BRUSSELS — The HEV and EV power electronics market is booming and may use SiC or GaN technologies before 2020 according to a report by Yole Développement dedicated to power electronics in vehicles.
The "Power Electronics in Electric & Hybrid Vehicles Report" details power electronic applications in the HEV and EV markets and includes technologies and market trends, the power electronic supply chain as well as the SiC and GaN approach as a substitute of current silicon solutions. The aim is to provide an overview of the sector, the key technological challenges, the market evolution, automotive manufacturers’ needs, and so on.
Key players and products/technologies have been analyzed in this report. According to the report power electronics modules today represent 20 percent of the materials costs for hybrid vehicles. Further, strong growth in this sector is expected: over 30 percent between 2009 and 2020.
A 5-billion power module market in 2020
Toyota, the world leading car producer, has been dominant on the hybrid market up to now, but this niche market is becoming a must for car makers as the focus on car carbon dioxide emissions intensifies. Hybrid is defined into different levels: micro, mild, full, and plug in hybrid.
Micro hybrid will see the highest growth due to its low cost and easy integration, specifically in Europe. Mild and full hybrid will continue their strong penetration in the US market. Plug-in hybrid is a bridge to EV technology, and uses the same high voltage battery technology and plug-to- grid for recharge.
The report says the EV car business will really ramp up in 2010 with the arrival of big car makers (Mitsubishi, Renault, GM, Ford, Daimler). Limited drive range (40 miles) and high cost are still issues. But it is expected that huge investments in new Li-Ion batteries will increase the performance/cost ratio of EVs.
“Globally, more than 17 million cars will be hybrid or electric in 2015 and some forecasters suggest sales will reach 50 million units in 2020, meaning half of the cars produced,” according to Dr P. Roussel, Project Manager at Yole Développement.
Power electronics are a key technology for hybrids and represent 20 percent of the material costs. It is even bigger for EV cars. HEV/EV power devices are used in DC/DC converters and DC/AC inverters. There are various configurations depending on the hybrid version and car makers’ choices.
Inverters are roughly the same for full hybrid, plug in hybrid and EV cars with an average power of 50 kW. This application alone represents 74 percent the total power module market for HEV and EV cars in 2009.
“IGBT is the device of choice for such high power applications and represents 80 percent of the total HEV/EV power module market,” explained Dr Roussel. “The standard voltage of IGBT devices is 650 V but there is a trend to increase it. It is still unknown if it will be 700/800V or directly 1.2 kV, which is already a standard.”
The HEV/EV power module market stands at $300M in 2009 and is expected to grow strongly until 2020 at a growth rate close to 30 percent to reach $5B in 2020. Today, the power module market is mainly dominated by Toyota who manufactures the module internally. With the near universal involvement of other car makers, semiconductor companies (Infineon, Fuji, Mitsubishi, STM…) will enter the market and will take a big market share in the power device pie.
As HEVs and EVs remain expensive, car makers and tier one suppliers want to cut the cost. Power modules represent about 50 percent of the inverter and converter cost so power module cost reduction is the main goal of all the market players. It is expected that the power module average cost will be reduced by more than 25 percent in the coming years.
HEV/EV power devices value chain
Up to now, Toyota was dominating the HEV market and power module value chain. With market growth and arrival of many players at the different levels (car makers, tier one suppliers and semiconductor companies), the landscape will change drastically. Automotive tier one suppliers are investing heavily in HEV/EV powertrains and will play an important role in the HEV/EV power devices value chain. This includes companies such as Bosch, Continental, Valeo, Delphi, Denso, and Hitachi, amongst others.
These companies have the knowledge of specific automotive requirements that are very stringent for power devices. Some of them design the power modules themselves to cut the cost. At the same time, semiconductor companies will try to climb the value chain by developing new power modules. Hence, it will be difficult over the next few years for power modules manufacturers to find a significant place in the HEV/EV market.
SiC and GaN: Key technologies for HEV/EV power device applications?
Several companies (Mitsubishi Rohm, Toyota …) have developed inverter prototypes based on SiC diodes and switches that show significant size reduction of up to one quarter the size of silicon devices. SiC has clear advantages in HEV/EV applications (better power density, less losses, higher operating temperature) but cost pressure for automotive applications is a big challenge. To succeed, the availability of SiC switches is paramount because it would allow a reduction of the cooling systems cost.
At the same time, the cost of SiC devices would need to be significantly reduced and the passive components and packaging adapted to support high operating temperatures. If the cost of SiC devices can be reduced, then SiC may be an option for HEV and EV. Maybe, it will be introduced first in EV applications that are more sensitive to losses to gain distance range.
GaN is another possible option thanks to its better performance/cost ratio compared to SiC. Toyota and many other companies are evaluating this technology and if the cost of SiC can’t be reduced, GaN would be an affordable substrate especially for inverter applications that are very sensitive to cost.
This report presents detailed market metrics of the current and projected HEV/EV power modules, power devices and substrate business, describes the HEV/EV market and architecture, and covers power device applications, the key players, the supply-chain, the volumes and related market size of each segment. It also gives the total possible accessible market for SiC and GaN, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of those materials over the current established silicon technologies.
The report: Power Electronics in Electric & Hybrid Vehicles is priced at Euros 3,590. The author Dr Philippe Roussel holds a Ph-D in Integrated Electronics Systems from the National Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA) in Lyon.
For further information visit www.yole.fr.