onsemi, a Phoenix-based maker of high efficiency traction power modules, recently announced that it had inked a deal to sell its batteries to NIO, a Chinese EV manufacturer with plans to expand globally (including the United States).
“From all the solutions we considered, the VE-Trac Direct SiC traction power modules offered the best efficiency during testing, allowing us to extend our New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) range by 4% compared to the current silicon solution,” said Alan S. Zeng, senior vice president at NIO. “Onsemi convinced us with the high performance and reliability of its products as well as the excellent support from its engineering and management team. We look forward to collaborating with onsemi on bringing more innovative EVs to market for generations to come.”
Instead of having just one power inverter to turn DC power from battery packs into AC power to drive an efficient electric motor, onsemi spreads part of this task across several modules that use highly-efficient silicon carbide electronic components. This technology greatly lowers the resistance in the system, which means less of the power goes to waste heat and more of it goes toward powering the vehicle. This means that vehicles can go further on less battery, which is a very good thing.
onsemi’s architecture allows for a variety of total battery pack sizes while keeping the same efficiency. This gives EV manufacturers a lot more flexibility in their product offerings while keeping the costs of scaling pack sizes up or down low. With unsure future supplies of raw materials, having that flexibility could help manufacturers immensely.
“This design collaboration is the culmination of substantial efforts onsemi has put into developing the right technologies for emerging applications such as smart EVs,” said Simon Keeton, executive vice president and general manager of Power Solutions Group at onsemi. “onsemi is the only supplier of silicon carbide solutions with vertical integration capability including SiC boule growth, substrate, epitaxy, device fabrication, best-in-class integrated modules and discrete package solutions. We are rapidly expanding our SiC capacity and are uniquely positioned to address the growing EV market with supplying assurance, performance, quality and tailored SiC end solutions.”
This whole arrangement is a great fit for NIO because it is treating EV batteries differently that most other manufacturers. Instead of only selling batteries, NIO offers “batteries as a service.” This means that you’re paying to always have a battery instead of paying to have a specific battery in your vehicle. This allows for innovative offerings, like battery swap stations. With the difficulty of access to charging for many people living in Chinese cities, it’s easier to just go to a swap station and get a freshly-charged battery put in. This is also great for road trips, as you can swap a battery in just a few minutes instead of having to wait 30-60 minutes for a charge.
Having flexibilities in pack sizes could be great for the future, especially if battery supplies become a bigger concern than they are today due to increased demand. By being able to use a short-range battery around town and get a larger pack temporarily mounted for road trips, this flexibility could make a limited battery supply serve many more car buyers’ needs at lower prices.
Featured image by NIO.
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