include drivetrains that extend along a length of the vehicle, electric vehicle 100 is driven by one or more electric motors positioned near the wheel axles. As a result, there is no need for a longitudinal drive train. To help isolate a passenger compartment 108 from the battery elements 104 while providing access for connections of the battery elements 104 to be connected to electric systems within the passenger compartment 108 and to the one or more electric motors, the passenger compartment may be provided with a rigid tunnel 110 protruding upward from a floor structure 106 of the passenger compartment 108. However, unlike in conventional gas-powered vehicles where a tunnel may be provided to provide clearance for a drivetrain, rigid tunnel 110 is included to provide clearance for a portion of the battery elements 104 used to supply power to the electric vehicle 100. The rigid tunnel 110 may not only provide a housing for a portion of the battery assembly, but may serve a number of other functions. As just one example, the rigid tunnel 110 may help absorb and transfer force away from passengers in the event of a collision. In such embodiments, the rigid tunnel 110 may be formed of carbon fiber or another composite material that is extremely strong and lightweight. In other embodiments, the rigid tunnel 110 may serve as part of an air ventilation system, with hot or cold air being vented to the passenger compartment 108 through a portion of the rigid tunnel 110.

[0015] FIG. 2 depicts one embodiment of a power system of the electric vehicle 100. The power system may include a firewall 112 positioned between a motor compartment and a passenger compartment 108 of the electric vehicle 100. The firewall 112 may be formed of several components. For example, the firewall 112 may include a front cross beam 114 having a left portion 116 and a right portion 118 separated by a medial portion 184 extending there between. The left portion 116 and the right portion 118 may each be bent rearward relative to the medial portion 184, thus defining a foot well or other front portion of the passenger compartment 108. For example, the left portion 116 and the right portion 118 may be bent backward at an angle of between about 10 and 40 degrees, more typically between about 25 and 35 degrees, relative to the medial portion 184. The front cross beam 114 may have a generally rectangular cross-section that defines an open interior. In some embodiments, the open interior may include a number of ribs that extend along a length of the front cross beam 114, as better shown in FIG. 5. The firewall 112 may also include an angled portion 122 of the floor structure 106. A horizontal flat portion 150 of floor structure 106 may be coupled with and/or extend rearward from the firewall 112. The flat portion 150 may define an aperture 152 between the firewall 112 and one or more central support beams 132 of the floor structure 106. The angled portion 122 may be coupled with a bottom end of the front cross beam 114. Such coupling is further described in relation to FIG. 5.

[0016] In some embodiments, a left longitudinal support beam 124 may be coupled with the left portion 116 and/or the angled portion 122 of the floor structure 106. A right longitudinal support beam 126 may be coupled with the right portion 118 and/or the angled portion 122 of the floor structure 106. A right front crash beam 128 may be coupled with the medial portion 184 and/or the right portion 118 and may be generally orthogonal to a right end of the medial portion 184. A left front crash beam 130 may be coupled with the medial portion 184 and/or the left portion 116 and may be generally orthogonal to a left end of the medial portion 184. In some embodiments, the crash beams 128 and 130 may be coupled directly with the front cross beam 114, while in other embodiments the crash beams 128 and 130 may be coupled with the front cross beam 114 via crash elements 154.

[0017] In some embodiments, the firewall 112 may be coupled with the rigid tunnel 110, which may extend rearward from the firewall 112 to one or more central cross beams 132 as shown in FIG. 3. For example, a front edge of the rigid tunnel 110 may be coupled with a medial portion of the angled portion 122 and a medial portion of the front cross beam 114. The front edge of the rigid tunnel 110 may be open, such that access to the motor compartment may be provided underneath the rigid tunnel 110. A rear portion of the rigid tunnel 110 may be coupled with the central cross beams 132. For example, a forward most of the central cross beams 132 may be coupled with an underside of the rigid tunnel 110, such as within a notch in the rigid tunnel 110 that is configured to receive the forward most central cross beam 132. The rearmost central cross beam 132 may be configured to couple with and/or near a rear edge of the rigid tunnel 110. The central cross beams 132 may extend laterally across a width of the passenger compartment 108. In some embodiments, a top surface of one or more of the central cross beams 132 may be configured to be used as mounting points for the front seats. For example, the top surface of one of more of the central cross beams 132 may define apertures that are configured to receive bolts and/or other fastening mechanisms for coupling seat rails 164 and/or other seat mounts to the central cross member(s) 132. In some embodiments, seat brackets may be mounted to one or more of the central cross beams 132. These brackets may then receive seat rails 164 with which seats may be mounted. Oftentimes, each seat will be mounted to two seat rails 164, although it will be appreciated that other numbers of rails 164 may be used.

[0018] In some embodiments, the central cross beams 132 (as well as other support members secured to the floor structure 106, as well as the floor structure 106 itself) may be configured to have the battery assembly 104 mounted thereon. For example, a lower surface of one or more of the central cross beams 132 may be configured to receive one or more removable fastening mechanisms, such as bolts, that are used to secure the battery assembly 104 to an underside of the floor structure 106. As just one example, the central cross beams 132 may be positioned atop the floor structure 106, with the battery element 104 positioned against an underside of the floor structure 106 (possibly with one or more intervening layers and/or components between the battery element 104 and the floor structure. One or more bolts may extend from an underside of the battery element 104, through the floor structure 106, and into an interior of one or more of the central cross beams 132. The bolts or other fasteners may be positioned through apertures in the battery element 104 and/or a flange of the battery element 104. The central cross beams 132 provide strong mounting locations for the battery element 104, allowing the battery element 104 to be larger and provide the vehicle 100 with a longer range.

[0019] The central cross beams 132 may also serve to strengthen the sides of the passenger compartment 108 and to protect the passenger compartment 108 in the event of an impact. The front cross beam 114 (and rest of firewall 112) may be configured to transfer force from a frontal collision from the front crash beams 128 and 130 to the one or more central cross beams 132 via the rigid tunnel 110. Additionally or alternatively, the front cross beam 114 (and rest of firewall 112) may also be configured to transfer force from a frontal collision from the front crash beams 128 and 130 to the left longitudinal support beam 124 and the right longitudinal support beam 126.

[0020] Battery assembly 104 may be configured to mount with an underside of the floor structure 106. The battery assembly 104 may include at least one battery 162, but often includes a large number of batteries ranging from dozens to thousands, depending on the size of each of the batteries. In some embodiments, the battery 162 includes a number of battery units arranged in two tiers as best seen in FIG. 4. For example, a first tier may extend underneath all or part of the passenger compartment 108, while a second tier may be stacked upon a portion of the first tier such that it extends upward at a position rearward of the passenger compartment 108. In some embodiments, the upper tier of the battery assembly 104 may be positioned rearward of a rear cross beam 204. Rear cross beam 204 may extend across a width of the passenger compartment 108. The rear cross beam 204 may be configured to receive one or more fasteners configured to secure the battery assembly 104 to the underside of the vehicle 100. In some embodiments, the rear cross beam 204 may also be used to mount one or more rear seats within the passenger compartment 108.

[0021] The battery assembly 104 may also include a battery connector housing 156. The battery connector housing 156 may be configured to house at least one battery connector therein. The battery connector housing 156 may define at least one electric connector configured to couple with at least one electric system of the electric vehicle 100, such as the electric motor. The battery connector housing 156 may be configured to be inserted within the aperture 152 of the floor structure 106 such that at least a portion of the battery connector housing 156 extends above a top surface of the floor structure 106. This allows the electric connectors to be accessible through a front opening of the rigid tunnel 110, enabling the battery element 104 to be electrically coupled to both the motor and the other electrical systems of the vehicle 100. Battery assembly 104 may be secured to the underside of the floor structure 106 using fasteners accessible from the underside of the floor structure 106 such that the battery assembly 104 is removable from the electric vehicle 100 without accessing the passenger compartment 108. These fasteners may be spaced apart along the underside of the vehicle 100 at the floor structure 106, central cross beams 132, a subfloor cross beam 160, and/or other structural elements, with a spacing and number of fasteners being determined by a weight, size, and/or shape of the battery element 104.

[0022] Rigid tunnel 110 may be coupled with the firewall 112, such as at a rear surface of the firewall 112. The rigid tunnel 110 may also be coupled with the floor structure 106 and the central support beams 132. The rigid tunnel 110 may be configured to cover the portion of the battery connector housing 156 that extends above the floor structure 106 such that the passenger compartment 108 is sealed from the battery connector housing 156.

[0023] FIG. 5 shows a cross-sectional view of the firewall 112 of FIG. 2. As shown here, firewall 112 is formed from the junction of the front cross beam 114 and the angled portion 122 of the floor structure 106. As noted above, the firewall 112 defines a front portion of the passenger compartment 108, such as a passenger and/or driver foot well and separates the passenger compartment 108 from a motor compartment of the electric vehicle 100. As shown here, the firewall 112 includes front cross beam 114 having left portion 116, right portion, 118, and medial portion 184 extending between the left portion 116 and right portion 118, which may be bent rearward relative to the medial portion 184. Front cross beam 114 may define an interior including a number of ribs 134 that extend along a length of the front cross beam 114. For example, at least two ribs 134 may extend from a front wall of the front cross beam 114 to a rear wall of the front cross beam 114. The front cross beam 114 may have a generally rectangular cross-section. The ribs 134 may be positioned at regular intervals as shown here, or may be spaced at irregular intervals. Here, two ribs 134 are spaced equidistant from one another and the top and bottom of the front cross beam 114, forming three rectangular chambers within the front cross beam 114. The use of ribs 134 helps stiffen and strengthen the front cross beam 114 without adding a substantial amount of material or weight, thereby allowing the front cross beam 114 to handle larger impact forces in the event of a collision.

[0024] The firewall 112 may also include floor structure 106. Specifically, floor structure 106 may include an angled portion 122 that angles upward from a base 136 of the floor structure 106 to form a portion of a front foot well of the passenger compartment 108. This angled portion 122 may be coupled with a bottom end of the front cross beam 114. For example, the angled portion 122 may include at least one upper flange or mounting interface 138 that is generally aligned with a vertical axis of the firewall 112. The upper flanges 138 may be coupled with a bottom end of the front cross beam 114. For example, a front upper flange 138 may be secured against a front surface of the front cross beam 114 and a rear upper flange 138 may be secured against a rear surface of the front cross beam 114 such that the front cross beam 114 is secured between the front upper flange 138 and the rear upper flange 138. For example, the front cross beam 114 may be inserted between the upper flanges 138 and secured using one or more fasteners. The angled portion 122 may also include at least one lower flange or mounting interface 140 that is separated from the upper flange 138 by an angled medial section 142 that slopes downward from front to back. The lower mounting interface 140 may include a front lower flange 140 configured to be fastened against a front surface of a subfloor cross beam 144 and a rear lower flange 140 configured to be fastened against a top surface of the subfloor cross beam 144.

[0025] In some embodiments, the angled medial section 142 of the floor structure 106 includes one or more embossed features formed in a top surface and/or a bottom surface of the angled medial section 142. The angled medial section 142 may also include a number of ribs (not shown) extending from a top surface to a bottom surface of the angled medial section 142. The ribs and/or embossed features may serve to further strengthen the floor structure 106 without adding substantial material and weight. The lower flange 140 may be generally aligned with a horizontal axis of the firewall 112. The firewall 112 may also include subfloor cross beam 144 positioned underneath the floor structure 106 and coupled with the lower flange 140 such that the subfloor cross beam 144 is spaced laterally rearward of the medial portion 184 of the front cross beam 114. The subfloor cross beam 144 may define an interior that includes at least one rib 146 extending along a length of the subfloor cross beam 144. In some embodiments, rib 146 may extend between a front corner and a rear corner of the subfloor cross beam 144. For example, the rib 146 may extend from a front lower corner of the subfloor cross beam 144 to a rear upper corner of the subfloor cross beam 144. This rib 146 helps stiffen and strengthen the subfloor cross beam 144 without adding a substantial amount of material or weight. In some embodiments, the subfloor cross beam 144 may receive one or more fasteners for coupling the battery assembly 104 to the underside of the vehicle 100.

[0026] Oftentimes, the firewall 112 may be formed entirely from aluminum. For example, the front cross beam 114 and the subfloor cross beam 144 may be formed of extruded aluminum, which makes it easier to form any ribs integral with the beams to ensure maximum strength. In some embodiments, the angled portion 122 of the floor structure 106 (and the floor structure 106 itself) may be formed from cast or pressed aluminum. Such formation is more suited for producing the embossed features within surfaces of the floor structure 106 that increase the strength and/or stiffen the floor structure 106.

[0027] In some embodiments, a front surface of the firewall 112 is coupled with one or more front crash beams 148. In some embodiments, the firewall 112 may be directly coupled to the front crash beams 148, while in other embodiments, one or more components, such as a crash element 154, may be coupled between the front crash beams 148 and the firewall 112. In the event of a frontal impact, the firewall 112 may be configured to receive and absorb a force transferred from the front crash beams 148. The firewall 112 may also be configured to direct force away from passengers, such as by directing the force around the front seats to structural components designed to handle impact forces. For example, as described with regard to FIG. 2, ends of the firewall 112 may be coupled with longitudinal support beams 124 and 126 that extend along sides of the vehicle 100. Impact forces may be transferred to these longitudinal support beams 124 and 126 to direct the main forces around the passenger compartment 108 to protect occupants in the event of a collision. The firewall 112 may also be coupled with the rigid tunnel 110. For example, the rigid tunnel 110 may be coupled with a rear surface of the front cross beam 114 and a top surface of the angled medial section 142 of the floor structure 106. Frontal impact forces received by the firewall 112 may be transferred through the rigid tunnel 110, which may transmit the forces to one or more central crossbeams (not shown) positioned rearward of the firewall 112. Such diversion of forces may ensure that a maximum amount of force is directed around occupants of the vehicle 100.

[0028] FIG. 6 depicts an alternative embodiment of a rigid tunnel 910. Here, rigid tunnel 910 extends only to a forward most central cross beam 932. The forward most central cross beam 932 has a side profile defined by a front side 934, a rear side 936, a top side 938, and a bottom side 940. In some embodiments, the front side 934 and the rear side 936 may not be parallel. For example, the front side 934 may be angled forward and downward from the top side 938. A rear end of the rigid tunnel 910 may be coupled with the top side 938 and/or the front side 934 of the forward most central cross beam 932. The rigid tunnel 910 may include a flange 912 that couples with the top side 938 and/or the front side 934 of the forward most central cross beam 932. In some embodiments, the forward most central cross beam 932 may define an interior that includes a plurality of ribs 942. The ribs 942 extend vertically between the top side 938 and the bottom side 940. Here, two ribs are disposed within the interior such that two rectangular chambers and a trapezoidal chamber are formed. Additional horizontal ribs 944 may be provided within the chambers. For example, each of the chambers may include at least one rib 944 that divides the chamber into multiple sections. Ribs 944 provide additional strength and rigidity to the vertical ribs 942. The use of ribs 942 and 944 help stiffen and strengthen the forward most central cross beam 932 without adding a substantial amount of material or weight, thereby allowing the forward most central cross beam 932 to handle larger impact forces in the event of a collision.

[0029] The rearmost central cross beam 946 may have a profile defined by a front side 948, a first top side 950, an intermediate wall 952, a second top side 954, a rear side 956, and a bottom side 958. The profile may be shaped such that a forward portion of the rearmost central cross beam 946 is larger than a rear portion of the rearmost central cross beam 946. In some embodiments, one or both of the first top side 950 and the second top side 954 may be sloped downward from front to back. The sloped surface may be configured to receive one or more brackets on which seats and/or seat rails may be mounted. In some embodiments, the sides of the rearmost central cross beam 946 define an open interior. A plurality of ribs 960 may extend within the open interior. The ribs 960 extend vertically between the second top side 954 and the bottom side 958. Here, two ribs are disposed within the interior, with a forward rib being in line with the intermediate wall 952. An additional horizontal rib 962 may be provided within the interior. For example, a horizontal rib 962 may extend into a forward portion of the rearmost central cross beam 946 in line with the second top side 954. The use of ribs 960 and 962 help stiffen and strengthen the rearmost central cross beam 946 without adding a substantial amount of material or weight, thereby allowing the rearmost central cross beam 946 to handle larger impact forces in the event of a collision.

[0030] FIG. 7 shows one embodiment of brackets being mounted to the forward most central cross beam 932 and the rearmost central cross beam 946. Front brackets 964 are configured to mount to the forward most cross beam 932. For example, both the driver side and the passenger side of the passenger compartment 108 may include two or more front brackets 964. Front brackets 964 may have a top mounting surface 966 that is configured to receive a seat rail or other seat mount at a position elevated above a top surface of the forward most central cross beam 932. For example, each front bracket 964 may have a forward coupling and a rear coupling for mounting the front bracket 964 on the forward most cross beam 932. The forward coupling may be configured to be secured to the front side 934 of the forward most cross beam 932, such as by using fasteners, adhesives, welding, and/or other known securement techniques. In some embodiments, the forward coupling may include a flange that is designed to sit flush against the angled front side 934 as seen in FIG. 5. Fasteners and/or other fastening mechanisms may be used to secure this flange to the front side 934. The rear coupling may be configured to be secured with the top side 938 of the forward most central cross beam 932. For example, the rear coupling may include a flange that is configured to sit flush against and be secured to the top side 938. The top mounting surface 966 may extend upward and or forward from the rear coupling and include a threaded hole for receiving a bolt or other fastener for securing a seat rail to the front bracket 964. This allows the seat rails or other seat mounting to be positioned at a height greater than the top side 938 of the forward most central cross beam 932 such that the seat rails may be sloped from front to back for easier adjustment of the seat.

[0031] Rear brackets 968 may have a rear portion 970 that is configured to sit on the second top side 954 of the rearmost central cross beam 946. In some embodiments, the rear portion 970 may have a thickness such that a top surface of the rear portion 970 is generally at the same height as the first top side 950. The rear portion 970 may define a threaded hole that is configured to receive a bolt or other fastener for securing a seat rail to the rear bracket 968. Oftentimes, the top surface of the rear portion 970 is positioned at a lower height than the top mounting surface 966 of the front bracket 964 such that a seat rail extending between the front bracket 964 and the rear bracket 968 slopes slightly downward from front to back. In some embodiments, the rear brackets 968 may each include a front portion 972, such as a flange that extends onto the first top side 950. This flange may be secured to the first top side 950, such as by using fasteners, adhesives, welding, and/or other securement mechanisms to provide greater support for the rear bracket 968 and/or seat rails.

[0032] FIG. 8 is a flowchart showing a process 800 for absorbing a front impact with an electric vehicle. Process 800 may be performed by electric vehicle 100 and the components thereof. Process 800 may begin at block 802 by receiving a collision at a front end of the electric vehicle. For example, a collision may be received at a front bumper or other forward component of the vehicle. These forces may ultimately be received by one or more front crash beams, which may absorb at least a portion of the force by crumpling a portion of the front crash beam at block 804. For example, the front crash beams may be designed to crumple in an accordion-like manner to absorb forces. Such crumpling may be achieved by designing the front crash beams to include chamfered corners and/or to include one or more indentations formed in an outer periphery of the front crash beams to encourage folding of the material on itself in the event of a collision.

[0033] At block 806, a remaining portion of the force may be transferred from a rear edge of the front crash beam to a firewall, such as firewall 112 described above. For example, the firewall may include a front cross beam having a left portion and a right portion separated by the medial portion, with the left portion and the right portion being bent rearward relative to the medial portion. The left and right portion may each be bent toward and coupled with one or more longitudinal support beams that extend along a side of the vehicle. A bottom end of the front cross beam may be coupled with a floor structure having an upper mounting interface and a lower mounting interface separated by an angled medial section that slopes downward from front to back. The upper mounting interface may be fastened to and/or otherwise coupled with a bottom end of the front cross beam. For example, the upper mounting interface may include a front upper flange configured to be fastened against a front surface of the front cross beam and a rear upper flange configured to be fastened against a rear surface of the front cross beam. The lower mounting interface may be fastened to or otherwise coupled with a subfloor cross beam positioned underneath the floor structure. For example, the lower mounting interface may include a front lower flange configured to be fastened against a front surface of the subfloor cross beam and a rear lower flange configured to be fastened against a top surface of the subfloor cross beam. The subfloor cross beam may be spaced laterally rearward of the medial portion of the front cross beam.
At block 808, at least a portion of the remaining force may be transferred one or more of the longitudinal support beams coupled with the right portion and/or the left portion. This allows a majority of the received force to be directed away from the passenger compartment and/or the occupants thereof. The process 800 may further include transferring at least a portion of the remaining force from the firewall to one or more central cross beams via a rigid tunnel coupled between the front cross beam and the one or more central cross beams.

[0034] In some embodiments, the front crash beams, front cross beam, remaining firewall components (floor structure and subfloor beam), the longitudinal support beams, and/or central cross beams may include one or more embossed features formed in a surface of the components and/or ribs formed within an interior of the components. Such features provide additional strength and stiffness, while allowing each component to absorb greater amounts of collision forces, as the ribs and/or embossed features ensure that greater forces are needed to crumple the various components, thus absorbing greater amounts of force before ultimately transferring forces to more rearward components of the vehicle.

[0035] It should be noted that the systems and devices discussed above are intended merely to be examples. It must be stressed that various embodiments may omit, substitute, or add various procedures or components as appropriate. Also, features described with respect to certain embodiments may be combined in various other embodiments. Different aspects and elements of the embodiments may be combined in a similar manner. Also, it should be emphasized that technology evolves and, thus, many of the elements are examples and should not be interpreted to limit the scope of the invention.

[0036] Specific details are given in the description to provide a thorough understanding of the embodiments. However, it will be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that the embodiments may be practiced without these specific details. For example, well-known structures and techniques have been shown without unnecessary detail in order to avoid obscuring the embodiments. This description provides example embodiments only, and is not intended to limit the scope, applicability, or configuration of the invention. Rather, the preceding description of the embodiments will provide those skilled in the art with an enabling description for implementing embodiments of the invention. Various changes may be made in the function and arrangement of elements without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

[0037] Having described several embodiments, it will be recognized by those of skill in the art that various modifications, alternative constructions, and equivalents may be used without departing from the spirit of the invention. For example, the above elements may merely be a component of a larger system, wherein other rules may take precedence over or otherwise modify the application of the invention. Also, a number of steps may be undertaken before, during, or after the above elements are considered. Accordingly, the above description should not be taken as limiting the scope of the invention.

[0038] Also, the words "comprise", "comprising", "contains", "containing", "include", "including", and "includes", when used in this specification and in the following claims, are intended to specify the presence of stated features, integers, components, or steps, but they do not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, integers, components, steps, acts, or groups.


Claims

1. A firewall for an electric vehicle, the firewall comprising:

a front cross beam having a left portion, a medial portion, and a right portion, wherein the left portion and the right portion are bent rearward relative to the medial portion;

a floor structure having an upper mounting interface and a lower mounting interface separated by an angled medial section that slopes downward from front to back, wherein the upper mounting interface is coupled with a bottom end of the front cross beam; and

a subfloor cross beam positioned underneath the floor structure and coupled with the lower mounting interface such that the subfloor cross beam is spaced laterally rearward of the medial portion of the front cross beam, wherein the firewall is configured to separate a passenger compartment of the electric vehicle from a motor compartment of the electric vehicle.


 
2. The firewall for an electric vehicle of claim 1, wherein:

one or both of the front cross beam or the subfloor cross beam comprises extruded aluminum; and

the floor structure comprises pressed aluminum.


 
3. The firewall for an electric vehicle of claim 1 or 2, wherein:

the front cross beam defines an interior comprising a number of ribs extending along a length of the front cross beam, and / or wherein:

the subfloor cross beam defines an interior comprising at least one rib extending along a length of the subfloor cross beam.


 
4. The firewall for an electric vehicle of claim 1, 2 or 3, wherein:

the upper mounting interface comprises a front upper flange configured to be fastened against a front surface of the front cross beam;

the upper mounting interface comprises a rear upper flange configured to be fastened against a rear surface of the front cross beam;

the lower mounting interface comprises a front lower flange configured to be fastened against a front surface of the subfloor cross beam; and

the lower mounting interface comprises a rear lower flange configured to be fastened against a top surface of the subfloor cross beam.


 
5. The firewall for an electric vehicle of any of the preceding claims, further comprising:

a rigid tunnel coupled with a rear surface of the front cross beam and a top surface of the angled medial section of the floor structure, the rigid tunnel being configured to direct force from a frontal collision from the firewall to one or more central crossbeams positioned rearward of the firewall, and /or wherein:

the medial section of the floor structure comprises a plurality of ribs extending from a top surface to a bottom surface of the medial section.


 
6. A firewall for an electric vehicle, the firewall comprising:

a front cross beam having a left portion, a medial portion, and a right portion, wherein the left portion and the right portion are bent rearward relative to the medial portion, wherein the front cross beam defines an interior comprising a plurality of ribs extending along a length of the front cross beam;

a floor structure comprising:

an upper flange generally aligned with a vertical axis of the firewall, the upper flange being coupled with a bottom end of the front cross beam; and

a lower flange separated from the upper flange by an angled medial section that slopes downward from front to back, the lower flange being generally aligned with a horizontal axis of the firewall; and

a subfloor cross beam positioned underneath the floor structure and coupled with the lower flange such that the subfloor cross beam is spaced laterally rearward of the medial portion of the front cross beam, wherein the subfloor cross beam defines an interior comprising at least one rib extending along a length of the subfloor cross beam, wherein the firewall is configured to separate a passenger compartment of the electric vehicle from a motor compartment of the electric vehicle.


 
7. The firewall for an electric vehicle of claim 6, wherein:

the at least one rib comprises a rib extending between a front corner and a rear corner of the subfloor cross beam, and / or wherein:

the plurality of ribs comprises at least two ribs extending from a front wall of the front cross beam to a rear wall of the front cross beam.


 
8. The firewall for an electric vehicle of claim 6 or 7, wherein:

the upper flange is a front upper flange;

the floor structure further comprises a rear upper flange; and

the front cross beam is secured between the front upper flange and the rear upper flange.


 
9. The firewall for an electric vehicle of claim 6, 7 or 8, wherein:

a front surface of the firewall is coupled with one or more front crash beams, and / or wherein:

the angled medial section of the floor structure comprises one or more embossed features formed in a top surface and a bottom surface of the angled medial section.


 
10. The firewall for an electric vehicle of any of claims 6 to 9, further comprising:

a rigid tunnel coupled with a rear surface of the front cross beam and a top surface of the angled medial section of the floor structure, the rigid tunnel being configured to direct force from a frontal collision from the firewall to one or more central crossbeams positioned rearward of the firewall.


 
11. A method of absorbing a front impact with an electric vehicle, the method comprising:

receiving a collision at a front end of the electric vehicle;

absorbing at least a portion of a force from the collision at a front crash beam by crumpling a portion of the front crash beam; and

transferring at least a portion of the force from a rear edge of the front crash beam to a firewall of the electric vehicle, the firewall comprising:

a front cross beam having a left portion, a medial portion, and a right portion, wherein the left portion and the right portion are bent rearward relative to the medial portion;

a floor structure having an upper mounting interface and a lower mounting interface separated by an angled medial section that slopes downward from front to back, wherein the upper mounting interface is coupled with a bottom end of the front cross beam; and

a subfloor cross beam positioned underneath the floor structure and coupled with the lower mounting interface such that the subfloor cross beam is spaced laterally rearward of the medial portion of the front cross beam, wherein the firewall is configured to separate a passenger compartment of the electric vehicle from a motor compartment of the electric vehicle.


 
12. The method of absorbing a front impact with an electric vehicle of claim 11, further comprising:

transferring at least a portion of the force to a rigid tunnel that is coupled with the firewall such that a majority of the received force is directed away from the passenger compartment.


 
13. The method of absorbing a front impact with an electric vehicle of claim 11 or 12, wherein:

the upper mounting interface comprises a front upper flange configured to be fastened against a front surface of the front cross beam;

the upper mounting interface comprises a rear upper flange configured to be fastened against a rear surface of the front cross beam;

the lower mounting interface comprises a front lower flange configured to be fastened against a front surface of the subfloor cross beam; and

the lower mounting interface comprises a rear lower flange configured to be fastened against a top surface of the subfloor cross beam.


 
14. The method of absorbing a front impact with an electric vehicle of claim 11, 12 or 13, wherein:

the subfloor cross beam defines an interior comprising a rib extending between a front corner and a rear corner of the subfloor cross beam along a length of the subfloor cross beam.


 
15. The method of absorbing a front impact with an electric vehicle of any of claims 11 to 14 wherein:

the front cross beam defines an interior comprising a number of ribs extending along a length of the front cross beam, and / or wherein:

the angled medial section of the floor structure comprises one or more embossed features formed in a top surface and a bottom surface of the angled medial section.


 




Drawing



































REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description