As the world transitions away from fossil fuels and embraces electrification to combat climate change, a major challenge arises: a shortage of minerals, particularly lithium, needed for batteries.

Both the US and Canadian government have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 – which will require significant electrification to replace fossil fuels. According to a recent report, the electrification market is set to generate more than US$170 billion in annual revenue by 2032 – an increase of more than US$100 billion annually in just 10 years.

However, auto manufacturers and their suppliers are facing critical shortages of the minerals they need to make batteries, in particular lithium. The global production of lithium is set to hit 1.5 million tons by 2030, but if electric vehicle (EV) sales continue rising at current rates, demand could hit twice that in the same period.

One of the companies looking to be a part of the solution is Hillcrest Energy Technologies Ltd. (CSE: HEAT | OTCQB: HLRTF | FRA: 7HIA). With their proprietary technology in the final stages of commercialization, they have the potential to make a substantial impact on the current challenges.

ZVS inverter increases EV battery efficiency 15%

The company has developed an innovative technology known as a ’soft switching’ inverter. Currently, EVs use a ‘hard switching’ inverter to convert a battery’s direct current (DC) into the alternating current (AC) needed to power motors. Hard switched inverters must balance several tradeoffs, including heat generation (losses), efficiency and electromagnetic interference.

Hillcrest’s soft switching inverter uses the Company’s proprietary Zero Voltage Switching (ZVS) technology to eliminate these tradeoffs, allowing for greater efficiency, performance and reliability in a cost-effective manner.

The net result – auto manufacturers using the new ZVS inverter can make batteries up to 15% smaller and get the same performance, using a lot less lithium and other metals in the process. It’s something the industry has been trying to develop since the 1990s, but Hillcrest is the first to figure out how to make a commercially viable unit.

“Vehicle manufacturers are looking for technologies that allow for the materials they have to be stretched over more cars,” says Don Currie, Hillcrest’s Founding CEO and Director. “They can’t meet their stated public numbers (of vehicles manufactured in coming years) without innovations and improvements in existing technology. If you can take 15% of the volume of the battery away, they can put more EV cars on the road.”

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Hillcrest next generation EV inverter design concept.


Cost savings and rapid development propel ZVS inverter towards success

There will also be cost savings. Hillcrest estimates using their ZVS inverter will reduce manufacturing costs by as much as $2,200 per vehicle – about $1,500 in the battery itself, $700 in materials and other components. Components will also last longer.

“At the end of the day, everything is about efficiency,” Currie says.

Currie acknowledges Ari Berger, the Chief Technology Officer at Hillcrest, for his ideas and significant contribution in developing the ZVS inverter. Berger approached Currie in late 2020, a few months after Currie announced the company would be focusing on electrification after more than a decade in oil and gas.

A control systems specialist, Berger was running his own company developing digital motor control software. After three to four months of conversations, Hillcrest purchased Berger’s company and he joined the Hillcrest team as CTO, with the goal of building the ZVS-enabled soft switching inverter.

Hillcrest’s team developed a proof of concept in just seven months, a commercial prototype 12 months later. Now, they’re well into testing and demonstration with seven auto manufacturers and top-tier component suppliers.

“We went from outreach to taking calls, having interest coming to us,” Currie says. “In large part it was because we had done what no-one else had been able to do.”

Currie says they expect to finish demonstration tests with several of these groups this summer, paving the way for commercial contract discussions. In preparation for the transition from commercial demonstration to manufacturing, Hillcrest has already begun conversations with institutional investors, who are better able to support the next phases of growth. In April 2023, they announced their partnership with Craig-Hallum Capital Group, who will serve as Hillcrest's capital markets advisory and investment banking firm in the US.

“We have a growth trajectory that, if successful, is tremendous,” Currie says. “Based on management assumptions, we’re talking about, in the next three to four years, a potential value increase of the company by as much as 18 to 20 times.”

Next up – applications in power grids

They’re also looking beyond the EV sector to the power grid. The challenges of converting and delivering energy from windmills, solar farms, and other green power-generation facilities to the power grid are similar to those of vehicles, but with some different requirements. Currie figures they’re about three months away from being ready to demonstrate a version of the ZVS inverter tailored to power grid applications.  

If they can demonstrate even a 0.5 to 1.0% efficiency increase that would be worth millions of dollars to utility-scale power generation companies.

“The opportunity that exists for us, with this unique technology, is limitless,” Currie says. “We are the first mover. It’s very exciting.”

Learn more about Hillcrest Energy Technologies Ltd. on its website as well as on: