A deep review of the state-of-the-art

The role of power device technology in the electric vehicle powertrain

First publication date: 10/11/2022

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In the automotive industry, the design and implementation of power converters, especially inverters, are at a turning point. This Open Access article reviews current trends in electric vehicle powertrains.

In the automotive industry, the design and implementation of power converters
and especially inverters, are at a turning point. Silicon (Si) IGBTs are at present
the most widely used power semiconductors in most commercial vehicles. How-
ever, this trend is beginning to change with the appearance of wide-bandgap
(WBG) devices, particularly silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN). It is
therefore advisable to review their main features and advantages, to update the
degree of their market penetration, and to identify the most commonly used
alternatives in automotive inverters. In this paper, the aim is therefore to summa-
rize the most relevant characteristics of power inverters, reviewing and providing
a global overview of the most outstanding aspects (packages, semiconductor
internal structure, stack-ups, thermal considerations, etc.) of Si, SiC, and GaN
power semiconductor technologies, and the degree of their use in electric vehicle
powertrains. In addition, the paper also points out the trends that semiconductor
technology and next-generation inverters will be likely to follow, especially when
future prospects point to the use of “800 V" battery systems and increased switch-
ing frequencies. The internal structure and the characteristics of the power mod-
ules are disaggregated, highlighting their thermal and electrical characteristics.
In addition, aspects relating to reliability are considered, at both the discrete
device and power module level, as well as more general issues that involve the
entire propulsion system, such as common-mode voltage.

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