Opportunity and Challenges for SiC-based HEV Traction Inverter Systems

Paper #:
  • 2017-01-1248

Published:
  • 2017-03-28
Abstract:
Due to global trends and government regulations for CO2 emission reduction, the automotive industry is actively working toward vehicle electrification to improve fuel efficiency and minimize tail-pipe pollutions. For the traction inverter systems in today’s hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), silicon IGBTs and power diodes are the main control devices. These mature components are reliable and cost-effective, but have their limitation on energy losses. SiC wide bandgap semiconductor, on the other hand, has potential to offer additional boost of efficiency for the HEV drive system. In recent years, commercial SiC MOSFETs are significantly improved in terms of conduction and switching losses. However, reliability concerns and high prices still place a limit on their overall competitiveness against silicon. Ford Motor Company has partnered with major semiconductor manufacturers to evaluate SiC products for the HEV inverter system. In this study, 900V SiC MOSFET modules from Wolfspeed were tested and compared with an 800V silicon IGBT module of similar power handling capability. SiC devices were found to have lower power losses in light-load conduction conditions. In addition, faster switching speed enabled by optimized packaging and gate driver configuration resulted in substantial reduction of turn-on and turn-off losses, although the implications on module manufacturability and cost should be further evaluated. Given the SiC chip sizes being smaller than the silicon devices in this comparison, higher cost of wide bandgap devices may be partially offset, while potential fuel economy benefits on the vehicle level may be achieved in designated drive cycles. In light of the opportunity for next-generation power semiconductors, new challenges remain to be addressed, such as system compatibility, switching oscillation, protection methods, component cost, and reliability verification. Should these issues be successfully mitigated, SiC MOSFETs may be attractive for the automotive electric drive system in the next 5~10 years.
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