Challenges and Solutions for Power Testing in Automotive Applications

Keysight Technologies
[Application Note]


Each year vehicle electrification continues to increase, with all signs pointing to this trend accelerating in the future. Some of the factors contributing to this development are the increasing use of hybrid and fully electric vehicles to meet “green energy” goals, the desire for the greater reliability that electronic components generally provide and the need to reduce automotive recalls (which are largely due to mechanical rather than electrical failures). In addition, globalization has created fierce competition in the automotive and automotive component industries as everyone strives to develop automotive functions at a lower cost without sacrificing energy efficiency, safety and reliability.

This technical overview provides a synopsis of automotive electronic systems, the challenges they face and what tools automotive electronics engineers need to meet them. It concludes with a discussion of Keysight’s solutions to these challenges.

Automotive functions undergoing electrification are shown below.

Power train control/charger

  • EV
  • HEV
  • On-board charger
  • Charging station

Safety control

  • Electrical power steering
  • Brake system

Body control

  • Power door/window
  • HID lighting system


  • Pressure sensors
  • Accelerometer
  • Current sensor
  • Photo sensor

Figure 1. Electronically implemented automotive functions

Challenges Facing Vehicle Electrification

Many automotive functions are now controlled electronically. Figure 2 shows block diagrams of some typical automotive electronic applications.

Figure 2. Block diagram examples of electrified automotive functions

Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) and electric vehicle (EV) technologies can significantly improve automotive fuel efficiency (and even eliminate entirely the need for liquid fuels). At the core of these vehicle electrification technologies is the electrified power train, which consists of a converter to boost voltage and an inverter to drive the motor. Because it is at the heart of all HEV/EV systems, the power train has to be extremely reliable. Among the challenges the power train faces are EV test for the need to withstand high voltages and currents (up to 650 V and 200 A) as well as the ability to function in harsh temperatures (-40 to 40 °C) and high humidity. Power devices (such as IGBTs or diodes) used in the powertrain can end up operating at more than 100 °C due to energy they are dissipating. Nevertheless, the powertrain…

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