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Onsemi, VW Collaborating on Next-Gen EV Inverters

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Volkswagen is working with onsemi, a developer of intelligent power and sensing technologies, to produce a next-generation front and rear traction inverter for electric-vehicle powertrains. Execs at the companies say the inverters are part of a system optimization that will improve range, reliability and performance.

Onsemi has developed a power module around its EliteSiC 1200, Pietro Scalia, senior director of automotive traction solutions at onsemi, told EE Times. The module is designed with high levels of integration, scalability and flexibility. A 3D design structure enables a family of products with a common interface, he said.

The modules scale in terms of current and voltage ratings, with minimum changes for electrical, thermal and mounting interfaces, Scalia said. Flexibility comes from providing a half-bridge circuit; scalability comes from the ability of the same package to accommodate different chip quantities and sizes.

onsemi’s Pietro Scalia.
onsemi’s Pietro Scalia

“This makes our modules very scalable and modular for different customer platforms,” Scalia said. “Reliability and high-efficiency performance make it a top performer in the market, enabling the extra miles in the EV, which our customers value. Scalability and flexibility are essential because OEMs typically don’t just design one powertrain for an EV. They develop platforms that scale to cover multiple types of vehicles with different performance and price points.

“Drivers don’t necessarily care about the chip technology or module package, but they do experience the benefits, but drivers do notice vehicle response and the excitement that comes with it, a lack of range anxiety, as well as reliability and a good value for their money,” he added.

VW’s electric sports utility vehicle, the ID.4, has an estimated range per charge for 2023 of 275 miles, according to VW.

For customers who prefer to minimize the use of rare Earth metals and avoid permanent magnet motors, onsemi also offers exciter modules as an accompanying module to accommodate externally excited motors, Scalia said.

While the current strategic collaboration was announced this year, teams from the two companies have collaborated for more than a year on optimization of the power modules, the companies told the press. Teams are now developing and evaluating prototypes for a new inverter. As part of the agreement, onsemi will deliver its EliteSiC 1,200-V traction inverter power modules, which are pin-to-pin–compatible to easily scale to different power levels and types of motors, the companies said.

“The superior performance and quality of onsemi’s traction inverter modules, together with our joint efforts to create the best system solution, enable us to deliver the outstanding driving experience and quality that customers expect from a VW Group vehicle,” Karsten Schnake, head of the operative and strategic semiconductor taskforce Compass at Volkswagen, told the press. “Onsemi’s broad portfolio of intelligent power and sensing solutions further allows us to offer cutting-edge technologies and features in our EVs, from the traction inverter and beyond. Besides this milestone, onsemi, with its balanced production-facility layout in the U.S., Asia and Europe, including the plant in the Czech Republic, is the perfect match to support our strategic markets with all high-voltage solutions and more.”

VW declined to comment further for this story.

With 19 wafer fabrication and packaging manufacturing sites, onsemi provides VW with more than 500 devices, including insulated-gate bipolar transistors, metal-oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistors, image sensors and power-management integrated circuits, the company told the press.

“Our broad manufacturing footprint, including a resilient end-to-send SiC supply chain, empowers onsemi to deliver the supply assurance that OEMs demand,” Simon Keeton, executive VP and general manager of onsemi’s power solutions group, said in prepared remarks. “Our investments in ramping production globally, especially in silicon carbide, further allow us to support VW’s rapidly scaling EV production.”

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