Power Electronics: All-In-One Packaging
Lowering electrified vehicle costs by reassembling multiple power electronics functions into one box.
An increase in regulations to lower emissions and improve fuel efficiency has led to greater demand for electrified vehicles, thus driving up the need for more electrical power in automotive systems. While this growth is good for power electronics providers like Delphi Technologies, it doesn’t come without a price. For vehicle manufacturers, cost and space become a puzzle to be solved. In 1977, the average car contained $110 worth of electronics. By 2003, the electronics content was $1,510 per vehicle and today this number is closer to $2,000.
To electrify a vehicle, automakers need to add a large electric motor to propel the vehicle on its own at a high voltage; a lithium ion battery to store the energy that powers the electric motor; and controls to manage the distribution of power.
All of this then has to be packed into the same space, preferably hidden away in the engine compartment, so that automakers can use their existing vehicle designs and electrify them without adding weight or cost. “Our customers wanted all of these components packaged together, essentially into one box,” said Mary Gustanski, chief technology officer, Delphi Technologies. “So that’s what we did, but it wasn’t without its challenges."
Some of these electronics are incredibly complex. Take an inverter for example, one of the most critical components needed for propulsion electrification because the inverter converts direct current (DC) from the battery pack into an alternating current (AC) so that electricity can be used to power and control the vehicle. Inverters can have two and three electrical circuit boards with five hundred to fifteen hundred electrical components. Today’s inverters are also bulky, expensive and prone to failure.
Now, package these electronics close to the engine where they will have to withstand a harsh and volatile environment, such as extreme temperatures, moisture, salt, vibration and all kinds of fluid, over the life of the vehicle.
“We had to come up with a creative and cost effective way to help our customers package multiple power electronics functionality in the same space, and make it automotive grade,” said Gustanski.
Delphi Technologies’ engineers determined that by connecting the inverter control directly to the motor eliminates the need for additional connections, which resulted in a smaller package with fewer cables and wires.
“Next to a battery breakthrough, this type of ‘all-in-one’ packaging has the greatest potential for making all types of electrified vehicles more affordable,” said Mary Gustanski, chief technology officer, Delphi Technologies. “That’s everything from various levels of hybrids to pure electric vehicles.”
By reassembling multiple power electronics functions into "one box," Delphi Technologies can save automakers up to $1,000 on future electrified vehicles.
Solving automakers’ integration challenges is where Delphi Technologies stands apart. Its 35 years of expertise in vehicle propulsion systems has allowed the company to apply decades of knowledge to cost and packaging challenges, while also ensuring performance, safety and reliability.
While power electronics is a nascent industry today, that will change in the next decade. Most experts agree that half of the new vehicles sold globally in 2030 will be electrified in some way. That works out to be 50 million electrified vehicles a year. All of them will need power electronics to efficiently move electricity throughout an electrified vehicle…..or it just won’t move.