Power electronics for electric vehicles: $45 billion market
Power electronics is at the heart of the disruptive change of all electric vehicle parts. While it is true that there are about 200 traction battery manufacturers, 200 traction motor manufacturers and 100 manufacturers of inverters and converters, most of them are making the wrong thing. Analyst IDTechEx has established that, as hybrid and pure electric vehicles progress from being 40% electronic and electric by value overall to 70% in the next ten years there are many gaps in the market. Earlier, IDTechEx identified some when working for the European Union INTRASME project which sought to assist small and medium-sized companies enter the EV value chain. Now it has learned much more by doing a global, in depth study of the subject resulting in the new report, Power Electronics for Electric Vehicles 2015-2025. It reveals a market that will be $45 billion in 2025 for the traction inverters alone. Every traction motor needs an inverter, increasingly there are two motors per vehicle and their inverters are becoming more sophisticated so there is a multiplier effect on market size here. The cost of the inverter is sometimes comparable to that of the motor, which is traditionally the second most expensive part after the battery in a pure electric vehicle.
There is something of a multiplier effect with other power components too. For example, there is one on-board charger for each vehicle but they are required to be capable of handling more and more power for faster charging and that adds to cost. DC-DC converters are multiplying in number per vehicle. True, batteries will be half or one third of the cost and size for a given amount of energy stored by 2025 but that benefit will largely be taken in range ie keeping the battery the same size to increase range and to reduce the range anxiety that inhibits sales of pure electric on-road vehicles today.
That said, leader Nissan recently announced that pure electric car sales grew over 50% last year meaning ten times the growth rate of cars overall so things are already stirring. Chairman of IDTechEx Dr Peter Harrop says, "Together with some other analysts and some manufacturers, we see a big lift off in sales of affordable pure electric cars from around 2020 as range, price and resale value become acceptable. Today's high growth percentage is from a tiny base but the big volumes will come".
Gaps in the market
It is emotive that start-ups making electric vehicles often design their own inverters matched to their own traction motors because they cannot get what they want on the open market and many of the largest vehicle makers do the same. Examples of gaps in the market are affordable, fully functioning in-wheel inverter-motor pairs, inverters that do a better job of controlling the newly popular "less metal-more-electronic" motors such as switched reluctance and ways of simplifying the proliferation of inverters, converters and allied power electronics throughout the vehicle, something being studied by the Technical University of Berlin. Add to that efficient, cost effective ways of integrating and managing power from the proliferation of energy harvesting on and in future electric vehicles by land, water and air. Energy harvesting shock absorbers are expected soon in buses and cars and that will include versions that double as electric active suspension using some of the electricity generated. Yes, you control that with yet more power electronics. Indeed, there are now small but significant numbers of land, water and air vehicles that travel on sunshine alone and never need a charging station. What they do need, however, is ever more sophisticated power electronics.
Top image: Nissan