Powerful, Efficient Electric Vehicle Chargers

Arkansas Power Electronics International, Inc. (APEI)
Low-Cost, Highly Integrated, Silicon Carbide Multi-Chip Power Modules for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Graphic of APEI's EV charger
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$3,914,527
Location: 
Fayetteville, AR
Project Term: 
09/14/2010 to 03/31/2014
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Critical Need: 
All electric devices are built to operate with a certain type and amount of electrical energy, but this is often not the same type or amount of electrical energy that comes out of the outlet in your wall. Power converters modify electrical energy from the outlet to a usable current, voltage, and frequency for an electronic device. Power stations also use power converters on a larger scale to modify electrical energy so it can be efficiently transmitted. Today's power converters are inefficient because they are based on decades-old technologies and rely on expensive, bulky, and failure-prone components. Within the next 20 years, 80% of the electricity used in the U.S. will flow through these devices, so there is a critical need to improve their efficiency.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Currently, charging the battery of an electric vehicle (EV) is a time-consuming process because chargers can only draw about as much power from the grid as a hair dryer. APEI is developing an EV charger that can draw as much power as a clothes dryer, which would drastically speed up charging time. APEI's charger uses silicon carbide (SiC)-based power transistors. These transistors control the electrical energy flowing through the charger's circuits more effectively and efficiently than traditional transistors made of straight silicon. The SiC-based transistors also require less cooling, enabling APEI to create EV chargers that are 10 times smaller than existing chargers.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, APEI would make it faster and easier to charge EVs, helping to facilitate their widespread use.
Security: 
Widespread use of EVs would reduce fossil fuel consumption and reliance on foreign sources of fuel.
Environment: 
Increased use of EVs could reduce the number of gas-powered vehicles and their harmful emissions.
Economy: 
Making it cheaper and easier to charge EVs would save consumers time and money.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Timothy Heidel
Project Contact: 
Dr. Ty McNutt
Partners
Cree
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America
University of Arkansas