Challenges in automotive power regulation

April 28, 2011 // By Jifeng Qin, Zaki Moussaoui, Niall Lyne, Ken Lenk, Greg Miller
As vehicle electronic content proliferates, electronic component quality and reliability must improve to maximize vehicle performance and reduce warranty issues. While component quality and reliability were always important, the new trend towards hybrid (HEV/PHEV) vehicles and battery-powered electric vehicles (BPEV) adds a new dimension.  Here is why.

Older gas power vehicles had only a minimum of electronics - an electronic component failure may have stopped the radio from working but not prevent anyone from getting home ok. Simple engine control functions where added, to improve engine efficiency and fuel economy. This created the need for quality and reliable components as a single component failure could stop the engine from functioning.
Today, with vehicles that are almost completely controlled by electronics, drivers can face different kinds of reliability risks. Typical, the electronics begin their work when a driver walks up to the car and the passive entry system unlocks it. The interrogator pings the key to allow you to start the car with a press of a button. Numerous power supply, analog and microcontrollers circuits start up and control your engine, transmission and almost everything else in the vehicle.
Of course, in most vehicles now, the GPS points drivers in the right direction. Adaptive cruise control radar keeps cars at safe distances, while the anti-lock braking system keeps drivers in control, and airbags are primed to action in case of an accident. And in many vehicles, the telephone can call for help (and report a position) when drivers are not capable. All electronics, all requiring high levels of reliability in a relatively harsh operating environment.

The standard is vital because the average car today requires an electrical power processing capability of 250W to 1500W, a number that is increasing rapidly due to the high power electrical system required in vehicles for powering the car or truck, and also for entertainment and efficiency. Because a vehicle battery is a relatively unregulated low voltage source, it requires a regulated high voltage DC-DC system, which in most cases means a boost DC-DC converter using a multiphase boost architecture.

For example, in battery electric vehicles, the result is a complete elimination of the mechanical engine and transmission by replacing them

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