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2020’s Most Successful EV Technology Announcements in the Power Electronics Industry

December 30, 2020 by Gary Elinoff

The line between the nascent electric vehicle industry and the electronics world is getting ever more blurred, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in power.

These five examples are prime illustrations of the ever-increasing crosscurrents between the two fields of endeavor

GM Collaborates with Analog Devices for Wireless EV Battery Management

General Motors Chooses Analog Devices’  Wireless Battery Management System (wBMS) will be utilized across GM’s Ultium battery platform. Going forward, Ultium will figure prominently throughout GM’s entire fleet of EVs.

An EV battery is not just one unit but is actually a system of many separate cells, which must be linked together to power the vehicle. With use, each cell “ages”, and reacts differently both to charging and discharging. A battery management system must ensure that each cell's evolving profile is properly catered to, if the battery as a whole is to function safely and efficiently.

What’s different about Analog Device’s (ADI) wBMS is that it is, as the title states, wireless. As pointed out on EE Power, it’s analogous to WiFi in a private home, eliminating the need for the endless runs of ethernet cable that would otherwise be needed to funnel internet access everywhere it is needed. 

Image courtesy of EE Power.


As per Mike Kultgen, the General Manager of wBMS at ADI, “The BMS is constantly monitoring the cells, delivering reliable measurement accuracy over time, temperature, and operating conditions. It knows what is going on every single moment and relies 100% on the information it receives from ADI chips.”

The wBMS eliminates so much cabling the battery pack as a whole might take up 15% less space,  a critical metric for success in any vehicular system.

GM and ADI are both giants in their field, which makes this a critically noteworthy collaboration. The elimination of troublesome cabling will enhance overall vehicle reliability, and success in this application will undoubtedly set a standard throughout the power industry.


ON Semiconductor’s Line of Auxiliary Power Supplies for EVs

It's been said that EVs are essentially computers on wheels. The analogy is reinforced when power delivery systems are considered. Modern computer systems often employ a main bus voltage available system-wide and employ an array of DC/DC converters to deliver that right amount of voltage and power where they are needed locally.

ON Semiconductor has introduced two power supplies that work from 250 to 900 VDC, making them suitable for the 400 and 800 VDC systems employed by EVs. As reported in EEPower, these include the SiC-based SECO−HVDCDC1362−15W15V−GEVB and the SECO−HVDCDC1362− 40W15V−GEVB. The former supplies 15 volts at 15 watts, and the latter 15 volts at 40 watts. Both provide 4kV isolation. 

The company also offers an additional pair of power supplies that work from 6 to 18 VDC rails. 

The SECO−LVDCDC3064−IGBT−GEVB is a +15/-7.5/+7.5 volt isolated IGBT gate driver supply, and the SECO−LVDCDC3064−SIC-GEVB is a +20/-5/+5 volt isolated SiC gate driver supply.

SiC is taking EV systems by storm, just as they are the rest of the electronics industry, and with these new devices ON Semiconductor is cementing its place in this rapidly advancing universe.


Allegro’s New Portfolio of Automotive Gate Drivers

Allegros gate drivers are designed to work with the ubiquitous 48 volt EV rail. The tough new devices are rated to AEC-Q100 Grade 0 (-40 to +150℃), just right for the harsh automotive environment.

As Steve Lutz, Product Line Director at Allegro puts it, “The advantages for 48V are clear.” He later goes on to state that, “As the electric vehicle (EV) market is rapidly expanding, so too is our portfolio of 48V products.”

As described in EEPower, “The AMT49100 and AMT49101 are 80V N-channel power drivers capable of controlling MOSFETs connected in a 3-phase bridge arrangement and are specifically designed for 48V automotive applications

The AMT49502 and A89503 are a half-bridge gate driver for BLDC and brush DC motors, actuators and solenoids. It can work in 12 volt as well as 48 volt systems.

The A89500 is a half-bridge N-channel MOSFET gate driver. This unit is also compatible with 12 volt systems in addition to 48 volt buses.


Volkswagen and NXP Partner in EV Platform

As reported in EEPower, VW has adopted NXP’s battery management system (BMS) to mentor the lithium-ion battery (LiB) power system for its MEB platform. The MEB is destined to play a central role in VW’s EV future.


VW’s MEB chassis. Image courtesy of VW video

“As part of the first wave of Volkswagen’s battery electric vehicle initiative, we’ll deliver up to 75 full-electric vehicle models to market by 2029,” said Dr. Holger Manz, Head of Development for Vehicle Energy Supply and High Voltage Systems, Volkswagen AG. “Incorporating a functionally safe battery management system that can scale across many car models makes it easier to achieve the full power potential of a battery, optimized range, and the extension of the battery’s lifetime.” 

As of October, NXP reports that “16 of the leading Top 20 car makers” have opted for the NXP BMS solution. No doubt industry observers will enjoy watching what will doubtlessly play out as quite the standards war. 


TI’s GaN FET Drivers for Auto Applications


Saving space and weight, as well as decreasing BOM count is critical for EVs. In recognition of this imperative, TI has introduced the LMG342xR030 and the LMG342xR050, 650-V and 600-V gallium nitride (GaN) field-effect transistors (FETs) packaged along with their custom-designed gate drivers.

Asif Anwar, director of the Powertrain, Body, Chassis & Safety Service at Strategy Analytics states that "Texas Instruments leverages over a decade of investment and development to deliver a uniquely holistic approach – combining internal GaN-on-Si device production and packaging with optimized Si driver technology to successfully implement GaN in new applications." 

These units enable engineers to achieve 99% power efficiency, twice the power density and also to reduce the size of power magnetics by 59% compared to existing solutions. TI reports that these GaN-based solutions can enable designers to reduce the size of DC/DC converter and chargers by 50%, even when compared SiC-based solutions.

SiC and GaN are the dueling banjos of the electronics industry. Arguing about which is “better” is as dangerous as arguing about religion. But in either case, for EVs as well as for the power electronics industry as a whole, wide bandgap semiconductors will loom large.


What did you see as the most interesting EV development this year? Let us know in the comments below.