Two major growth industries in the U.S. and globally are electric vehicles and renewable energy. As governments and businesses worldwide get more serious about climate change and the need for a sustainable energy grid, these two emerging solutions are being considered necessities for human civilization.
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But like all new technologies, EVs and renewable energy face an uphill battle. Not only is the proof of concept in need of refining to drive more efficiencies and lower costs, the tipping point for mass adoption has yet to be reached. Still, the future is clear; renewable energy and electric vehicles are on the rise.
To learn more about how these new technologies can be refined to lower costs and improve efficiency, we spoke with Dan Brdar and Tim Burns of Ideal Power (Nasdaq: IPWR) to find out how they see these industries evolving over the next few years and the role their company aims to play.
Q: What are some of the major inefficiencies facing emerging industries like electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy?
A: They both have cost and energy losses as inefficiencies. Both of those will continue to improve over time.
Electric vehicles are still being sold in small volumes compared to combustion engine-based vehicles, so they don’t yet have the same supply chain economies of scale. As the volume grows, the costs will come down, but it’s also new technology. Combustion engines have been around for over 100 years, which makes them a much more mature technology. As electric vehicle technologies mature, we’ll see improved batteries, semiconductors, and vehicle manufacturing techniques that will drive higher performance, greater vehicle range, and lower cost.
With renewable energy, the costs for wind and solar power have dropped significantly over the last 10 years, but there is still the issue of intermittency. The sun is not always shining, and the wind is not always blowing. So you need to think about highly efficient energy storage to maximize the value and available kilowatt-hours from renewable energy. The rapidly declining cost of batteries and innovative approaches to their use can largely mitigate the intermittency issues.
Q: How can these inefficiencies be addressed?
A: One way is by improving power conversion technologies because both renewable energy and electric vehicles require power converters to convert direct current (DC) energy to alternating current (AC) and AC to DC. The semiconductors for the power conversion technology that goes into these products are some of that.
If you have solar energy at your home, solar panels actually generate direct current. That has to be converted into alternating current so that you can use it in your home. That conversion process from direct current to alternating current isn’t 100% efficient because some energy is lost. The way to improve that is to improve the semiconductor devices in those power converters so that they can pull out more useful energy captured from the sun …….