Another year into the COVID-19 crisis has shown that the drive for innovative power solutions has waned little, however progress does not come without its challenges. The three examples below reflect on how each sector can benefit from the drive for electrification and increased need for modular solutions, amongst other challenges and trends being seen in the industry as we approach the third year of a global pandemic.
Predictions for Automotive – Electric vehicles will be shedding up to 25 pounds while manufacturers are looking for innovative ways to give batteries a second life (by Nicolas Richard, Vicor’s Director of EMEA Automotive Business Development)
Today’s electric vehicles have as many as three separate batteries – one at 400V or 800V (traction battery), and a distribution system that operates from secondary 12V and 48V batteries.
Manufacturers are looking to reduce vehicle weight and can eliminate up to 25 pounds in BEVs (battery electric vehicles) and reduce power system complexity by architecting the traction battery to power the 12V battery loads. This makes the 12V battery redundant and expendable. As we move through 2022, we expect to see this modular approach to power delivery being adopted by OEMs seeking to electrify and differentiate their fleets, offering extended range and better overall performance.
We also expect to see the momentum pick up behind EV battery re-use, ensuring that they can be re-purposed for power forklifts or to serve as reserve power for homes. In larger high power commercial vehicles, there is growing interest in using hydrogen fuel cells for power, which will generate a greater demand for high efficiency DC-DC conversion.
Lastly, within the vehicle itself, ride comfort will also become increasingly important for driver and passengers. We believe there will be a greater demand for electrically powered active suspension, again highlighting the need for high efficiency power management solutions.
In 2022, the global hyperscale computing market will continue to grow, from about $147 billion last year with a projected revenue CAGR of 27.4% through 2028 . Key growth drivers will include increasing cloud workloads, data centre optimisation, social media platforms, and the emergence of data-as-a-service.
We believe the debate between adopting AC or DC power will continue between data centre operators. Benefits of DC distribution include elimination of large AC-DC UPS systems, and no concerns about compute load distribution. Modern data centres use the most common approach of bringing 3 phase AC to the building and then split them into three single phase AC lines backed up by their own UPS systems.
The trend towards the increased share of the renewable “green” energy continues and the high voltage DC will be provided by primary energy source in more and more cases especially at the edge.
COVID-19 has accelerated data growth, and this trend will continue after the pandemic. As 5G takes hold, network infrastructure will grow more complicated, with more computing nodes nearer to the user to reduce latency and allow the greater use of IoT applications.
As IoT develops, more computing power will be needed to improve security increasing overall computing power demanded in the edge, fog and in the central applications. Vicor has started early to meet this trend by building the smallest, densest power converters to support this trend. Data centres clearly need to reduce energy consumption by adopting power dense modules, which will in turn minimise the air-cooling load.
The supply chain continues to be disrupted and we anticipate difficulties until at least the end of 2023.
 Emergen Research
Predictions for Military and Aerospace – Innovation and demand for higher efficiency will continue despite the pandemic and the growing skills shortage (by Teo DeLellis, Vicor’s Business Development for Aerospace.)
Innovation and demand for higher efficiency will continue to cause growing interest in electrification to replace mechanical systems and chemical fuels. For example, advanced submersibles are replacing hydraulics with electric power, while electric aircraft are setting new range and speed records.
Power management for electrically driven drones will continue to be a critical factor, while the growing interest in directed energy weapons such as lasers for both shipboard and vehicle use, will require solutions to manage new power sources such as solid-state batteries.
There is also an increasing demand for power electronics technologies to conform to the requirements of standards such as the Sensor Open System Architecture (SOSA).
The bounce back from the pandemic continues to see a surge in demand for electronics in military and aerospace markets, causing Vicor and others to quote increased extended lead times for some products. This is expected to extend well into 2022 – Vicor is mitigating this by expanding its production facilities.
Further fall out from the pandemic is being seen in civil avionics where air travel is still not back to its pre-COVID level. We expect it will be 2023 before both civil avionics and the aftermarket are back to their pre-COVID levels.
As with other engineering sectors, we continue to see a growing skills shortage. It is estimated that by the year 2030, there will be a global skilled labour shortage of up to 85 million jobs, which equates to $8.5 trillion, according to a recent Korn Ferry report. Recruiting young engineers could be essential in preventing a prolonged shortfall. This could be achieved in this sector by adopting innovative electric power technologies that show how the industry is responding to environmental concerns and is committed to renewable energies.
The growing European space sector will also see increasing use of electric ion propulsion for spacecraft, primarily for station keeping for the new constellations of space borne broadband satellites.