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Power Electronics and Electric Machines

 
A photo of a researcher using laboratory equipment.

NREL R&D is making wide-scale adoption of electric-drive vehicles more feasible by developing technologies and components with superior reliability, efficiency, and durability, while dramatically decreasing costs.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

NREL's power electronics and electric machines research focuses on systems for electric-drive vehicles (EDVs) that control the flow of electricity between the battery, the motor, and other powertrain components. NREL scientists and engineers work closely with vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, and other research organizations to develop technologies that overcome the most challenging technical barriers to EDV commercialization. EDVs rely heavily on power electronics to distribute the proper amount and type of power into and out of the appropriate subsystem at the appropriate time. Examples of power electronics components include inverters, converters, and chargers. Power electronics also determine the exact nature and timing of the current and voltage waveforms to the motor.

Decreased system costs and improved component and system performance, reliability, and efficiency are key to making electric-drive vehicles practical for consumers. NREL's work in this area has established the lab as the go-to resource for information from cutting-edge thermal management research, making wide-scale adoption of EDVs more feasible.

In collaboration with research and industry partners, NREL is developing novel thermal management technologies to improve performance, cost, and reliability for power electronics and electric machines. NREL researchers investigate four primary areas:

  • Electric motor thermal management — NREL electric motor thermal management research supports broad industry demand for data, analysis methods, and experimental techniques to improve and better understand thermal management of electric motors.

  • Power electronics thermal management — Wide-bandgap devices offer materials for diodes and transistors that can be operated at elevated temperatures. NREL research is defining thermal requirements at the module and system levels to develop thermal management strategies for wide-bandgap-based and high-temperature power electronics systems.

  • Thermal performance benchmarking — NREL's thermal performance benchmarking characterizes the performance of commercially available, state-of-the-art power electronics and electric motor thermal management systems. Results are shared with industry to help guide future product research and development.

  • Power electronics packaging reliability — High-temperature bonded interface materials enable new technology for lightweight, low-cost, reliable power electronics packaging that fully utilizes the capabilities of wide-bandgap devices. NREL researchers are characterizing the thermal performance and reliability of emerging packaging materials and processes from a variety of manufacturers, and creating a reliability database from the results.

NREL's power electronics and electric machines thermal management facilities feature a wide range of equipment as well as staff expertise. Research findings are available to the public in numerous publications.

Organizations that are interested in partnering with NREL may get more information on working with us. NREL's power electronics and electric machines research supports the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office and Advanced Manufacturing Office, and is funded by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Publications

Browse our power electronics and electric machines publications.