Volvo invests in groundbreaking hybrid technology

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Semi-conductor material silicon carbide is one of the hottest substances today in the world of research into hybrid vehicles, says truckmaker Volvo.

And Volvo Technology Transfer is now investing in a company, TranSiC AB, that has developed an energy-efficient conductor made of the material, which when used, converts battery direct current into alternating current in an electric motor.

The substance is as hard as a diamond and is used, for instance, in angle-grinding discs. One major advantage is that silicon carbide can withstand extremely high temperatures, says Volvo.

“One problem with electric hybrid vehicles is that they often require cooling of both the motor and the electronics,” says Anders Kroon, head of hybrid technology at Volvo Group. “With silicon carbide, the heat losses are small so perhaps no cooling will be needed.”

Another advantage with silicon carbide is that the vehicle’s electronics can be made far smaller and much more compact. This in turn makes the entire vehicle lighter and cheaper.

A current PhD thesis within Volvo is studying silicon carbide and its applications in hybrid vehicles.

“We are focusing early in the process on companies that can provide a good return and that can be of benefit to the Volvo Group,” says Johan Carlsson, who headed the move to invest in TranSiC.

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