By Dr Peter Harrop, Chairman, IDTechEx
The market for electric vehicle inverters, both hybrid and pure electric, will grow from around US$2.8 billion in 2013 to an estimated US$4.2 billion in 2023. The demand for inverters and electric power conversions is already well established in the automation and industrial control industries, which are also growing at considerable pace. The addition of a significant complimentary emerging electric vehicles market will create new sectors for existing inverter and power electronic component suppliers as well as create opportunities for new players, particularly those with specialist electric vehicle knowledge and those able to develop added value through highly integrated electric powertrain systems.
Zytek, UK, is a highly successful designer of traction motors, controllers and systems and an indicator of many new trends in power electronics. In 2007 it was bought by Continental AG in Germany. More designers and manufacturers of power electronics will be bought by Tier 1 suppliers.
As motors are slimmed down and more of their function is based on electronics, power electronics often become an important part of the weight in a total package. For example, the new 25 kW Zytek motor weighs only 13 kg, the gearbox just 11 kg and the weight of the inverter becomes significant at 7.5 kg. Consequently, there is interest in new power components that remove weight and volume such as supercapacitors replacing electrolytic capacitors, multi-layer power boards rather than solid copper rods and introduction of wide band gap semiconductors.
Mitsubishi Electric has a prototype 60 kW electric vehicle motor-drive system with a built-in silicon-carbide SiC inverter. The system – claimed to be the smallest of its kind – “will allow automotive manufacturers to develop electric vehicles with more passenger space and higher energy efficiencies”. The 60 kW motor-drive occupies a volume of 14.1 litres.
Power electronics are increasingly integrated into one motor-housing or the motor forms part of a hybrid transmission that may be a very complex series-parallel hybrid. In other cases, the motor and power electronics are in one housing so it becomes increasingly impractical for different companies making different components. Fifty years after the integrated circuit for electronics appeared we now have a rapid move to integrated electrics in vehicles.
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