Formula E's Silicon war

Japanese universities and car companies have been doing a lot of work with battery technology. In Japan there are a lot of good suppliers of electrical parts, so the benefit of having someone like Aguri Suzuki at Team Aguri was that he could make contact with many companies, not just as a supplier, but also as a sponsor or technology partner. Given this fact, his departure from the team couldn’t be felt any more now given Venturi’s recent partnership announcement with Japanese semi-conductor and electronics company, ROHM.

R&D personnel are working with Venturi engineers and their partner McLaren in improving the inverter for Season three via a programme designed to focus on efficiency, optimization and performance through SiC (silicon carbide) technology; regarded as one of the next major steps in the development of power technologies.

“SiC enables us to improve our thermal efficiencies and the electronic performance of our inverters which will allow us to run higher motor speeds” said Venturi Automobiles owner Gildo Pallanca Pastor.

Devices made from SiC are generally a faster, stronger, and more efficient alternative to straight silicon. SIC’s thermal resistance makes it an attractive alternative for hard-wearing machinery, including military systems, geothermal plants, and robotic spacecraft. It also features in operational amplifiers, comparators, and LDOs to ASIC and ASSP products, including LED drivers, motor drivers, and gate drivers optimized for Engine Control Units

While you would expect to see the majority of the Formula E field running with SIC technology sooner rather than later, a company at the forefront of SIC development like ROHM will give Venturi a considerable head start in terms of maximising the technology in a competition environment.

According to semi-conductor and energy solutions research company Infineon, an inverter built on SiC devices is about a third of the size and twenty-five percent of the weight compared to current standard silicon based solutions. Thanks to the significant reduction in volume and weight, the system costs can also be reduced by more than twenty percent.

Small weight saving for sure, but given the weight of twin-motor operations operated by NEXTEV TCR and DS Virgin Racing, the ability to further manipulate weight transfer and cooling advantages offered from SIC technology are a welcome advantage.

It’s fair to say the SIC innovation is almost as important as the one presented by the rotary engine technology developed by Mercedes Ilmore in 2003. The size and weight savings of rotary technology forced an FIA regulation re-write (under manufacturer pressure), so Mercedes’ advantage was effectively killed off before it had a chance to be tested in competition.

I doubt Venturi will have the same problem.