8 July, 2011
In the automotive industry, small differences in size, weight and cost can often represent a big competitive advantage. This is particularly true of electric and hybrid vehicles, which people will buy only if they are affordable and offer an adequate range for day-to-day use.
The Lapp Group, one of the world’s leading suppliers of integrated, branded cabling and connector technology, has addressed all these issues with a unique new charging cable. Launched at the company’s annual press conference in Metz, France, it is named the LAPP HELIX.
“Our patented charging solution is as simple as it is brilliant,” said Group Chairman Siegbert Lapp. “In contrast to a coiled cable, the LAPP HELIX behaves like a snail, crawling out of its shell in search of food and then disappearing back inside when it’s had enough to eat.”
The spiralled design is far more compact than cables. A four-metre Lapp Helix takes up 60% less space than a coiled charging cable of the same length, making it easier for manufacturers to fit into the luggage compartment, tailgate or doors of a vehicle. When used in a fixed charging station, it can be fitted underneath a flap for protection.
The cable uses only about half as much material as a coiled alternative, making it 40% lighter and thus helping to increase the car’s range. This reduced material requirement also results in a 25% cost saving for the manufacturer.
The cable’s low weight makes it easier to handle, so the whole charging process is easier for the driver. Once the battery is charged, the LAPP HELIX retracts back into its housing for safe storage. In Lapp’s innovative design, the cable is wound horizontally. The restoring force that causes the cable to retract automatically is similar to that found in a conventional coiled cable – effectively, the LAPP HELIX “remembers” its storage position. “With electric cars, even more than with conventional vehicles, every gram counts,” explains Siegbert Lapp. “Lightweight construction is often complex and expensive, but the LAPP HELIX saves weight, space, and money all at the same time – this is the triple crown in automotive design.”
The components of the LAPP HELIX are based on the existing LAPP CHARGE system. The cable is halogen-free, fire and oil-resistant, and has an operating temperatures range of -40° to +90°C, making it ideal for use in tough conditions. Like the LAPP CHARGE, its design can be tailored to the customer’s needs, for example by adding a manufacturer’s logo.
Lapp recommends the VDE-compliant plug developed in cooperation with its partner company Bals Elektrotechnik. The complete range of plug-and-socket units includes various panel sockets, and are designed to accommodate additional contacts which in future will allow data to be exchanged between the vehicle and its power supply. The LAPP HELIX can also be used with other common types of plugs.