Four power trends for 2020

Four power trends for 2020

Market news |
By Nick Flaherty

GaN Systems has been looking at the power trends for data centres, electric vehicles, renewable energy systems, industrial motors and consumer electronics over the next 12 months.

Electric Vehicles

In 2019, it became increasingly clear that the near future of transportation revolves around electric vehicles, and in the longer term around autonomous vehicles that are also electric. Today, there are 5.1 million electric vehicles on global roads. The stage is set for a massive hit to the global energy grid as 125 million electric vehicles are expected to be on the roads by 2035. The evolution of the design of Chargers and Traction Inverters will play a major role in automotive design studios in 2020, and then onto the public roads in the years following. In order to address the long-standing issue of ‘range anxiety,’ the number of public electric charging stations will continue to grow, with an increasing focus on solar power and plug standardization.

In 2020, GaN Systems predicts: 

  • Designs from major automotive manufacturers will focus on increased efficiency, power density and reduced weight with a focus on Chargers and Traction Inverters.
  • Battery technology will continue to improve and then, combined with lighter weight vehicles, will contribute to increase vehicle range and consumer acceptance.
  • Autonomous Vehicles will see technology evolution in Level 2 to Level 3 autonomy and improved safety systems using LiDAR with GaN technology  used in the design of higher power, longer range detection systems 

Next: 5G power trends

5G Rollout

In 2019, the 5G rollout was slower than expected, primarily due to the issues around communications service providers (CSPs) upgrading 4G infrastructure within 5G areas of coverage. Nevertheless, according to Gartner research, 5G services have already begun the U.S., South Korea, and some European countries, including Switzerland, Finland and the U.K.                        

In China, 5G commercial services are now available in 50 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua. In Shanghai, nearly 12,000 5G base stations have been activated to support 5G coverage across the city’s key outdoor areas. CSPs in Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Spain, Sweden, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have announced plans to accelerate 5G network building through 2020. As a result, Gartner estimates that 7% of CSPs worldwide have already deployed 5G infrastructure in their networks. 

In 2020, GaN Systems predicts: 

  • 5G equipment will continue its ramp up throughout the world, requiring greater bandwidth and power in smaller enclosures. GaN power transistors will be the transistor of choice on the rollout of 5G because of power density, energy efficiency, and system size requirements for macro and micro base stations for broadband delivery. GaN RF transistors will play an important part for the power amplifiers of those base stations.
  • Wireless through-wall with GaN means low cost equipment can be installed and maintained economically and reliably. Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) with wireless power transfer technology solves the 5G data ‘wall problem’.
  • 5G macro and micro base stations are expected to consume at least twice the amount of power as today’s networks since they will require both new cell sites and more power to run existing sites.
  • Using GaN technology will produce smaller and lighter equipment with up to 50% increase in power density.
  • 5G macro and micro base stations, power is reaching 2-3X the requirements of legacy systems. While 5G will improve energy efficiency since energy cost per bit is 1/10 its level on 4G, base stations are still energy-hungry at network-level, due to tens of times traffic increase. 70 million micro base stations alone are expected to be deployed by 2025.

Next: Power trends in energy storage

Renewables and Energy Storage

In 2019, renewable energy production has not yet met the mainstream milestone of 24/7 availability. That said, the social attitudes, local policies, and consumer awareness are in place to push this imperative forward with the urgency that it requires. Across the globe, there needs to be a focused and disciplined mandate to address climate change, pollution, and the unreliability of energy grids. 

Natural disasters (e.g. loss of power from hurricanes, earthquakes, snow storms) and ‘wildfire prevention’ power outages (called PSPS for public safety power shutdown) imposed by utility companies in California has resulted in an increasingly unreliable energy grid:

  • Highly efficient residential and commercial energy storage systems (ESS) using GaN technology will enable distribution, local storage, and on-demand access to renewable energy. Both cost reduction and increasing energy security demands will drive this.
  • With the price of ESS dropping and increased residential and commercial interest, sales of ESS will continue to rise, particularly in states such as California and Texas. 
  • Smaller ‘all-in-one’ products such as solar panels with solar inverter and battery storage built in will provides AC power 24/7 if the local power grid goes down. GaN’s efficiency in power conversion (lighter weight and smaller ESS) will be a key component to enable this kind of product design.
  • The movement from lead acid to lithium ion batteries will lead to declining battery costs and the development of smaller, lightweight, energy-dense batteries that will pair with GaN technology-based converters and inverters to lead the revolution in ESS.
  • Interest in local micro-grids for both business and residences will grow as individuals look to increase their energy security and leverage a collective of individuals ESSs.

Next: Power trends in consumer chargers


In 2019, GaN transistors drove a range of  smaller, lighter, and higher power adapters/chargers in the aftermarket. In 2020, GaN Systems predicts:

  • Growing momentum for USB-C and USB-PD products which can be used to charge any compatible product.  The days of one charger for one piece of electronics will quickly disappear and the days of one charger for all consumer electronics will begin to dominate. A single adapter/charger that handles every device regardless of varying voltages for a phone (5V), tablet (12V), or laptop (19V).
  • In-box GaN adapters/chargers (shipping inside the box with the computer or with the mobile phone) will start to become common. Pressure will build on computer and phone makers to deliver higher power levels for Fast-Charging.
  • In the aftermarket, one GaN-powered adapter with two “type C” ports will be capable meeting the high-power needs of multiple device charging in a small form factor.
  • USB-PD will garner increasing commercial interest across industries besides mobile phones and computers with its spec for higher power (100W) applications. Industrial markets will also demand a new generation of smaller and more powerful chargers for uses in portable test equipment, industrial equipment, medical and supply chain applications.

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