The inverter is one of the main components of an electrified vehicle and responsible for converting the battery’s DC output to AC power that can be used by an electric motor.
Given the rapid development of modern electric powertrains, manufacturers are taking different approaches to inverter design and production.
This has led to a wide variation in the capabilities and costs of inverters used in production electric cars such as the Tesla Model 3 and Jaguar I-Pace.
Munro & Associates (M&A), which specialises in engineering teardowns and analysis, has recently cast its eye over the current crop of inverter designs.
After disassembling and inspecting three different inverters, it has produced a comprehensive benchmark and cost report that catalogues the pros and cons of current systems.
The report, which is designed to give parts companies and car manufacturers an insight to rival technologies and an edge in the market, catalogues facets such as dimensions, schematics, cost analysis and manufacturing processes.
Currently featured in the report is the inverter from the 2018 Tesla Model 3, the 2019 Nissan Leaf and the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace (M&A says that the 2019 Audi e-tron and Tesla Model Y inverters will soon be added).
Predictably, given that Tesla tends to take a different route from most, the Model 3 rear inverter features myriad interesting design features.
“They’ve done a good job of making the product use the least of componentry,” said Sandy Munro, CEO of M&A.
“Tesla has done something remarkably different and that is to package the whole thing together and get the minimum number of components that are necessary in order to create their power and their power distribution.”
As a result, the Model 3 inverter weighs just 4.81kg while the Jaguar unit is 8.23kg and the Nissan’s 11.15kg.
Not all is in Tesla’s favour, however; the Model 3 inverter costs $709, while the Nissan assembly costs $636. But the Jaguar inverter comes in last, costing a heftier $754.
Munro, speaking at a conference on electric vehicle engineering hosted by specialist magazine Charged, also highlighted how Tesla has brought costs down in recent years.
In 2018, a Model 3 inverter was estimated to have cost $1100 but now a similar 2020 Model Y inverter is reported to cost around $400 less.
The comprehensive report is available to order now for $36,000 ($A49,000) but a 72-minute technical session with Munro is available to watch on Charged’s virtual conference website on EV engineering.
M&A, the findings of which have been commented upon and praised by Tesla CEO Elon Musk himself, is based in Michigan and was founded in 1988.
As well as component breakdowns, the company also produces complete teardown and cost analysis reports on cars such as the BMW i3 and Tesla Model Y.
The company also has an extensive online audience, thanks in part to its teardown videos on YouTube, and a shop where gifts, guides and memorabilia can be purchased. Visitors can even ask Munro a question directly for $680.
Munro digs into cheapest EV
Sandy Munro from M&A recently cast his expert eye over an electric vehicle from the other end of the cost scale – the Changli Freeman.
The all-electric runabout, which is made in China, is reputed to be the cheapest new electric car on the market and currently has a list price of around $US1000 ($A1360).
It weighs 323kg, packs up to a 1.2kW motor, can reach 35km/h and has a claimed range of 40-100km.
Jason Torchinsky, senior editor of automotive website Jalopnik, recently imported a Freeman to the United States and – once landed, through customs and equipped with batteries – ending up paying a total of $4528.
That might sound expensive but, in Australasia, a basic electric golf cart with no doors or creature comforts can easily cost upwards of $7000.
Torchinsky has since been putting the Freeman comprehensively through its paces, including taking it on track, and dropped it off at M&A to see what Munro would make of it.
Unsurprisingly, considering the base price of the Changli, Munro was impressed by the cost-effective and often cleverly executed engineering and finishing.
There was cost-cutting evident in places, as you’d expect, but details such as the pick-up truck-style rear axle and suspension, reversing camera and body finishing drew much praise.
“I can guarantee you one thing – we could not make this in the US for $US800, and that’s a fact,” said Munro.
“I’m really impressed.”
The full video, if you’d like to find out more about the ins and outs of the world’s cheapest electric car, is available on Jalopnik’s YouTube channel.