May 23, 2024


When converting to electric vehicles (EVs), perhaps the biggest change for the driver is refueling. No longer does refueling mean a trip to a gas station, instead an available charging point must be located.

While the rollout of public chargers is growing rapidly, many prefer to charge their vehicle at home. Unlike many high-power public chargers that provide a DC power that charges the battery directly, home-based chargers deliver an AC power that must be converted via
an on board charger (OBC) before the battery can be charged.

Figure 1: Anatomy of a Typical EV Drivetrain (Source: onsemi)

As EV technology evolves, so must the OBC, especially as automakers migrate from 400 V to 800 V battery architecture. Consumer demand and increasing battery capacity (kWh) are also driving factors. The desire to charge EVs more quickly is leading to OBC power capability rising from 3.6 kW in early designs up to 7.2 kW or 11 kW, provided the grid can support this.

Figure 2: Classification of Charger Types for a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV).

Key Design Considerations for OBC

Before embarking on detailed design for an OBC, designers must be aware of the key design parameters as these will impact the selection of components and topology.

Determining the power level is a crucial first step as this impacts user experience. At a simple level, the higher the power of the OBC, the shorter the time taken to deliver charge into the battery. In many cases, users charge their vehicles at home while they are otherwise occupied (or sleeping!) so this charge time less of an issue. However, for mid-journey recharging, charge time is a very important factor. For a Level 2 charger, the power rating will normally be around 7.2 or 11 kW. The power level of the OBC is designed to match the capacity of the electrical grid and the limitations set by circuit breakers, such as maximum current. Let's take a 230V grid as an example. A 7.2 kW Level 2 charger would draw up to 32A in a single-phase design. An 11 kW Level 2 charger is optimized for a three phase AC input and draws up to 16A from each phase.

With EVs being sold globally, there is the challenge that grid voltages vary around the world with 110V AC being the voltage in North America while 230V AC is the most prevalent in Europe and China. Within the power industry, it is common to design for a ‘universal input’ of 86-264V AC which would allow for a single OBC to be used, no matter where the vehicle is being shipped.

As the same charging port could be used to charge the EV from a fast roadside charger that provides DC power, it is usually necessary to provide a bypass feature for the DC power to flow directly into the high voltage battery as AC-DC conversion inside OBC is not required.

Efficiency is one of the most critical parameters for an OBC. Higher efficiency means that more charge is delivered to the battery in a given time. This reduces charging time, especially when operating at the per-phase limit of the grid.

The further an OBC moves from 100% efficiency, the more heat is generated within the unit. Not only is this wasteful, but it also requires additional cooling, which can be challenging in a modern EV due to space constraints. As size and weight are added to an OBC, making the vehicle heavier, it saps more energy from the battery when driving which will ultimately reduce the overall range of the vehicle.

Improving efficiency is on the agenda of every power designer and this is a complex and multifaceted challenge. The selection of components (particularly MOSFETs) is crucial to attaining the best efficiency, although the conversion topology and control scheme also have a significant impact.

Power Stages in OBC Design

Typically, an OBC will consist of three main blocks, an EMI filter, a power factor correction (PFC) stage and an isolated DC-DC converter which has separate primary and secondary stages.

Figure 3: Block Diagram Showing the Key Stages within a Typical OBC (Source: onsemi)

The PFC stage is the front end of the OBC, and it performs a number of important functions. Firstly, it rectifies the incoming AC grid voltage into a DC voltage, often known as the “bus voltage.” This voltage is also regulated by the PFC stage and is often around 400V, depending on the input AC voltage from the grid.

Another important function of the PFC stage is improving the power factor as, if this is poor, then the cost of electricity may rise due to an effect known as ‘phantom power’. To do this, the PFC stage tries to keep the voltage and current waveforms in phase as well as shaping the current waveform to be as close to a pure sinusoid as possible – thereby reducing the total harmonic distortion (THD). A good PFC stage will return a power factor that is approaching unity.

The DC-DC converter has two roles, isolating the voltage coming from the grid and converting the bus voltage from the PFC stage to a voltage level suitable for charging the EV battery, whether it is a 400 V or 800 V type.

The primary stage of the DC-DC “chops” the DC bus voltage so that it can pass through a transformer between the primary and secondary stages, while the secondary stage rectifies and regulates the output voltage to a level suitable for charging the battery.


Designing an efficient OBC is not a trivial exercise, especially as the size and performance is crucial to the operation of the EV and the overall customer experience. The design must be able to cope with a range of input voltages and convert kilowatts of power as efficiently as possible into a lightweight and compact footprint.

There are multiple choices of topology and control schemes to consider and a wide range of components to choose from, all of which will define the performance of the final design.

To simplify the task, many designers opt to use components from as few sources as possible and, ideally, from a single source.

onsemi offers a wide range of discrete components and power modules that can be used to design a complete OBC powertrain.

The downloadable OBC system solution guide is available on OBC Solution Page.

Additional resources:


On Board Charger (OBC)

Best in class automotive power semiconductors, including EliteSiC MOSFETs, EliteSiC diodes, silicon Super-Junction (SJ) MOSFETs, hybrid IGBTs, and Automotive Power Modules (APMs), enable customers to maximize power density, efficiency, and reliability for their On-Board Charger (OBC) designs. Customers can design OBC power stages that address 3.3 kW up to 22 kW and battery voltages up to 800 V using onsemi solutions.


Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) use OBC modules to charge the high voltage battery pack. The term ‘New Energy Vehicle (NEV)’ encompasses all three aforementioned types (PHEV, BEV, FCEV). The high-level function of the OBC is to convert an AC voltage input to a DC voltage output with the appropriate output current and voltage level for the battery pack to charge. While many OBC implementations are unidirectional (grid-to-vehicle charging), there is a movement to provide bidirectional capability allowing grid-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-grid charging with BEVs.

These “On Board” Charger modules, located on the vehicle as the name suggests, have air or liquid cooling to help with thermal management due to the power levels. Depending on the architecture, the OBC output may need to operate down to less than 250 VDC and operate at 800 VDC or higher when charging the main vehicle battery pack.

Whether it is Power Factor Correction (PFC), primary side DC-DC, or secondary rectification, onsemi provides the best solution to address your system requirements. Our premier automotive product portfolio for OBC covers EliteSiC MOSFETs, EliteSiC diodes, APMs, MOSFETs, IGBTs, gate drivers, In-Vehicle Networking (LIN, CAN, CAN-FD), analog signal chain (OpAmps, current shunt amplifiers, comparators), power supply ICs, System Basis Chips (SBCs) and silicon diodes.