Navigant Research is forecasting a slow start through the end of this decade but then a quick ramp from 2020 to 2023 for light-duty vehicles with 48V electrical subsystems, with sales reaching nearly 13.5 million worldwide by 2023.
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As auto manufacturers continue to replace mechanical systems with electrical components, particularly in stop-start vehicles, the demands for power have begun to outstrip the capabilities of traditional battery systems.
The idea of upgrading the car electrical system to 42V was explored 10 years ago in some detail, as growing electrical demands on the prevailing 12V technology looked likely to be heading to a point where it would not be able to cope. The prospect of changing all the legacy systems including lighting, ignition, HVAC, and infotainment from 12V was always going to be challenging. However, advances in 12V technology coupled with the component costs of 42V DC to DC converters conspired to render such a major change impractical, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) at the time decided to keep 12V as the standard.
Today, the cost of power electronics has come down to the point that there are fewer barriers to installing multiple voltage subsystems. It is now practical for automakers to introduce 48V subsystems for stop-start systems and micro hybrid drive assist as well as ancillary pumps and motors for cooling and power assistance while maintaining the 12V legacy systems.—“48 Volt Systems for Stop-Start Vehicles and Micro Hybrids”
As the result of aggressive fuel economy and emissions regulations, Western Europe is expected to be the leading market for 48V system sales over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, German luxury vehicle manufacturers have collaborated to develop a 48V system that sets the foundation for more capable stop-start systems that will enable other electrification features.