Texas Instruments expands 48-V offerings
Texas Instruments (TI) is expanding its efforts in 48-V vehicle electrical systems, which its experts say can be used to augment both internal combustion engines in conventional hybrids and high-voltage systems of pure-electric vehicles. These mid-range voltage systems provide enough power for heating and air conditioning as well as motors for steering and drivetrain.
Conventional 12-V batteries are being maxed out as the power consumption of sensors, motors, and processors of next-generation vehicles soars to over 3 kW at maximum levels. More and more hybrids are beginning to employ lithium ion batteries and supporting 48-V electronic components.
“There are increasing efforts in hybrids entering with 48 volts,” said Karl-Heinz Steinmetz, General Manager for Worldwide Automotive Powertrain at Texas Instruments. “Companies are talking about power levels of 30, 40, and even 50 kW of power provided by a 48-V rail.”
Though 48-V technology has been around for a few years, it’s seeing growth now as automakers attempt to meet more stringent fuel consumption and emissions regulations. Using this voltage level lets OEMs provide more power for vehicles with internal combustion engines and reduce costs for electric vehicles with very-high-voltage main battery packs.
“48 V is an enabler for car manufacturers to meet short-term emission regulations,” Steinmetz said in a recent webinar. “At the same time, it is important for meeting comfort demands. 48 V is clearly good for hybrids, which is an enlarging market. At the same time, it is a long-term investment for meeting the needs of battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.”
TI is responding to growing demand by expanding its high-voltage and battery-management devices. Ongoing integration of semiconductors and a push toward more centralized electronics are helping reduce the number of modules in vehicles. Power systems are part of that trend.
“There’s a push to use fewer enclosures,” said Matt Watson, General Manager for C2000 Microcontrollers at Texas Instruments. “Now, the traction inverter is in a separate enclosure, high-voltage dc-dc converters are in a separate enclosure. We’re rapidly starting to see some consolidation. Many cars have 300-400 enclosures; that will come down to 30 or 40.”
Steinmetz predicted that 48-V systems will help OEMs implement stop-start technology, which improves efficiency by turning off the engine.
“When the vehicle is coasting, you can shut down the internal combustion engine; you can even turn the engine off when the vehicle is stopped,” he said. “The electrical system can handle air conditioning and heating.”