Use of Power Electronics Systems in Automotive Applications

Use of Power Electronics Systems in Automotive Applications

Laura Davis, Manufacturing Technology Insights | Saturday, December 26, 2020

Large-bandgap semiconductor devices, such as gallium nitride and silicon carbide devices, have attracted significant interest from the automotive application sector.

FREMONT, CA: Wide-bandgap semiconductor devices, like Gallium Nitride (GaN) and Silicon Carbide (SiC) devices, have drawn considerable interest in the automotive field of operation. However, large-band gap semiconductor devices are still too costly to apply to automotive applications' power electronics systems. In this case, the series-connected active power semiconductor device leveraging low voltage rating power semiconductor devices from power conversion systems is an effective solution for cost and performance problems. However, there is no mention of the phenomenon of voltage imbalance in series-connected active power semiconductor devices.

There are several types of power electronics systems in automotive applications. The control systems for HEVs, for example, have several power electronics systems.  Besides, the requirement of each power electronics device varies from that of the others. On the other hand, large-bandgap semiconductor devices, such as gallium nitride and silicon carbide devices, have attracted significant interest from the automotive application sector. These devices have much better performance than Si power devices with a lower internal carrier concentration, a higher electrical field, higher thermal conductivity, and higher thermal conductivity. This aspect means that HEVs using the SiC and GaN powertrain will achieve substantially improved fuel economy (3 to 5 percent increase in fuel efficiency in the case of SiC power semiconductor devices).

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The benefit of the wide-bandgap semiconductor system application is the associated high-efficiency performance due to low on-resistance characteristics. From the application side of the system, low-loss performance directly affects high fuel efficiency. Also, SiC power semiconductor devices can be used in inverters for EVs as they have high-voltage (over 800 V) lithium-ion batteries for their quick-charge requirements. In the case of 1000 V DC bus-line applications, the inverter uses a SiC power semiconductor unit.

Another advantage of the large-bandgap semiconductor device is that it can minimize the size of power electronics systems. This occurrence is because passive components and cooling systems occupying considerable space in power converters can be minimized due to high-frequency operation and high-efficiency operation.

In the automotive sector, the strict EU regulation of exhaust gas would require high fuel efficiency performance. One solution is the application of large-band gap semiconductor products, such as GaN and SiC devices, to main power lines and accessory power lines in next-generation automotive applications. However, the need for lower costs in the automotive application market has increased in recent years.

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