Strong software expertise as key driver for state-of-the-art powertrains

The automotive transmission is evolving from a purely mechanical device into an intelligent, electronic motion driver, in which software increasingly plays a prominent role. Even more so for the propulsion systems of electric vehicles, because the mechanical complexity decreases and the opportunities for functionality generated by software grow.

With over 50 years of experience as an independent powertrain manufacturer, Punch Powertrain has developed strong competences in the field of software. The company has built an extensive team which develops software in-house from start to finish, from requirements and architecture to coding, while it further relies on an established ecosystem of expert partners to offer its customers a full optimization and exceptionally efficient integration of its systems. 

A few million lines of code. That is how much software today’s car powertrains contain. Whereas the innovations used to be purely mechanical, transmissions of today differentiate themselves via software. The powertrain software co-determines the functionality of the car, its performance, its driving characteristics, how it scores in terms of emissions etc. Software is the driving force of the embedded system, steering the transmission or powertrain through control units, sensors and actuators and other components for optimal system operation.

Moreover, the (hybrid) transmission or electric powertrain has become part of a larger ecosystem within the car, further needing to communicate with vehicles’ other intelligent systems, orchestrating optimal operation on vehicle level. This is also reflected in the strongly increased requirements of automotive OEMs towards software, with the list of software requirements often being a factor longer than mechanical requirements.

software expertise

Extensive expertise offering exceptional performance, cost and speed

As a powertrain manufacturer Punch Powertrain has been steadily developing and expanding its inhouse software expertise over the past decades, leading the transition to changing needs in hybrid and electric powertrains. The company has put a lot of focus on the state of the art automotive standards and tools, like ASPICE, Autosar, functional safety and cyber security. Today, the company possesses key system knowledge in terms of development of software, controllers and algorithms.

For the programming environment itself and standard elements of the software, the company has built strategic partnerships, enabling it to offer a full ecosystem of all round aligned competencies, counting on extended teams of hundreds of software engineers.

The tight integration with knowledge from start to finish gives us the opportunity to achieve the highest possible level of performance in the vehicle

“What differentiates us and brings substantial advantage to our customers, is our deep and complete understanding of the full powertrain and the associated vehicle behavior, including on how to control it in the most optimal way. The tight integration with knowledge from start to finish gives us the opportunity to achieve the highest possible level of performance in the vehicle”, says Ben Cober, Global Embedded Systems Cluster Leader.

A second advantage is the cost-effectiveness, made possible by understanding and controlling the process fully. Cober states: “For example, we don’t rely on third parties for external controller units, we develop them inhouse. This enables us to make very conscious and optimal make or buy decisions, to minimize the cost towards our customer.” A third key advantage is the company’s signature speed and flexibility in addressing rapidly changing customer requirements. The high degree of in-house activities and interconnectedness of teams enables to strongly reduce the development lead time.”

Model Based Development to increase quality and reduce cost & development time

For the development of its powertrain software, Punch Powertrain uses a model-based environment. “By using digital models of the powertrain, we speed up the development and can generate the actual code almost automatically”, explains Dominique. “This allows to strongly reduce both the development time and cost. By the time the physical hardware is ready, the software has already been fully adapted to it. Punch Powertrain has been one of the pioneers in the automotive transmission sector in this regard and can apply this built up expertise for new applications.”

The Model Based Development is integrated in our modular embedded system platform. And there is also another advantage, says Dominique. “Several of our products share similar software functions, take for example the function to detect wheel slip. This is similar in most products. With this approach, we can quickly build libraries of functions that recur in different products. That way we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we start a new project.”