Transportation Transformation: Rise of Connected Vehicles

Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America



Electrification used to move vehicles is a big part of the transportation market, but there is much more to it. Consider transportation outside of the U.S. where inexpensive energy is not as plentiful. Escalators – a form of transportation – are controlled electronically. Walk up to an escalator in Brazil, for instance, and it will only turn on when you are ready to be transported. The same application in North America is “on” nonstop, wasting energy and wearing out mechanical components. Clearly, we can learn a great deal in from our global partners when it comes to the larger realm of electronics and how they are used in all aspects of connected transportation.

When it comes to the electric transportation market, electric vehicles are still a fraction of overall vehicle sales. According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) “Global EV Outlook 2020” technology report, EVs accounted for just 2.6% of worldwide car sales in 2019, which equates to approximately 2.1 million EVs sold last year. Still, since they are starting from almost zero, the market shows tremendous growth. One projection has EV sales reaching 140 million vehicles in 2030, while another projection has it growing to 245 million vehicles.

Although it’s anyone’s guess how quickly EVs will be universally adopted, the EV market does offer opportunities for power electronics, especially in EV charger technology. Vehicle electronics (traditional or EV) must meet AEC-Q specifications for quality and reliability and, presumably, vehicle charging stations and systems need to be held to the same standard. And to shift EV charging from burning fossil fuels at the point of generation, there is a lot of work to be done in the area of clean generation and the transmission of energy.

Meanwhile, connectivity opportunities abound for power electronics in the transportation industry, beyond vehicle propulsion. The connected car market was valued at $45.25 billion in 2018 by Fortune Business Insights, and they projected it to grow to $142.49 billion by 2026. Consider that the data-networking needed for passenger amenities, in all types of vehicles, must assure that in-cabin entertainment is convenient and plentiful. This requires wireless networks like 5G to keep data flowing in both directions. Additionally, the market for shark fin antenna modules, like SDARS (Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service) LNAs (low noise amplifiers) is growing. This technology offers connectivity with transmit-and-receive elements for cellular, SDARS, GPS and WLAN radios that are built in to the antenna to reduce losses. All these applications will require plentiful electronics, including power management.

Likewise, the stationary systems communicating with the connected vehicle and processing the data on both sides of the transportation system will require a great deal of power electronics. Just to keep the transportation system itself viable and connected, there is a need for wireless communications, networking, computing and storage.

The transportation market – especially when it comes to the connected car market – is indeed a significant one for power electronics professionals and suppliers.