Kettering University researchers in the Advanced Power Electronics Lab (APEL) are part of a team tasked by PowerAmerica with developing a high efficiency silicon-carbide (SiC) electric vehicle battery charger. The project is a collaboration between researchers at Kettering University, University of Michigan-Dearborn and HELLA North America. The Kettering team, led by Dr. Kevin Bai, Electrical and Computer Engineering associate professor and director of APEL, completed a similar project with HELLA in 2015 that resulted in the development of a 7.2kW, 98 percent efficiency gallium-nitride (GaN) charger.
Bai anticipates the project will be successfully completed by June of 2017. PowerAmerica put out a nationwide call for proposals to develop a high efficiency charger, from which this proposal was selected.
"The work we'd previously done with HELLA was of the interest of PowerAmerica," Bai said. "PowerAmerica wants us to compare the SiC charger with the GaN charger we developed for HELLA to see which has higher efficiency and higher power density. Furthermore, we will also compare the cost and see which one reaches the productivity first."
PowerAmerica is a U.S. Department of Energy-supported organization led by NC State University. They are working to make wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor technologies cost-competitive with the currently used silicon-based power electronics. They're also building a community that creates and deploys new power electronic capabilities, products and processes that can impact commercial production, build workforce skills, enhance manufacturing capabilities, and foster long-term economic growth in the region and across the country.
HELLA North America is a globally positioned company that develops and manufactures lighting technology and electronic products for the automotive industry.
The collaboration between Kettering, HELLA, PowerAmerica and UM-Dearborn is a $400,000 project that was kicked off on June 1, 2016. The research team consists of Bai, one research engineer, one graduate student and multiple undergraduate co-op students from Kettering; a PhD student from UM-Dearborn; and two engineers from HELLA. Kettering also joined PowerAmerica as a member in June of 2016.
"When we secure the success of this project, the next step will be trying to commercialize the charger through HELLA. More importantly, this project will bring the awareness of wide bandgap devices to students and help the U.S. build the power electronics expertise pool," Bai said.