Miniature Water-Cooled Inverter from Hitachi – Good for EVs, Good for Hybrids

Remember when a computer was a massive thing taking up an entire room? No, neither do I. But we’ve all seen pictures, and I see electronics getting smaller and smaller every year. That miniaturization process also applies to automotive electronics – or at least it does when it comes to Hitachi. Hitachi Automotive Systems will be presenting a “directly water-cooled-on-both-sides” miniature power module at the Tokyo Motor Show next month.

The new technology, according to tests carried out by Hitachi, increases the heat removed from the module by 35% while reducing its size by 50%.

The standard automotive inverter involves a number of semi-conductors integrated into a power module, which then proceeds (like all electronics) to put off a fair amount of heat. Since no one wants to melt the delicate insides of anything that should continue to be useful, that heat has to go somewhere.

What Absorbs Heat Better Than Water? Nothing.

Hitachi’s system uses a neat little system of water running around all sides of the power module, carrying the excess heat away, which they claim significantly increase’s the module’s efficiency and allows them to produce the same amount of power in a smaller space without melting something. Hitachi’s current generation of standard power modules, just to get a sense of comparison, are only cooled on one side.

While testing the prototype, Hitachi analyzed a number of factors including the heat of the fluid, the amount of heat produced by the electronics, and the physical stress put on the machinery in order to figure out the best cooling method to make a smaller inverter.

Since electric and hybrid cars are taking up more of the market and more of the public view, Hitachi feels that progress into the electronic frontier will serve them well. They hope to market the miniaturized device to a number of automotive manufacturers.

If you happen to be in Tokyo next month, Hitachi will be displaying their tiny prototype at the auto show. But if you pick it up, try not to drop it – you may not find it again!

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Charis Michelsen

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.