Power Electronics: The Secret Sauce of Electrified Vehicles


“Electrified” is the new favorite buzzword of automotive propulsion and batteries and electric motors are the components that command most of the headlines. 


Nearly everyone is overlooking a key ingredient, according to Mary Gustanski, Delphi’s vice president of engineering, what she calls “the secret sauce.” 


It’s called power electronics, the efficient management of electrons between direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). Next to the battery, the science of power electronics presents the biggest opportunity for car companies to reduce the cost and extend the range of electrified vehicles – that is, mild hybrids, full hybrids and plug-in hybrids.  


“When you talk electrified, all you hear about is the motors and batteries,” Gustanski said. “No one talks about power electronics and yet it is the heart of every electrified propulsion solution. That is why we went all in on power electronics. In fact, that is what Delphi has invested in for the past 25 years!” 


While the battery and electric motor make up half of the cost of a typical 48-volt, mild hybrid solution, it’s the power electronics that differentiates one system from another. 


“It’s being able to take your 12-volt architecture, your electrical wiring, and adapt it to supply dual voltage. You have to power everything, supply the electrons and make everything work. You need the inverter for motor control and the inverter, as you know, takes it from the 48-volt DC to an alternating current for the E Motor. You also need a DC to DC converter to adjust from 48-volt to the 12-volt to supply all components in your system. Power electronics that work very efficiently with effective thermal management capability and light weight, small designs for ease of packaging – that is really the secret sauce of Delphi’s Power Electronics.” 


Automotive standards are demanding -- from the reliability targets to the temperature extremes of minus 40 degrees to 135 degrees Centigrade to the noise, vibration and harshness parameters. 


“That is what we showcased in Frankfurt – our entire range of power electronic solutions and why we matter, why we are different than the competition. Why we can design more power density into a smaller, lighter package than anyone else on the market.  And why that matters in the integration of not only a mild hybrid but all the way to a full electric vehicle.” 


Delphi’s inverter is 40 percent lighter, 30 percent smaller and with 25% higher power density! When customers in Frankfurt heard that the first generation power switch made 325 amps and the second generation will make 500 amps,  that got their attention. 


“We are making power electronics better, smaller and more affordable.” Gustanski said. “For the OEMS, they love them because they know they are going to last over the life of the vehicle. So we have higher reliability over the life of the vehicle. Powertrain delivers power electronics that provide ease of packaging, meet performance requirements and all for a lower cost -- that’s the reason customers love our power electronics