Electricity generation currently accounts for ~40% of primary energy consumption in the U.S. and continues to be the fastest growing form of end-use energy. Power electronics condition, control, and convert electrical power in order to provide optimal conditions for transmission, distribution, and load-side consumption. Most of today’s power electronics have limitations to their performance, temperature resilience, and size due to the circuit topology and semiconductor power devices used. Emerging semiconductor devices such as those based on wide-bandgap materials — along with transformative advances in circuit design and system architecture — present opportunities to dramatically improve power converter performance while reducing size and weight. Development of advanced power electronics with unprecedented functionality, efficiency, reliability, and form factor will help provide the U.S. a critical technological advantage in an increasingly electrified world economy.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Cree Fayetteville (operating as Wolfspeed, A Cree Company) will team with Ford Motor Company and the University of Michigan-Dearborn to build a power converter for DC fast chargers for electric vehicles using a solid-state transformer based on silicon carbide. The team will construct a single-phase 500 kW building block for a DC fast charger that is at least four times the power density of todays installed units. This device would offer significant improvements in efficiency (greater than 60% less power losses), size/weight (greater than 75% smaller size, 85% less weight), and cost (40% lower materials costs) over the state-of-the-art. Using this system, an electric vehicle (100 kWh) will deliver long driving range with 6 mins of recharge. The compact size also reduces the footprint and structural costs in high-cost real estate in areas with high-population. The teaming of an end user (Ford) directly with the disruptive technology provider (Cree Fayetteville) may accelerate the deployment of fast charge capability for electric vehicles.
If successful, CIRCUITS projects will enable further development of a new class of power converters suitable for a broad range of applications including motor drives for heavy equipment and consumer appliances, electric vehicle battery charging, high-performance computer data centers, grid applications for stability and resilience, and emerging electric propulsion systems.
More robust power electronics that withstand higher operating temperatures, have increased durability, a smaller form factor, and higher efficiency will significantly improve the reliability and security of a resilient electrical grid.
Low cost and highly efficient power electronics could lead to more affordable electric and hybrid-electric transportation, greater integration of renewable power sources, and higher efficiency electric motors for use in heavy industries and consumer applications.
Electricity is the fastest growing form of end-use energy in the United States. High performance, low cost power electronics would enable significant efficiency gains across the economy, reducing energy costs for businesses and families.