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Power trends for 2022

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By Nick Flaherty

Battery gigafactories

The race to fund and build gigafactories to build battery cells, packs and modules will heat up even further in 2022. With NorthVolt producing its first cell, the starting gun has fired for home-grown European production. Morrow

The UK is behind, although the BritishVolt plans in the north of the UK are behind Nissan’s partner EnVision, and plans in Coventry have still to get to the planning stages. BritishVolt is working on a range of different potential battery chemistries and technologies to keep its options open for potential customers. The recent deal with Manz is designed to have flexibility in the production equipment to support a wider range of customers.

ItalVolt will progress with plans to turn the old Olivetti site in Italy into a Gigafactory, while Sunlight is looking to build a plant in Greece. In contrast to recent years, there is no shortage of funding now for such projects to provide manufacturing capability in the region from indigenous rathr than Chinese companies.

Wide bandgap semiconductors

SiC and GaN will continue to drive into the mainstream.

SiC is becoming the dominant technology for high power systems, particularly in electric vehicles and solar inverters, although IGBTs will continue to have a significant cost advantage that means they will still be a popular design choice. Research into higher voltage IGBTs will continue to support th technology.    

GaN is now well established with reliability data and lower cost manufacturing than SiC, as wll as higher frequency operation for smaller devices.

Integration with complementary n and p logic on the same GaN chip as the power for the first time will drive down the size, while the move from planar to vertical transistor structures will also reduce the size and cost of GaN devices.

Wall sockets as chargers

Despite the battle in Europe over connector formats, the discrete charger for smart phones and laptops is essentially dead. There will be millions of units produced in 2022 and for several years to come, but 2022 will also see the emergence of the replacement power socket. New builds, but more importantly retrofitting projects, will use AC power sockets that also deliver DC power via USB power delivery (PD) ports. With initial power delivery up 45W, this will grow to 65W. Beyond that will require new monitoring and thermal capabilities.

The digitalisation of power

The extensible RISC-V open source instruction set architecture is increasingly being used for power controller IP that can be integrated into a wide range of applications. This will drive the increasing digitalisation of power control.

Battery chemistries

Lithium ion technology will continue to dominate the landscape, moving into more applications, although lithium iron phosphate (LFP) is coming back into fashion. Other technologies such as sodium will continue in the sidelines in 2022, with prospects for volume production in 2023. New preparations of silicon, graphene and carbon nanotubes will continue to provide significant improvements in the capacity and charging speed of batteries in 2022.

Solid state batteries

2022 will see the first production versions of solid state batteries in a key race for higher capacity, reliability and safety. Roll to roll production will bring down costs at the same time, but this will still take two to three years to enter the automotive supply chain.


 


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