The top fear for drivers and electric cars is running out of juice before reaching their destination. The majority of trips drivers take fall well under an electric vehicle’s range, however, fear of running out of power is a key factor in drivers continuing to opt for petrol and diesel run vehicles.
Recent developments made by engineers at North Carolina State University have produced a new kind of inverter that will improve the range of electric cars as well as fuel efficiency in hybrid models.
The inverter is the part in electric and hybrid vehicles that ensures enough energy is transferred from the battery to the motor while the car is running. The inverter is usually made of silicon, however, a team at Future Renewable Electric Energy Distribution and Management Systems Center (FREEDM) have substituted silicon for silicon carbide with tests showing improvements.
“Our silicon carbide prototype inverter can transfer 99 percent of energy to the motor, which is about two percent higher than the best silicon-based inverters under normal conditions,” says Iqbal Husain, ABB Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC State and FREEDM Centre. “Equally important, the silicon carbide inverters can be smaller and lighter than their silicon counterparts, further improving the range of electric vehicles.”
The new silicon carbide inverter is able to convey 12.1 kilowatts per litre (kW/L) of power, whereas a 2010 electrical vehicle could only achieve 4.1 kW/L. The U.S Department of Energy’s goal is to develop inverters that can achieve 13.4 kW/L by 2020.
Additionally, the new design of the power component is more efficient at dissipating heat, and could allow the creation of air-cooled inverters. This will eventually eliminate the need for bulky cooling systems.
“We predict that we’ll be able to make an air-cooled inverter up to 35 kW using the new module, for use in motorcycles, hybrid vehicles, and scooters,” Husain says. “And it will boost energy density even when used with liquid cooling systems in more powerful vehicles.”
This development in renewable energy will push to alleviate the “range-anxiety” people associate with electric vehicles, and allow a greater level acceptance across the market.
Image credit: NC State.