German automotive electronics specialist HELLA and researchers from Kettering University’s Advanced Power Electronics Lab have announced a breakthrough in reducing the size and footprint of electric vehicle chargers, in collaboration with Ottawa’s GaN Systems, manufacturers of a range of Gallium Nitride high-power transistors with various power conversion applications.
“HELLA and Kettering University’s ultra-compact, ultra-efficient EV chargers clearly demonstrate how the performance of gallium nitride contributes to the development of important new designs,” comments Julian Styles, GaN Systems’ director of sales & marketing for the Americas.
Based in Flint, Michigan, Kettering University Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Dr. Kevin Bai has developed a Level-2 electric vehicle (EV) charger prototype with efficiencies exceeding 97% at an unprecedented 2.6 kW/l power density, improving the previous 94% maximum efficiency performance benchmark for a Level-2 charger.
Using these devices our power electronics exhibited a power density greater than 2.6 kW/l. This is a significant milestone with important implications for charging electric vehicles, among other charging applications.
“The switching performance we observed with the GaN Systems’ parts was marvelous,” said Dr. Bai. “Using these devices our power electronics exhibited a power density greater than 2.6 kW/l. This is a significant milestone with important implications for charging electric vehicles, among other charging applications.”
To achieve this additional performance efficiency, which Dr. Bai referred to as a “game changer”, the Kettering University team used GaN Systems’ 60A, 650V GS66516T switches in a two-stage architecture.
“The results of this collaboration are equally gratifying and commercially important, because they provide HELLA with a path to ultra-compact and lighter EV charger designs,” comments Matt McAmmond, HELLA’s manager of advanced engineering. “In addition to benefiting HELLA and our customers, this development also has a positive environmental impact, as it represents another step toward the global effort to reduce power consumption.”
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The Kettering team began their collaboration with HELLA in July, at which point Dr. Bai began to develop a next-generation charger with a two-stage, rather than the traditional three-stage, design in order to achieve the increased efficiency, which he said at the time were only possible because of “the novel gallium nitride devices” provided by GaN Systems.
Founded in 2008, Ottawa’s GAN Systems is a fabless semiconductor company. In December of last year, the company won the Global Semiconductor Alliance 2015 “Start-Up to Watch” award. The award is presented to a privately held semiconductor company with revenue under (U.S.) $20-million.
“We are pleased and honored by the GSA’s recognition of GaN Systems’ innovations and the performance advances we bring to the semiconductor industry,” said CEO Jim Witham upon recieving the award. “The world is using more electronics and more energy at an ever increasing rate. Without increasing the efficiency of power electronics and reducing their size, the trend is unsustainable. Our products help to alleviate the world’s exponentially growing appetite for more compact, efficient and cost-effective power management solutions.
In May of 2015, GAN raised $20-million in a Series C financing that was led by Montreal’s Cycle Capital Management and included BDC Capital and Beijing’s Tsing Capital. Previous investors Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital from Vancouver and RockPort Capital from Boston also participated.