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Apple's Project Titan Team Invented a Next-Gen Thermal System Specifically Designed for Electric & Hybrid Vehicles

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Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to Project Titan and specifically to thermal management systems in the context of use with passenger vehicles; more specifically, battery-powered electric or hybrid vehicles. For the record, there's no mention of an autonomous vehicle in this filing, which is different.


Patent Background


In Apple's patent background they note that battery-powered electric or hybrid vehicles have become an increasingly popular choice by consumers for their fuel efficiency and low impact on the environment. With limits in technology on battery performance and consumer demand for maximum range between vehicle charging, there is an increased need for more efficient power management systems, particularly in the area of vehicle thermal management. The heating and cooling of vehicle operation systems has a significant impact on vehicle efficiency and performance. The heating, cooling and conditioning of the passenger cabin environment is important to passenger comfort and vehicle enjoyment.


Traditional electric and hybrid vehicles employed independent heating and cooling systems using dedicated heating and cooling devices to support the specific vehicle system. For example, if the vehicle battery system required heating at start up in cold temperatures, but cooling during extended operation for optimum battery efficiency, traditional vehicle battery systems employed dedicated heating and cooling devices to support the battery system.


These independent systems and dedicated components for each thermal management subsystem consume more power, are less efficient, and add complexity, packaging space, weight, and overall cost to the vehicle.


The goal of Apple's invention is to overcome these negative factors in future electric and/or hybrid vehicles.


Apple's Invention


Apple's invention covers a vehicle thermal management system for battery-powered electric or hybrid vehicles. The thermal management system includes a refrigerant subsystem or loop, a heating loop, a cooling loop, a battery loop, and a powertrain loop. In one aspect, each of the heating, cooling, battery, and powertrain loops includes a heat exchanger in communication with another of the subsystem loops to provide selective heating or cooling between the communicating loops. In another aspect, only the cooling loop and powertrain loop share a common, dedicated heat exchanger to assist in cooling the powertrain loop coolant.


In another aspect of the invention, a modular, self-contained thermal management refrigerant subsystem or loop is disclosed. The modular refrigerant subsystem can be assembled, pre-charged, pre-tested, and delivered as a unit to a vehicle assembly plant or system integrator for efficient hook-up to other vehicle subsystems. In one example, the refrigerant subsystem uses R744 refrigerant.


In another aspect of the invention, a thermal management heating subsystem or loop using a liquid cooled gas cooler (LCGC) is discussed. The LCGC draws heat from the refrigerant subsystem to supplement heat energy in the heating subsystem. In one example, a 3-port valve can be used to selectively add heat to the heating loop coolant for use in heating a passenger cabin or to expel excess heat from the refrigerant system via a low temperature radiator based on a flow position of the 3-port valve. In another aspect, the 3-port valve can blend or direct a flow of the heating loop coolant to both heat the passenger cabin and expel heat to the low temperature radiator to further control temperature in the heating and refrigerant loops. In another example, the LCGC can be the sole source of heat energy provided to the heating loop.


Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic of one example of a thermal management system; FIG. 4 is a flow chart of one example of a method of thermal management of a vehicle battery module.


2 - Thermal management system  Project Titan Invention  Patently Apple IP Report Apr 25  2019


Apple's patent application 20190118610 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was originally filed back in Q3 2018. If you love anything to do with vehicles and want to dive into this patent filing a little deeper, click here. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.




One of the inventors as noted below is Vincent Johnston. When thinking about Project Titan, Vincent thinks "Big," like a gigantic Apple Pencil with wings (J).


2 Vincent Johnston  Apple engineer on project titan inventor


Mr. Johnston came to Apple via Lucid Motors (as Directory); Senior Engineering Manager at Tesla; and yes, Technical Focal and Program Manager at Boeing.


The other inventor is Mark Hoehne: Manager Product Design – Thermal Systems for Apple's Project Titan (Special Projects Group).


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