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EV inverter market sees $18B growth

Posted: 17 Oct 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:electric vehicles  inverters  electric powertrain systems 

A research firm has reported that the market for electric vehicle inverters, both hybrid and pure electric, will grow from around $10 billion to an estimated $18 billion from 2013 to 2023.

The demand for inverters and electric power conversions is already established in the automation and industrial control industries, which are also growing at considerable pace. Therefore, the addition of a significant complimentary emerging 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.

Every electric vehicle needs at least one electric traction motor, many have two or more, and each traction motor requires an inverter to power it. The market place for electric vehicle inverters is both varied and dynamic. Inverter sizes range from a few hundred watts to several hundred kilowatts and span electric vehicle applications from electric cycles to passenger vehicles to commercial and military vehicles, all of which are expanding at unprecedented rates. This market place provides scope for players to participate in the general market place and in niche areas, and indeed there are no providers of inverters who cross the complete range of electric vehicles.

For sheer volumes, inverters in light electric vehicles such as electric bicycles dominate now and will remain so by 2023, with these being largely in Asia, meeting everyday personal transportation needs in large industrial cities. However, by 2023 inverters and converters in passenger vehicles will be dominant by market value as high volume production is established and cost of ownership and range anxiety are reduced. The wide range in power and performance requirements, from small low voltage inverters used in electric scooters to large high power inverters used in hybrid and electric trucks, buses and military vehicles, creates an emerging market space and set of market requirements and thus an opportunity for large number of suppliers of electric vehicle power electronic systems and components to supply demand, and no real possibility of dominance by one provider.

The user demand for greater all electric range will push inverter and converter designers to optimise overall system efficiency. This, together with the requirement to reduce overall package size and system cost will result in the adoption of new materials and control algorithms and require a move towards higher levels of system integration.

Advances in inverter design for electric vehicles are driven by several key technologies, including power device materials, power capacitors and cooling technologies. These will assist in the realisation of step changes in performance, size and reliability over the next decade with materials such as silicon carbide and gallium nitrate among the most notable. These are unlikely to be in commercial high volume electric vehicle applications until much later in the decade due to issues around packaging and reliability. However, the benefits they offer indicate that they will be the most likely devices of choice by 2023.

The high performance enjoyed by electric powertrains is often also considered a potential danger as faults in any part of the system can result in near instantaneous torques being developed at the vehicle wheels, which can result in unsafe conditions unless properly considered. Therefore, functional safety is becoming an increasing important and often mandatory requirement for electric powertrain systems and must be considered at early product design and component selection stages, frequently resulting in fault tolerant and dual redundancy designs.





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