Cars with 48V electrical systems to gain popularity

Research group predicts 13.5 million in sales by 2023

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January 27, 2014

Cars and trucks that produce more power for peripheral systems will skyrocket in popularity by 2023, a research group believes.

As auto manufacturers continue to replace mechanical systems with electrical components, particularly in stop-start vehicles (vehicles that shut off their engines at red lights and other stopping situations), the demands for power have begun to outstrip the capabilities of traditional battery systems.

Increasing the voltage of certain subsystems by four times – going from a nominal 12V to a 48V system – means that the same power can be delivered with one-quarter of the current. According to a new research brief from Navigant Research, sales of light-duty vehicles with 48V electrical subsystems will reach nearly 13.5 million by 2023.

“Lower currents mean thinner wires and less copper required, saving cost and weight,” says David Alexander, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “Today, the cost of power electronics has come down to the point that there are fewer barriers to installing multiple voltage subsystems, thus increasing the cars’ efficiency without the need to implement full hybrid or plug-in electric capability.”

Sales of new cars with 48V systems are expected to be slow until the end of the decade, then ramp up quickly from 2020 to 2023, according to the report. 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.

The report, “48-Volt Systems for Stop-Start Vehicles and Micro Hybrids”, analyzes the opportunities and challenges for 48V electrical subsystems in vehicles. The study provides an examination of the reasons to move to a higher voltage for stop-start component systems, including the options for energy storage. Global forecasts are provided for light duty vehicle sales that feature 48V systems by world region through 2023. The report also provides a summary of the benefits, drivers, and market barriers for 48V systems, as well as profiles of the key market players that are promoting this technology. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.

Source: Navigant Research