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Battle rages over USB-C charging in cars

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By Nick Flaherty


This year’s Electronica tradeshow in Munich sees chip suppliers aiming at the automotive market to add USB-C power delivery (PD) version 3.0 charging inside cars.

Richtek of Taiwan has claimed the spot as the first to provide automotive qualitied parts, although both Cypress Semiconductor and ON Semiconductor are both launching USB-C PD 3.0 controllers. With the long lead times of automotive designs, quite who is ‘first’ to market is almost impossible to determine. AECQ-100 qualified parts will be sampling in the next month from all three, and reference designs are already available, as implementing high power charging and data protocols are not straight-forward for ODMs designing the automotive modules. The challenges further increase when expanding to multiple ports.

The Richtek controller integrates a DC-DC converter to provide the higher 100W power possible with the PD3.0 specification.  The RTQ7880 includes an ARM controller with a fully programmable PWM block. For charging legacy USB devices, the RTQ7880 includes USB data-line sensing circuits for detecting BC1.2, QC2.0 and QC3.0 and Apple mode systems.

To avoid voltage drops from long-distance power transmission for rear-seat passengers charging their devices, the RTQ7880 includes a 9-step programmable cable drop compensation function, which adjusts the output voltage based on charging current. The voltage compensation value is adjustable for different cable lengths. The result is a charging voltage through the charging cable end that varies less than ±50mV over charge current. 

ON Semi has developed a fully functional dual port, 100W automotive reference design to help engineers add the functionality to vehicles. 

The reference design (shown above) integrates power management, port control, protection and the software policy engine, and includes 100% voltage/power coverage as well as temperature protection. The power management allows for input voltage monitoring and de-rating of power based on the battery voltage with customizable limits. In additional to power management, versions of the board are available with USB SuperSpeed 3.2 (10Gbps) functions, and can be scaled to four ports with a single MCU. 

A software kit and GUI allows the user to assign individual port setting while providing a live monitor of voltage, power and temperature for each port. Foldback protection and fault features can be set and the fault history is displayed for reference.

The Cypress EZ-PD CCG3PA controller is sampling now with production in the first quarter of next year. This supports the USB PD 3.0 standard with programmable power supply (PPS), Qualcomm’s Quick Charge (QC) 4.0 protocol, and legacy charging standards.

“Car makers are basing their in-vehicle infotainment designs on drivers and passengers connecting their smartphones, tablets and other portable electronics, and they want to offer the convenience to quickly charge these devices without compatibility issues,” said Ajay Srikrishna, Vice President of Cypress’ Wired Connectivity Business Unit. “Our highly-integrated Automotive EZ-PD CCG3PA controller simplifies the design of reliable, in-vehicle charging ports by minimizing the need for external components. It enables fast charging while keeping pace with changes in standards.”

“The combination of our MPQ4230 USB PD-optimised, configurable Automotive Buck-Boost Converter and Cypress’ Automotive CCG3PA PD controller delivers a best-in-class user experience for in-vehicle charging ports,” said Maurice Sciammas, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Monolithic Power Systems. “Our joint reference designs give automotive systems designers a complete, easy-to-implement solution.”

The controller integrates error amplifiers for constant voltage, constant current and PPS applications, a 30 V regulator that allows direct operation from VBUS, VBUS short protection on configuration channel (CC) pins, gate drivers for high-voltage power FETs, a low side current sense amplifier, and dedicated hardware for legacy charger detection protocols plus system level electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection. Programmable overvoltage and overcurrent circuits protect against power overloads and other faulty operating conditions.

Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics and NXP (which supplies the ASUS ROG phone) all have USB-C PD3.0 chips and all are experienced automotive suppliers who can provide AECQ-100 qualification of parts.

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