Understanding Power Testing for Today's automobiles

Testing New, High Power Semiconductor Devices, Components, and Modules


The pursuit of more energy –efficient vehicles such as vehicles that run on alternative fuels, and hybrid and all-electric vehicles is driving technological advances in high power semiconductors, battery technology, battery charging, and drivetrain systems. These technological advances are leading to new components and systems that are being integrated into the automobiles of today and tomorrow. Designing, characterizing, and testing these components and systems requires instrumentation capable of making precise measurements over a wide dynamic range and under a wide range of conditions.

New high power semiconductors must be tested beyond their specifications and under environmental extremes to ensure reliability in any weather condition. For power efficiency, these devices must operate to as near-ideal device performance as possible.

Testing the powertrain of electric and hybrid vehicles to achieve low overall emissions, maximum efficiency, the longest travel distance, and high reliability is critical for gaining consumer acceptance and growing market share in a highly competitive market. Thus, the losses in each power conversion state of the drivetrain – from charger to power electronics inverter – must be minimized. The designers must be capable of fully characterizing their sub-systems and system, and manufacturing must have the complete set of test tools to ensure that they are installing high quality systems into the vehicle. The major systems that require detailed characterization and test are:

  • The battery and its charging and monitoring systems – AC–DC electrical charging, electromechanical (regenerative braking) charging system, and RF charging system, and inductive coupling. Today’s and future electric and hybrid vehicles may have one or more of these systems. This system also monitors the state of the battery. 
  • DC-DC power supplies for lighting and all other electronic/electromechanical functions. 
  • Drivetrain motor control system – the power inverter sub-system for power delivery, the sensing and torque control system. 
  • Electric motor – Three-phase, permanent magnet, brushless DC motors , switched reluctance motors, and inductance motors.