Skip to main content

New Funds to Help NREL Commercialize Compact, Power-Dense Inverters for Electric-Drive Vehicles

August 2, 2016

As part of the new Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded funding to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to lead a vehicle research and development (R&D) project in collaboration with John Deere Electronic Solutions (JDES). The funds will be used to apply patented NREL integrated three-dimensional module heat exchanger technology to JDES-developed power semiconductor packaging technologies used in inverters for hybrid-electric heavy-duty vehicles.

"Our partnership with John Deere has led to some meaningful innovations in power electronics designs," said Kevin Bennion, task leader of NREL's Power Electronics and Electric Machines Thermal Sciences and Systems team. "We're excited to move to the next stage in bringing this technology to the marketplace."

Electric-drive vehicles use inverters to control their electric traction motors. Effective thermal management is needed in order for these motors and power electronics system components to meet the cost, size, and performance targets required for commercialization. The goal of the NREL-JDES project is to improve thermal management and performance, while reducing power electronics cost. The NREL technology increases heat flux capability, supports double-sided planar packaging, integrates interconnect thermal management, and makes it possible to fabricate a low-cost modular heat exchanger.

DOE is funding $250,000 of the $525,000 project, with JDES providing the remaining $275,000 in cost share. In this inaugural year of the TCF program, this was one of four awards NREL received, with a total of $1.38 million in DOE funding.

NREL's power electronics and electric machines engineers work closely with vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, and other research organizations to develop systems for electric-drive vehicles that control the flow of electricity between the battery, the motor, and other powertrain components. As the only national laboratory solely dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency, NREL spearheads the R&D needed to put sustainable transportation solutions on the road. The laboratory's innovative and integrated approach helps government, industry, and other partners develop and deploy the components and systems needed for market-ready, high-performance, low-emission, fuel-efficient passenger and freight vehicles, as well as alternative fuels and related infrastructure.