A scalable life cycle inventory of an automotive power electronic inverter unit—part I: design and composition
Journal article, 2019
Purpose: A scalable life cycle inventory (LCI) model, which provides mass composition and manufacturing data for a power electronic inverter unit intended for controlling electric vehicle propulsion motors, was developed. The purpose is to fill existing data gaps for life cycle assessment (LCA) of electric vehicles. The model comprises new and easy-to-use data with sufficient level of detail to enable proper component scaling and more in-depth analysis of inverter units. It represents a stand-alone three-phase inverter with insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs), typical in electric vehicles. This article (part I) explains the modeling of the inverter design including the principles for scaling, exemplifies results, and evaluates the models’ mass estimations.
Methods: Data for the design of power electronic inverter units was compiled from material content declarations, textbooks, technology benchmarking literature, experts in industry, and product descriptions. Detailed technical documentation for two electrically and electronically complete inverter units were used as a baseline and were supplemented with data for casings, connectors, and bus bars suitable for automotive applications. Data, theory, and design rules were combined to establish a complete model, which calculates the mass of all subparts from an input of nominal power and DC system voltage. The validity of the mass estimates was evaluated through comparison with data for real automotive inverter units.
Results and discussion: The results of the LCI model exemplifies how the composition of the inverter unit varies within the model range of 20–200 kW and 250–700 V, from small passenger car applications up to distribution trucks or city buses. The models’ mass estimations deviate up to 14% from the specified mass for ten examples of real inverter units. Despite the many challenges of creating a generic model of a vehicle powertrain part, including expected variability in design, all results of the model validation fall within the targeted goal for accuracy.
Conclusions: The LCI model combines different principles for the scaling of subparts into one model that capture important design implications of different power demands and voltage ratings. The model can be used for a generic estimation of the mass and material composition of a power electronic inverter unit controlling electric propulsion motors, for LCA, when specific data is lacking.
DC link capacitor
Life cycle assessment