Automobile

Can a hard crystal improve range of EVs?

The transistors used in vehicle power electronics are conventionally made from silicon. But GaN Systems Inc. of Ottawa is moving forward on transistors made from a hard crystal known as gallium nitride, or GaN, created by combining gallium with nitrogen.

GaN Systems believes the material change will enable smaller, more efficient and lower-cost power electronics, translating to smaller and lighter batteries for electric vehicles with improved charging performance and greater range for vehicles.

BMW AG and other auto and parts manufacturers are interested.

Last month, the luxury automaker signed a deal with GaN Systems to potentially source power transistors for its on-board vehicle chargers and e-motors. The innovation could help BMW produce EVs with higher power density, faster charging capabilities and longer range. The material could also advance capabilities in autonomous driving and wireless power applications.

For the past 13 years, GaN Systems has primarily supplied its gallium nitride-based transistors to the consumer electronics and data center industries. But it is now following the money and shifting its focus as the electrifying auto industry seeks out transistors for a new generation of power systems.

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