The IPG5 inverter supports ultra-fast charging for EVs and aims to deliver ‘class-leading powertrain efficiency’, the Woking-based company said in a statement announcing its public debut. McLaren Applied is now supplying production intent design hardware to customers and partners for continued development and testing.
Dr Stephen Lambert, head of electrification at McLaren Applied told The Engineer that the company believes the inverter is becoming the key component within an electric vehicle drivetrain, with much of the focus previously being on the battery as the ‘low hanging fruit’ for development.
“If you design the inverter right, you can optimise your motor to be more efficient and it also becomes the key integration point of the drivetrain — so it’s responsible for all of the functional safety integration on the vehicle,” Lambert said.
IPG5 can power electric motors to over 350kW peak, 250kW continuous, at a weight and volume of 5.5kg and 3.79L respectively. The inverter was designed for automotive applications, including direct drive, that are capable of operating high-speed motors efficiently and adhere to ISO 26262 ASIL-D standards.
Enabling a significant increase in switching frequency, the silicon carbide technology allows the use of a faster, more efficient and lightweight drivetrain, McLaren said, including inverter, motor and battery systems. Through switching more efficiently, producing less heat and enabling a smaller cooling system compared with conventional inverters, weight and cost of the drivetrain are reduced.
“We’ve been using silicon carbide in motorsport since about 2011, it’s a technology we’re very experienced with,” said Lambert. “In automotive, it’s something that OEMs are just starting to look at now, but don’t really have a huge amount of experience with and don’t know how to get the best out of it.”
McLaren Applied has now been able to bring a fully optimised working silicon carbide inverter to the market having been doing it in lower volumes for the last ten years, Lambert added.
“We have feedback from some of our early customers that when they compare using our silicon carbide inverter with somebody else’s inverter, whether that be silicon carbide or not, the driveability and dynamic response of the inverter is much greater,” he said.
“And that’s because we’ve spent years honing how to control silicon carbide in motorsport, so it’s that we’re bringing to the automotive market alongside all of the automotive requirements of safety, cost down, manufacturing.”
The increased drivetrain efficiency allows a reduction in the size of the battery, which is typically the most expensive single component in a battery EV. The inverter can also be offered without a case, offering flexibility when packaging an off-the-shelf component into a custom system.
“Bringing this technology to market early and getting it into cars is helping our transition to net zero by enticing people to buy electric cars sooner rather than later,” Lambert commented.
“The inverter seems like a slightly niche part of the drivetrain, but actually, this sort of technology could absolutely be the differentiator in vehicles of the future.”
McLaren Applied is currently delivering prototype units to customers ahead of volume production from 2024.
On 3 March, the company announced BAK Motors as the inverter's first publicly revealed customer. McLaren Applied will supply drivetrain components, including the IPG5 800V inverter, for the Kincsem Hyper GT and SUV: the world’s first nano-photonic light activated solid-state hydrogen hybrid hyper-car. The Kincsem Hyper-GT will be designed, engineered and built in Britain with first production of the road legal version commencing in 2024.