Ally Winning, European Editor, PSD
The Chinese have a curse that says, “may you live in interesting times”. I’ve no idea if someone cursed the world, but the last couple of years have definitely been interesting times for all of us. Hopefully things start to settle down a little this year and both the world and its economies start get back to some kind of normality. Just now, it looks that way. In November, I visited the electronica trade fair in Munich, and even though it wasn’t as busy as usual, the crowds were definitely coming back. According to the organizers, 2,144 companies exhibited at the exhibition, with 64% coming from overseas. 70,000 attendees also came to visit the show. Even though the numbers may have been down on previous years, the scale of the event is still very much larger than other shows in the industry and the overall success of the show boded well for the industry.
The companies I mainly spent time with were based in the centre of the Messe’s exhibition area and obviously concentrated on power. Again and again, the same overriding themes came up – GaN and Sic technology for renewable energy, industrial drives and automotive applications. Each of the innovations shown on the stands will provide additional range to an electric vehicle or extract more power from wind turbines and solar panels. Power electronics companies are really at the heart of the fight against climate change as was seen in Munich. Innovations for the automotive industry especially stood out and I hope to bring you much more on that in the near future.
We also look at the automotive industry in this month’s Special Report on EVs, Hybrid Vehicles and Infrastructure. Infrastructure is often left out of topics like this as most people relate more easily to the sexier topic of the vehicles. However, it would be a real omission, especially as infrastructure is currently as important in buying decisions as the vehicles themselves. Most vehicles currently have a range that is acceptable to the majority of potential EV drivers and their main concern is charging – both the location and proximity of chargers, and also the speed of charging. Currently there are many initiatives to increase the amount of chargers available, but the charging speed is a bigger sticking point. While it takes minutes to fill the tank of an ICE vehicle, it can take hours to charge electric ones. This will become less of a problem as better batteries and charging infrastructure is put in place. There is currently a move from 400V to 800V for automobile charging, and even higher for industrial and commercial vehicles. The higher voltage, along with the power electronics innovation seen at electronica, will allow batteries to charge much faster, alleviating some of the concerns of potential EV purchasers. Hopefully, the voltage change happens sooner rather than later.
European Editor, PSD