Automotive electronics and our continuing love affair with cars: Special Report

By Paul O'Shea, Editor, Power Electronics News

An AspenCore / Paul O’Shea Special Edition.


Power Electronics News dedicates this AspenCore Automotive Electronics Special Report to Paul O’Shea, who retired in July after more than 30 years in the business.


Industrialized culture is replete with stories about a love affair with the automobile. It isn’t my purpose to compare and contrast them but to lay out the landscape because we do spend a lot of time and energy conversing about them and it gives a sense of how important they are and that they we will always be creating new designs. We have so many stories, songs, and books written about these metal dragons that we find ourselves day-dreaming about them, much like this song, Silver Thunderbird by Marc Cohn:

Watched it coming up Winslow

Down South Park Boulevard

Yeah it was looking good from tail to hood

Great big fins and painted steel

Man it looked just like the Batmobile

With my old man behind the wheel

… And I could hear him sayin’…

Don’t ya gimme no Buick

Son you must take my word

If there’s a God in heaven

He’s got a Silver Thunderbird


The relationship has entered into a totally new generation of automotive wizardry and what’s available, and what’s coming soon, is amazing. For example, we are lighting the roads with adaptive headlights that point where you steer; seeing head-up displays that give you road, traffic and car information displayed where you can easily see it; and we are adding so many sensors that you can tell almost anything you want to know about the health of your entire car. All of that requires more power and ways to access it.


In this Special Report we offer you technical articles about what automotive electronics are and what makes them special. We also get into the details about designing an LED driver for automotive lighting, and then take a step back to look at the 42-V bus and why it gave way to the newer 48-V bus. We follow that with an article that delves into the details of why exactly automotive power needs 48 V systems.

All of this is needed to provide us, even if it isn’t a silver Thunderbird, with cars having the latest must-have features that inspire us to write more eloquent words and that add to the mystique of our cars, even if they are self-driven.



Automotive electronics: What are they and how do they differ from ‘normal’ electronics?

Automotive electronics are specially-designed electronics intended for use in automobiles. Automotive electronics can be subjected to, and are therefore rated at, more extreme temperature ranges than commercial (i.e., normal) electronics.



Tackling automotive lighting’s common challenges with LED driver modules

LED lighting is one of the fastest growing segments in automotive electronics, but it is not without its own unique challenges. This article describes several major constraints facing today’s lighting designers and explores how these can be addressed



Whatever happened to the 42-volt bus?

Almost 20 years ago, automobile makers rallied around the notion of a high-voltage power bus. Despite the highly-touted advantages of a 42-V bus, the conversion was never fully implemented. With the increasing electrification of automobiles the advantages of 48-V electrical systems are now being exploited in new-generation cars.



Meeting the power demands of battery supplied automotive electronics

Each year the ‘must have’ list of supported accessories and electronic systems grows with the expectation that the size, weight and number of supporting power components will keep pace with the increased power demands. Behind all these electronics are battery regulators and battery chargers that manage the power both into and out of 12, 24, and 48 V batteries.



Self-protected MOSFETs boost reliability of vehicle electronics

The automotive industry demands cost-effective and fully reliable electrical systems, but this tough and potentially destructive environment poses a huge challenge for the power semiconductor devices needed to control the myriad functions that are now commonplace in modern vehicles.


Calibrate voltage drops and interrupts before testing

Poor power supply quality—in the form of dips, dropouts, and other voltage variations—can result in electrical malfunctions that can have serious consequences. To verify that automotive systems will operate properly in the presence of a voltage-supply interruption, you need to test the electronics under conditions that mimic these real-world supply conditions.


$6,000 of Electronics in Car by 2022

The market for automotive semiconductors will rise more than seven percent through 2022, IHS forecasts. It will outpace the 4.5% growth of automotive electronic systems in general, and the 2.4% growth in vehicle units over that period.



MediaTek Auto Gambit: Radar, Vision SoC

MediaTek, Taiwan’s smartphone chip giant, is dead set on entering the growing automotive electronics market, fueled by the belief that its expertise in high-performance, low-power app processors will help carmakers and tier ones develop effective digital cockpits.







PCIM 2017 in a nutshell

It was the year that saw the evolution of wide-bandgap technology and its uptake by design engineers into actual products. Yes, there are concerns that SiC is more expensive at the device level than Si but that’s not true at the system level when the frequency is increased from 10 kHz to 40 kHz, according to Infineon. Automotive appeared to be the primary target for most wideband gap devices, but certainly there were plenty of products that targeted photovoltaics, EV charging, traction control, and motor drives.



The HM73E-10 series of SMT miniature power inductors from TT Electronics, is targeted at high reliability applications in the automotive industry. The inductors are ideal for high efficiency DC-DC applications where size is critical and their AEC-Q200 certification assures performance and reliability levels that automotive applications demand.




Samsung’s new gigafactory aims to compete with Tesla to supply 50,000 EV batteries per year.




Compact, AEC-Q101 qualified TVS diodes protect automotive electronics from voltage transients

The Littelfuse TPSMF4L series of AEC-Q101 qualified transient voltage suppression (TVS) diodes is designed specifically to protect sensitive automotive electronic equipment from voltage transients induced by load dump and other transient voltage events.


Solid state battery technology features extended temp range for Industrial IoT and automotive use

Ilika, a provider of materials for solid state battery technology, announces the launch of Stereax P180, extending the operating temperature range of the Stereax family of solid state batteries. The Stereax P180 adds benefits of support for extended temperature ranges required for many Industrial IoT and automotive end applications. Enabling always on, self-charging energy efficient IoT solutions for more demanding environments.



Highly integrated buck-boost controller transfers power between dual automotive battery systems

A fully integrated multi-phase bidirectional DC/DC current controller from Texas Instruments transfers electric power greater than 500 W per phase between dual 48-V and 12-V automotive battery systems.


Automotive-grade surface-mount fuses are qualified to AEC-Q200

AEM Components announces the availability of its new line of AEC-Q200 qualified surface-mount fuses designed specifically for reliable operation in high-stress automotive applications.



Multi-output automotive power management IC equipped with buck-boost pre-regulator

Allegro MicroSystems, LLC introduced a new power management IC that uses a buck or buck-boost pre-regulator to efficiently convert automotive battery voltages into a tightly regulated intermediate voltage, complete with control, diagnostics, and protections.



Eaton enhances automotive reliability with high current power inductors

The automotive grade HCM1A product line of high current power inductors, from Eaton, meets electronic system power and thermal handling requirements of transportation manufacturers.



Transphorm announces first automotive-qualified GaN FETs

Transphorm’s second-generation, JEDEC-qualified high voltage GaN technology earned the AEC-Q101 stress tests for automotive-grade discrete semiconductors.



65 V, 8 A synchronous step-down regulator delivers 94% efficiency at 2 MHz

The LT8645S can pass the automotive CISPR25, Class 5 peak EMI limits with a 2 MHz switching frequency over its entire load range. Spread spectrum frequency modulation is also available to lower EMI/EMC levels further.

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