Rapid Electric Vehicle Drivetrain Development in China

“The preliminary findings of a World Bank’s study indicated that the scale of China’s [New Electric Vehicle] NEV program leaves the country well poised to benefit from vehicle electrification. Vehicle electrification is expected to be strategically important to China’s future in the following four areas: global climate change; energy security; urban air quality; and China’s growing auto industry.” These results are presented in a China Auto Review article, dated July 25, 2011.
The article goes on to explain how China can indeed benefit from its competitive advantages in terms of the drivetrain components (batteries and motors) to position itself as a global leader in electric vehicles.
China has shown for several years now its commitment to Electric Vehicle Development. The “Ten Cities, Ten Thousand Vehicles” Program, initiated in 2009 and now extended to 25 cities, should allow for 60,000 EVs (public transportation and government services) to be in service by 2012 (1,000 vehicles a year per city). Of the vehicles distributed so far, 61% are HEVs, 38.5% are battery EVs and 0.5% are fuel-cell vehicles. (ref: Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium)

Up to now, one of China’s main focuses has been indeed on fleet vehicles. The China Auto Review article adds “Electric buses are among the key areas of vehicle technology development and some have been developed to meet the high energy and high duty cycle requirements of the transit bus market.” “Charging infrastructure technology development has [also] focused on the needs of fleets since the early EV applications in China have been associated with fleet vehicles.” Subsidies paid by the Chinese government are of US$61,000 to US$88,000 per bus depending of the category (HEV, pure EV or Fuel Cell).

But China is also setting aggressive targets for the development of the passenger car market, and it is offering subsidies there as well, in the range of US$7,300 for HEV to $8,800 for a pure EV. But as of October 2010, only 2,000 vehicles had been sold in the 5 cities selected for this trial program (Changchun, Hangzhou, Hefei, Shanghai and Shenzhen). And China has set aggressive goals for the passenger EV market: 20,000 privately owned EVs by 2012, as well as an annual production capacity of 500,000 vehicles (HEV, PHEV and EV) by 2012. And to support these vehicles, China has already installed 75 “Quick Charger” stations, that can recharge vehicles in just 10 to 30 minutes, with each “station” having charge spots for 40 to 80 individual vehicles!

SBE Drivetrain Development in China

With a dedicated application engineering office located in Xiamen, SBE has spent the past 3 years in intensive drivetrain development with leading edge companies in China and has been involved in a number of platforms: EV, PHEV, and hybrid passenger car and bus systems. SBE has also geo-positioned a stock of fully deployable test kit and prototype modules with leading performance characteristics, available to inverter systems customers across Asia along with application assistance.

While the China market is expanding rapidly, it is also very competitive, as dozens of strong power electronics companies are attracted by this exciting market growth. SBE has a strong advantage, though, to have developed a complete turnkey solution-centered approach for advanced power electronics architectures and solutions, for the inverter designer. This has occurred over the past year by working in partnership with world leaders such as Methode Electronics, for sophisticated power bus structure, connector, and cooling systems solutions.
Industry players in China are currently undergoing redesigns of power electronic systems on all fronts. Smaller platforms such as hybrid vehicles and small EVs need more power density and less energy devoted to cooling systems all with a goal towards increasing efficiency and reducing cost. With larger vehicle systems, such as passenger buses, the focus shifts towards the lowest possible inductance approach. Higher voltage systems are employed, and any excess stray inductance can easily initiate IGBT failures. Typically, adding “snubber caps” or over sizing of IGBTs (with associated costs) is the designer’s only choice, but SBE’s Power Ring low ESL interconnect solution provides a path without such undesired outcomes. Higher voltage systems are employed, and any excess stray inductance easily initiates IGBT failures or creates higher costs to protect from the undesired event.

SBE is working with one customer in the region, who has been experiencing event failures on a high power IGBT drivetrain application and is designing a complete DC Link, low inductance system, which will allow for a more complete utilization of the switching power without risk of failure and no additional cost to the system.

In another case, a rapid deployment system was fielded to give the customer quick market penetration for its hybrid bus drivetrain system with an excellent success rate over the past 18 months. Currently, SBE is in a full redesign phase to allow the customer to increase power density and reduce cost without sacrificing any of the characteristics that the customer desires.

Conclusion

China’s participation to the Electric Vehicle market is not going away as the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) recently announced that China is to invest US$15 billion over the next 10 years to support the new-energy vehicle production in order to make China the world’s largest new-energy automobile manufacturer. And on the ground, SBE’s team can definitely feel the sense of urgency, and is well positioned to address the needs of this rapidly growing market.

References

  1. World Bank’s View – July 2011 
  2. United Nations – Department of Economy and Social Affairs, Commission on Sustainable Development – “ELECTRIC VEHICLES IN THE CONTEXT OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA” – May 2011 
  3. FinPro report (Finnish Consulting Services on Internationalization) – Electric Vehicle Study in China – Dec 2010
  4. Overview of China’s Electric Vehicles Promotional Programs – May 2011
  5. Fast Company – China Beating The U.S. In Electric Vehicle Race (But Maybe Not For Long) – April 2011

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