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Published 04/14/2015
Copyright © 2015 SAE International

Power Dense and Robust Traction Power Inverter for the Second-Generation
Chevrolet Volt Extended-Range EV
Mohammad Anwar
General Motors Corporation

Monty Hayes
Delphi Electronics & Safety

Anthony Tata, Mehrdad Teimorzadeh, and Thomas Achatz

General Motors Corporation

The Chevrolet Volt is an electric vehicle with extended-range that is capable of operation on battery power alone, and on engine power
after depletion of the battery charge. First generation Chevrolet Volts were driven over half a billion miles in North America from
October 2013 through September 2014, 74% of which were all-electric [1, 12]. For 2016, GM has developed the second-generation of
the Volt vehicle and “Voltec” propulsion system. By significantly re-engineering the traction power inverter module (TPIM) for the
second-generation Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle (EREV), we were able to meet all performance targets while
maintaining extremely high reliability and environmental robustness. The power switch was re-designed to achieve efficiency targets
and meet thermal challenges. A novel cooling approach enables high power density while maintaining a very high overall conversion

CITATION: Anwar, M., Hayes, M., Tata, A., Teimorzadeh, M. et al., "Power Dense and Robust Traction Power Inverter for the Second-
Generation Chevrolet Volt Extended-Range EV

," SAE Int. J. Alt. Power. 4(1):2015, doi:10.4271/2015-01-1201.

INTRODUCTION A comprehensive analysis, design and validation plan was tailored to

the 2nd Generation VOLT TPIM. Worst-case analyses were
General Motors (GM) was the first in modern days to offer complete
performed and confirmed with a comprehensive early design
electrification when it's Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) EV1 was
demonstration. Thermal measurements were made to understand the
introduced in 1996 [3]. Subsequently GM is enhancing level of
effectiveness of cooling design and to map peak temperatures and
electrification [2] by introducing hybrid electric vehicle (HEV),
gradients predicted analytically. In addition, design failure modes and
plug-in HEV (PHEV), Extended Range EV (EREV) 1st Generation
effects analysis were used to refine the design. This paper focuses on
VOLT [5,8] and most recently 2nd Generation VOLT. Optimal design
system architecture, power electronics component design
of TPIM power electronics is one of the enablers to achieve
optimization, efficiency, size, cost, performance and safety of 2nd
aggressive fuel-economy, performance, reliability, cost and mass
Generation VOLT TPIM. Mechanical interfaces, assembly features
targets for these electrified vehicles. EREV, first introduced by GM
and environmental robustness of the TPIM are also presented in this
[5], has full functionality as an EV, better electrification than PHEV
paper. Section-II describes propulsion, electric drive and HV system
and blended operation of gas and electricity as necessary. EREV
requirements overview. Section-III presents power electronics design
electric drive system contains two PM motors that are commuted by
optimization, power stage selection criteria, TPIM performance,
two traction inverters, PIM-A (power inverter-A), PIM-B (power
thermal robustness and efficiency metrics. Mechanical orientation,
inverter-B) and an oil pump motor run by a third inverter. All these
stiffness/ vibration robustness features of TPIM and transmission
three inverters are contained in one package named TPIM situated
assembly features, coolant interface are discussed in Section-IV.
between electric motors and battery.
Section-V compares features between 1st Generation VOLT and 2nd
Generation VOLT TPIMs. System and TPIM level test results are
included in Section-V. Figure 1 shows 2nd Generation VOLT HV
components vehicle layout.
Anwar et al / SAE Int. J. Alt. Power. / Volume 4, Issue 1 (May 2015)

d. Drive quality: Understanding worst-case drive profiles,

balancing between performance and tractive efforts.
e. Safety integrity: Protection and sensor circuit design,
microprocessor selection and software design for fault
protection, diagnostic and calibration schemes.

Table 1. TPIM High Level Requirement Comparison.

Figure 1. 2nd Generation VOLT HV Power Electronics Components Vehicle



2nd Generation VOLT electric drive system has very aggressive
targets for cost, all electric range, fuel economy and vehicle tractive Table 2. TPIM Feature and Improvement Comparison.
performance where TPIM power density, efficiency, thermal strength
and structural robustness, mounting on transmission manifold,
elimination of AC cables are some of the major contributors to meet
this target.

Improvement Comparison
Table 1 shows TPIM high level requirements comparison between 1st
Generation VOLT and 2nd Generation VOLT. In 2nd Generation
VOLT architecture, realization of a better power flow between engine
and two electric motors reduces peak simultaneous AC power kVA by
19% and maximum phase current on PIM-B (power inverter-B) by
24% while increasing PIM-A current by 48%. Better understanding
of the electric drive system, interdisciplinary nature of power
electronics technology are among the design considerations to
Propulsion and Transmission System
achieve projected vehicle EV range increase of 30%, charge 2nd Generation VOLT transaxle has gears, clutches, shafts and
sustaining (CS) label fuel economy increase of 10% and improved controllers to execute multiple kinematic modes including electric
vehicle performance both as an electric vehicle and in extended range vehicle operation and charge sustaining hybrid operations. The 2nd
mode, compared to 1st Generation VOLT [12]. 2nd Generation VOLT Generation VOLT transmission allows the efficient sharing of tractive
TPIM has improvements in efficiency, performance, power density, loads across both electric motors. This load sharing enabled the peak
mass and volume as shown in Table 2. Below is a list of main design torque requirements for the PIM-B electric motor to be reduced from
targets for 2nd Generation VOLT TPIM - the level required on the 1st Generation VOLT. This reduction allows
a corresponding reduction in the peak current from the TPIM.
a. Low system cost: Understand vehicle drive profiles and Lowering the peak current requirement for each inverter as well as
mechanical integration of drive unit. Efficient power flow selecting power dense TPIM architecture allows a package size that
between two motors, lower part counts, elimination of AC could be fit into a cavity on top of the transmission as shown in
cables and less assembly labors Figure 2 (a).
b. Improved Robustness: Improved interconnect and packaging
The transmission internal location for the TPIM simplifies the
technique to ensure durability, robustness.
mechanical integration of the electric drive system into the vehicle
c. Fuel economy and electric range: State of the art silicon
that lowers part counts and assembly labors. Figure 2 (b) shows
and module technology, electric drive system efficiency
TPIM orientation that is chosen to minimize impact during vehicle
crash. Figure 2 (c-d) shows TPIM assembly on transmission and
coolant interface implementation.
Anwar et al / SAE Int. J. Alt. Power. / Volume 4, Issue 1 (May 2015)

TPIM arrives at the manufacturing plant as a single component that is

bolted into the transmission in a single operation. TPIM Interface to
3-phase AC motor done with ridged bus bars that pass through a cast
wall in the transmission case. Coolant interface is done through a
gasketed joint. Coolant is routed through the transmission case to an
external cooling pipe assembly. The coolant pipe assembly can be
unique for each vehicle application to keep the plant interface
common for all versions of the transmission.

Figure 3. 2nd Generation VOLT TPIM (a) Exploded View and (b) “Power
Board” (10).


2nd Generation VOLT TPIM power stage has been designed to meet
mainly efficiency, performance and durability requirements. Silicon
technology, tradeoffs between switching and conduction loss
parameters, silicon size and thickness, thermal impedance, loop
inductance and PWM switching techniques are carefully crafted to
achieve an optimized power module design that meets the high level
design target described in System Overview section. To meet high
Figure 2. (a) Exploded view of Transmission showing TPIM Assembly (b-d) mile-per-gallon target, special attention was paid to achieve high
TPIM Features and Interfaces. TPIM efficiency for the FTP drive cycles. Figure 4 shows TPIM
efficiency for a torque-speed zone that is heavily used for all FTP
cycles. As mentioned earlier, better power flow between Inverters,
TPIM and Electric Drive System
better efficiency (Figure 5) and thermal robustness (will be discussed
The TPIM interfaces with HV battery, motors, inverter cooling and in next section) enabled, average electric drive system FTP city
the rest of the vehicle electrical systems and controls. The main efficiency improvement of 6%, projected CS label fuel economy
building blocks of the TPIM are power board, DC bus capacitor, EMI increase of 10%, and both ‘Low End Torque’ and ‘High Speed
filters, control and gate drive boards, sensors and busbar. The motor Power’ improvements. Table 3 (a) shows silicon level improvements
controls algorithms are programmed into the control boards. Figure 3 and some of the attributes of ‘power board’ as compared with 1st
(a) shows the exploded view of the TPIM showing these components. Generation VOLT power module. Besides ‘power board’, bulk-
All 12 power switches (Silicon IGBT and Diode for PIM-A and capacitor is another expensive and bulky parts on the TPIM that
PIM-B) are connected to the heat sink assembly from both sides and needs to fit inside the inverter package, meet ripple requirement for
they are placed on a specially designed double sided printed board the HV DC bus and sustain additional thermal stress for this
(item 9, 10, 12) with other essential circuits. This board is called transmission mount TPIM. Table 3(b) shows bulk-capacitor and
“Power Board” and is shown in Figure 3 (b). connector improvements and features.
Anwar et al / SAE Int. J. Alt. Power. / Volume 4, Issue 1 (May 2015)

Power Device Design

Delphi's novel dual-side cooled Viper [9, 10], as shown in Figure 5, is
used as power device for this TPIM. It contains silicon IGBT and
diode in an electrically isolated package that is thermally conductive
on both sides and provides a low profile compact solution for
inverter. Unlike conventional power module, due to the better silicon
and dual-side cooled Viper, silicon footprint became minimal (refer to
Table 2, 3) and thus allowed layout flexibility and reduced cost (refer
to Figure 2, 3).

The Viper provides a more uniform current density than traditional

single-sided power modules and a CTE (coefficient of thermal
expansion) matched material stack. The current capability of the
device is improved by using near symmetrical drain and source
copper terminals that have similar cross sectional area. Source and
gate wirebonds, which are one of the capability limitations in
standard packages, have been eliminated by using topside solderable
interconnects technology. Both sides of the Viper are attached to
ceramic substrates that are CTE matched to the silicon. These low
stress interfaces significantly reduce the die attach solder cracking
problem commonly found in the TO (transistor outline) series
packaging. All these factors increased reliability and durability of 2nd
Generation VOLT TPIM.

Figure 4. Inverter efficiency for torque-speed zone that is heavily used for all
FTP cycles. (a) PIM-A and (b) PIM-B.

Table 3. Comparison on (a) Power Board (b) Bulk-Capacitor and Busbar (p.u
= per unit)

Figure 5. (a) Power Device Exploded View, (b) Power Device Sandwich, (c-d)
Thermal Analysis.

Heat Sink Design and Thermal Performance

For the inverter system chosen the design of the heatsink was critical.
In order to handle the large phase currents, a copper metal injected
molded heatsink was used (MIM). This unique MIM device shown in
Figure 6, provides a low pressure drop with a high heat convection to
handle the losses for each specific IGBT and Diode. This unique
heatsink and housing loop also passively cools the 3-phase AC busbar
and capacitor assembly.
Anwar et al / SAE Int. J. Alt. Power. / Volume 4, Issue 1 (May 2015)

From flow analysis the heat sink system provides a pressure drop of cables occupy significant real estate where the under hood
26 kPa across the entire fluid domain for 105°C ambient, 75°C environments of most modern non-electrified vehicles is packaged
coolant running at 10 Liter/min with a thermal split of 49.4% and tightly. When electric drive components are added to this
50.6% through the bottom and top heat sinks respectively. For the environment it drives many base vehicle systems to be redesigned to
same coolant conditions and peak phase currents as mentioned in accommodate more constrained packaging requirements. This cost
Table 1, thermal analysis of IGBT/ Diode are presented in Figure 5. contributes to the overall cost of electrifying a vehicle. By integrating
Due to a temperature rise along the coolant path, analysis ensures all the TPIM in to the transmission the total under hood volume taken up
the devices of PIM-A and PIM- B experience beginning-of-life as by the TPIM, 3-phase conductors and transmission is significantly
well as end-of-life junction temperature that is within specified limit reduced from the traditional approach of mounting the TPIM on the
to ensure robustness and durability. For all the viper devices a unique vehicle body with a bracket and running 6 large cables from the
statistically proven end-of-line screening on electrical and thermal TPIM to the transmission.
parameters are in place during manufacturing process that ensures
efficiency and performance for the entire operating trajectory. In addition to piece cost savings the TPIM integration also saved on
total assembly labor between the transmission manufacturing plant
2nd Generation VOLT TPIM also includes a small oil transmission and the vehicle assembly plant. At the transmission manufacturing
pump module that is cooled through a thermal insulator material to plant the TPIM is mounted inside a cavity in the transmission that is
the housing coolant loop. Thermal analysis for this module, with sealed from the outside environment. All the interfaces between the
appropriate voltage and current, convection and gap pad assumptions TPIM and the other transmission mounted electrical components
was also carried out to ensure design sufficiency. (motors, sensors and actuators) is accomplished inside the boundaries
of the transmission housing. The TPIM is attached to the transmission
case by 11 bolts, 3 bolts attach the TPIM front and compress the
gasket that seals the IGBT cooling passages, 2 bolts secure the TPIM
rear. The last 6 bolts make the electrical connection between the
TPIM and the two motors. These connections go to bus bars that pass
from the dry TPIM cavity of the transmission into the wet ATF area
of the transmission where the electric motors are located. All 11 bolts
are the same part number and are driven in the same direction. These
simple bolted joints replace all the external high voltage AC wiring/
connectors and TPIM attachment brackets in a conventional
embodiment. After the TPIM is bolted to the transmission case 3
electrical connections are mated. Two connectors are for I/O between
the TPIM and sensors/actuators inside the transmission. The third
connection is to the high voltage pump drive motor also inside the
transmission. A cast cover is installed over the unsealed TPIM to
provide protection from the under hood environment. The high
voltage/current DC interface and a signal connector pass through this
cover casting. The only other external interface to the TPIM is the
Figure 6. Cooling System and MIM (Metal Injected Mold) Design Flow liquid cooling port assembly that is bolted to the side of the
Analysis Velocity Magnitude (m/s). transmission case.


The 2nd Generation VOLT electric drive system was architected to The specific TPIM location on the top of the transmission was
maintain the performance the vehicle customer came to expect from selected to minimize contact with the condenser, fan, and radiator
the 1st Generation VOLT but to do it a substantially reduced cost. module in the event of a frontal crash. This top location also
The cost comes from the electrification components as well as minimizes interaction with the vehicle body structure and suspension
impacted by the integration of those components into the vehicle. The components during a left hand side impact. The power inverter is also
TPIM team worked to reduce the cost on both of these fronts. oriented low in back and high in front. This affords the inverter
adequate packaging space while allowing it to travel under the brake
Optimize Integration Cost system master cylinder during a frontal crash. Some of these features,
orientation and assembly are shown before in Figure 2.
The key enabler to reduce integration cost was to mount the TPIM
inside the transmission, as shown in Figure 3 and thus eliminate the 3
phase cables that would normally run between the TPIM and the
transmission. This saving is bigger than just the cable cost. The
Anwar et al / SAE Int. J. Alt. Power. / Volume 4, Issue 1 (May 2015)

Friction Stir Welding (FSW)

High-power electronics for electrified vehicles need liquid-cooling
for heat dissipation. Typically, coolant passages and chambers with
internal fins need to be formed from multiple pieces and joints to
achieve low-cost fabrication. These joints need to be strong to handle
the pressures and vibrations in a vehicle, and to be leak-proof to
eliminate the risk of leakage inside a high-power electrical enclosure.
Conventional design uses pressure seals with rubber gaskets and
many screws, typically with a thick die-cast cover. The 2nd
Generation VOLT TPIM housing and liquid cooled chamber, shown
in Figure 7, uses FSW technology adapted by Delphi. This design
was validated to several thousand pressure cycles without failure. Figure 8. Three-phase AC Busbar Cooling and Thermal Analysis.

Delphi's FSW method produces liquid-cooled heat exchangers TESTING, DEVELOPMENT AND
integral to product housing and offers most compact, reliable, lowest
cost, corrosion-free and leak-proof joint solution and avoids defects
caused by surface tension and wetting issues. This process firstly, Besides extensive component level validation, more than 100 fully
integrates a liquid heat exchanger to the body of the electronic functional and instrumented TPIMs were used to validate the product
module with robust leak-free hermetic joints and secondly, FSW to and demonstrate a highly robust design in laboratory and vehicle set
weld aluminum covers to cast aluminum cases to enclose the product up. These tests included high temperature durability (HTD), thermal
replacing glue-and-screw processes. This process outperforms the shock, powered temperature cycling (PTC), random vibration,
industry-standard with 45% smaller footprint, fast change tooling, mechanical shock, humidity, salt exposure, AC/DC electrical stress,
3-D force monitoring, 50% shorter process time that results in and EMC. Highlights of the comprehensive validation plan the
reduced carbon footprint and 40% power savings. includes -

(a). Full functional test operation cycles covering the entire

operational envelope at −40°C, 25°C, and 105°C
(b). Continuous monitoring of product integrity over its lifecycle,
(c). Field correlated thermal, vibration, and salt exposure,
(d). Emulated vehicle drive cycles using motor dynamometers
(e). Rapid failure mode precipitation test (RFMPT) for reliability
growth demonstration and robustness evaluation and
(f). Coupling with drive unit systems on abusive gas fired
dynamometer testing.

The RFMPT is designed to identify potential design weaknesses by

subjecting TPIM to multiple simultaneous environmental stresses
Figure 7. Friction Stir Welded Housing for 2nd Generation VOLT TPIM. using field correlated test acceleration factors and exposure limits.
Vibration tests, in Figure 9, are derived from the Road load data
acquisition (RLDA), correlated to severe customer and tailored by
AC Interface Cooling vehicle orientation with separate durability profiles for fore/aft,
Among all the interfaces to the TPIM, DC and AC interconnects need lateral, and vertical.
additional care as they handle high voltages and currents. For 2nd
Generation VOLT TPIM AC busbars are connected directly to the Motor dynamometers are used for long-term high temperature
3-phase motor windings by motor rod termination that can reach very durability testing using actual application motors simulating severe
high temperatures. Mitigation scheme was chosen to provide cooling driving events requiring peak torques and re-gen occurrences. Finally,
from the interconnect to the power inverter housing. The cooing is before integrating into RLDA vehicles the electric drive system is
provided from a thermal insulated materials to the stamped aluminum durability tested in a gas fired dynamometer cell, as in Figure 10 that
sheet that is FSW welded to the inverter housing. Thermal analysis, includes engine, transmission, electric motors, and TPIM. The test
as in Figure 8, ensures maximum allowable busbar assembly simulates extremely severe customer driving conditions over multiple
temperature with appropriate operating and environmental conditions. design lives while enduring an aggressive vibration environment
arising from second order engine harmonics.
Anwar et al / SAE Int. J. Alt. Power. / Volume 4, Issue 1 (May 2015)

Figure 12. (a) PTC Chamber and HTD Test Stand, (b) Signal and Load Rack.
Figure 9. (a) TPIM Vibration Test Set Up, (b) Internal Accelerometer
Locations. The sound pressure level of the TPIM shall be at or below some
indicated levels at four vertical sides and at the top surface, if
measured at locations 10 cm from the surface of the TPIM at the
geometric center of that surface. Test results shows (20 to 20,000 Hz),
in all cases and conditions the sound levels are far below the
maximum allowable limits. Figure 14.

Figure 10. (a) Gas Dynamometer and (b) Road Load Data Acquisition (RLDA
Vehicle Test Set up.

Test Results
Figure 11 shows some results during vibration test. They are tested
Figure 13. Thermal Results for 3 Cycle High Temperature Durability (HTD)
under currents pushing through IGBT and diode. During the test any
cracks are watched and if any lead fail the temperature image will be
reflected as ‘cool’.
Figure 12 (a) shows PTC chamber and HTD test stand, subjecting as This paper describes 2nd Generation VOLT TPIM design to achieve
many as 12 TPIM's simultaneously to grueling durability cycles cost and power density targets and yet maintain extremely high
simulating under hood conditions with inductive loads and rapid reliability and environmental robustness. System requirement,
temperature cycles between −40 and 105 °C. All hardware-input- architectural overview, electrical design of the power switch to
output (HWIO) was monitored during testing to identify anomalies, achieve efficiency target and thermal challenges are described with
capture a snapshot of environmental conditions present when illustrations. Mechanical design to provide stiff frame required for
anomalies occur, and track the amount of test exposure to correlate powertrain environment, to optimize integration and assembly cost,
with retail customer field time. Figure 13 show thermal results for 3 novel cooling and welding approach by Delphi made this TPIM
cycle HTD profile. unique. All major TPIM test items are mentioned, where more than
100 fully functional and instrumented TPIMs were used to validate
the product and demonstrate a highly robust design in laboratory,
dynamometer and vehicle test set up.

Figure11. (a) Vibration Test Results, (b) Lead Crack Inspection (Zoomed).
Anwar et al / SAE Int. J. Alt. Power. / Volume 4, Issue 1 (May 2015)

Figure 14. (a) PTC Chamber and HTD Test Stand, (b) Thermal Results for 3
Cycle HTD Profile.

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Mohammad Anwar can be reached by email at

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