As part of a program to develop new vehicle technologies that improve fuel efficiency and reduce transportation costs, the US Department of Energy (DoE) has awarded a $2 million contract to GaN Systems and Arkansas Power Electronics International (APEI). The successful bid is one of 38 DoE-funded projects across the US and is part of a $45 million initiative.
The APEI-led team also includes Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc., the University of Arkansas National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission, and the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Together they will work towards developing new electric motor traction drives for hybrid vehicles based on gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductors. The GaN and SiC systems aim to replace traditional silicon semiconductors in automotive power electronics as a more efficient and lower cost option.
The initiative focuses mainly on hybrid electronic vehicles (HEVs), which are full of power electronics for functions like battery management, auxiliary power, braking, and instrument clusters. Improved systems are already in planned designs for vehicles such as the next generation Toyota Prius.