21st Century Automobile: When One Voltage Is Not Enough
By: Florent Liffran, CEO at BrightLoop Converters
The time is ripe for a once-in-a-lifetime change in automotive voltages. In fact, the revolution has already begun. It only remains to be seen which voltages the industry will converge on.
Automobiles in production average 4000 meters of electrical wires. From today's perspective, a car without a supply of electricity is unimaginable. For most of us, it is equally unimaginable for a voltage level other than the ubiquitous, nominal 12V.
We have, however now reached a crossroads. Electric loads relentlessly increase in number as well as in power. Large and long-term investment in manufacturing and qualification serve as a counter-force to change. But we are at a breaking point. Next up is a generational event: the redesign of automobile voltage systems.
After an earlier aborted attempt to engineer an industry migration to "42V," change is finally coming to automotive voltages. We have already entered an ascent phase where various topologies and voltages are tried.
Will we eventually reach a maturity phase, consolidating again on a single voltage bus? Or maybe two? Or rather, will innovative suppliers allow designers their voltage of choice, supported with flexible electronics?
Power electronics will serve an indispensable role in any case.