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2012 IEEE Vehicle Power and Propulsion Conference, Oct.

9-12, 2012, Seoul, Korea

Condition Monitoring of DC-link Capacitors in
Drive System for Electric Vehicles
Myoungho Kim\ Seung-Ki Sull, Junggi Lee2
School of Electrical Engineering Computer Science, Seoul National University
San 56-1, Shillim-Dong, Kwanak-Gu, Seoul, South Korea
2 EV Components Research Group, Energy Components Biz. Unit, LG Electronics,
327-23 Gasan-dong, Gumchun-gu, Seoul, Korea.
E-mail: myoungho@eepel.snu.ac.kr
h5lrJcl-This paper proposes an online DC-link capacitor
condition monitoring scheme for electric vehicles. Capacitance
of both electrolytic and metallized polypropylene flm (MPPF)
capacitors decreases as the capacitors deteriorates, so that the
proposed scheme utilizes the capacitance as the parameter of
diagnosis of the DC-link capacitor. Every time the drive system
of electric vehicles is turned on and off, the DC-link capacitor is
diagnosed by estimating its capacitance. In order to estimate the
capacitance, the DC-link capacitor is discharged through the
traction motor, and its capacitance is estimated from its voltage
and current information. The voltage and current of the DC-link
capacitor can be acquired using existing sensors, and no
additional hardware is required. During the discharge of the
DC-link capacitor, the current fowing through the DC-link
capacitor is regulated by a controller which uses relationship
between currents of the DC-link capacitor and that of the
traction motor. Experimental results show that the capacitance
has been estimated within Z" error bound ..
Safety is the most important concer in the electric vehicle.
Especially, reliability of the electric power train, which
consists of a battery, an inverter and an electric machine, is
crucial to the safety. Since the drive system generates the
tractive effort of the electric vehicle, faults in this power train
could lead directly to serious accidents. Accordingly,
appropriate diagnostic strategies are required to avoid critical
failure and to provide information for predictive maintenance.
There have been many researches about fault diagnosis
regarding power converters and electric machines [1] -[2].
Various fault modes on various components have been
discussed. Among them, this paper concers condition
monitoring of DC-link capacitors. The DC-link capacitor in
the inverter fnctions as energy storage, voltage smoothing,
and semiconductor protection.
Usually, electrolytic capacitors or Metallized Poly
Propylene Film (MPPF) capacitors are used for this purpose.
Both of them deteriorate as working hour goes by and the rate
of degradation tends to accelerate fom a certain point, which
could lead to a critical failure. Therefore, the state of the
capacitor should be monitored.
This paper proposes a condition monitoring scheme of DC
link capacitors in the drive system for electric vehicles. The
proposed method uses the capacitance as a parameter of the
condition monitoring and estimates it periodically. This can
be applied to both the electrolytic capacitors and the MPPF
soaked in
Fig. 1. Schematic of dielectric structure in a aluminium electrolytic
capacitor [3]
capacitors. [n the vehicle, the DC-link capacitor cannot be
demounted for the diagnosis, and the condition monitoring
scheme should work without hardware modifcation in the
existing vehicle. The proposed scheme in this paper exploits
already existing inverter system for the motor drive with no
additional hardware and no modifcation of existing hardware.
Electrolytic capacitors are widely used at the DC-link of
various kinds of power converters due to their low cost and
large capacitance per volume. However, lifetime of the
electrolytic capacitor is usually shorter than any other
components of the power converters and therefore it is
regarded as one of the fagile component in the power
The electrolytic capacitor is composed of aluminum foils
(electrodes) and a separation paper impregnated with an
electrolyte solution as shown in Fig. [3]. The surface of the
anode foil is covered with oxide layer, which is served as a
dielectric membrane. The anode foil and the electrolyte form
a capacitor with this membrane. The composition of the
opposite side is similar. The cathode foil has a thin oxide
978-1-4673-0954-7/12/$31.00 2012 [EEE
Fig. 2. Structure of a MPPF capacitor [4]

layer. The cathode foil, the electrolyte and the oxide layer
construct a capacitor. The surface of the electrodes is etched
to widen the effective surface area and the electrolyte helps it
make good contact between electrodes. The total capacitance
of the electrolytic capacitor is the series capacitance of these
two capacitors. The equivalent series resistance (ESR) is sum
of the resistance of electrolyte, electrodes, oxide layers, leads,
and connections.
Degradation of the electrolyte capacitor is mainly caused
by the evaporation of the electrolyte due to an increased
ambient temperature or temperature rise caused by ripple
currents. As the electrolyte evaporates, the effective surface
area of the capacitor decreases, which results in decrease of
the capacitance and increase of the ESR.
D. Mll 1 (a0a./|o
MPPF capacitors have received attention as an alterative
to electrolytic capacitors because of their advantages such as
long lifetime, high withstanding root-mean-square (RMS)
current and surge voltage.
Fig. 2 shows the structure of a MPPF capacitor. The MPPF
capacitor is made of two polypropylene flms coated with thin
metallic layers. The metallized flms are overlapped and
rolled in a cylinder. The metallic layers and the
polypropylene flms do roles as the electrodes and the
dielectric membrane of the capacitor, respectively. The
metallic layers are connected to the outside connecting lead
by sprayed-ends.
Common degradation mechanism of the MPPF capacitor is
so-called self-healing. If there is any defect in the capacitor
while the voltage is applied, that part of the electrode will be
blown away like a micro-fuse. Afer that, the capacitor
operates as a normal one with only small loss of the
capacitance and small increase of the ESR. The self-healing is
occurred sporadically inside the MPPF capacitor as the
working-hour goes by and the accumulation of this slight
degradation may lead to catastrophic failure of the capacitor
[4] .
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Previous online capacitor diagnostic strategies have mainly
dealt with the electrolytic capacitors and focused on DC-DC
converters [5] -[6]. They employed voltage and/or current
Initial condition: O), O, Oopen
3eq. 1. S, on(Ground connection)
Initial condition: O; Oclosed, S3 open
5ec. 1. S2 of(Main switc of)
3eq.Z. S3 on(ln-rush curnnt suppression)
3eq. O. S2on(Afer Vi is c|atged)
3eq.. S3 of(Main switch operation)
5ec. . S, of(Ground detachment)
Fig. 3. Electrical confguration and operation sequence of the electric vehicle.
information to estimate the ESR or the capacitance of the
capacitor to monitor the state of the capacitor. However,
those methods cannot be used in the drive system since they
exploited specifc circuit confgurations and operation modes
in the monitoring process. In addition, evaluation of the ESR
cannot be used for the case of the MPPF capacitor since its
ESR is very small, and therefore it is too diffcult to estimate
the ESR accurately.
Some researches have concered the drive system and used
the capacitance as a diagnosis index [7]-[9] . However, the
method in [7] is only oriented to the AC-DC-AC PWM
converter and the estimation of the capacitance in [8] is done
during a particular operating mode, which may not be
possible in the general case. A condition monitoring method
proposed in [9] estimates the ESR and the capacitance of the
DC-link capacitor of the general drive system by applying
short voltage pulses into a motor when the motor is stopped.
The proposed condition monitoring scheme in this paper is
developed considering the system structure of electric
vehicles. It estimates the capacitance of the DC-link capacitor
accurately in reasonably short time by discharging the
capacitor through the motor. The proposed method does not
generate any tractive force during the discharging process,
and proposes an appropriate capacitor current controller to
limit the current fowing to the capacitor. In addition, it does
not require any additional hardware or particular changes in
the conventional inverter control structure.
L/vcSt|cm o|L|c.|/. lc|/.|c
The typical electrical confguration of the drive system for
Electric Vehicles is shown in Fig. 3, A traction motor is
operated with a three-phase inverter and the main battery is
directly connected to the DC-link of the inverter through
circuit breakers for safety. The motor phase currents and the
DC-link voltage are measured for the motor control but the
curent fowing into the capacitor is not measured,
When the system is starts up, ground switch S,) is closed
and initial charging switch S,) is closed to avoid high surge
current. Afer the DC-link capacitor is charged above certain
Fig. 4. The DC-link voltage ad the capacitor current pattern during the
level, main switch )S_) is closed and S_ is opened. When the
system is shut down, all the circuit breakers are opened.
Every time the system is ted on and off, the DC-link of the
inverter can be isolated fom the battery by opening the
circuit breakers. For the tur-on sequence, the DC-link can be
detached by opening S_before Seq. 3 of t-on sequences in
Fig.3. For the tu-off sequence, the DC-link is isolated afer
Seq. 2. The proposed condition monitoring scheme estimates
the capacitance at those sequences.
D. (oad/|/oaMoa/|o/a|o/||m
The proposed algorithm estimates the capacitance by
discharging the DC-link capacitor for a certain period. The
capacitance is estimated using the relationship between DC
link voltage variation and the discharging current as shown in
Fig. 4 and (1).
. I/

Where / D and V are estimated capacitance,

, ,
capacitor curent fowing into the DC-link capacitor, the
estimation period, and the capacitor voltage variation during
the estimation period, respectively
Since the inverter is disconnected fom the battery during
the estimation process, the discharging current should be
fowed through the motor stator windings. A current
controller of the inverter, already existed for the current
control of the traction motor, is used to apply the current to
the stator winding of the motor. In order not to generate
torque, only the d-axis current is applied and the q-axis
current is set as null.
In order to estimate the capacitance, the capacitor current
and voltage are required and they can be acquired with the
existed measured values, namely, the DC-link voltage and the
stator currents. For an example, typical space vector PWM
(SVPWM) switching patters, a form of the DC-link and the
motor phase current are shown in Fig. 5. The DC-link current
)|_ in Fig. 3) can be reconstructed fom the motor phase
currents and the PWM switching functions so that the
capacitor current can be presented as shown in (2).
' '
where the switching functions )S, S,, S_) stand for a, b, c
phase PWM gating signals of the inverter. Each switching

_. l
_ ":c
'cs I:
Fig. 5. The DC-link and motor phase current with the PWM patterns
fnction is '1' when the upper switch is on and '0' when the
lower switch is on. In the practical implementation, the
average DC-link curent over switching period is calculated
as shown in (3).

)I / I / I / )
u u: c h: c c:
where I,, is the switching period and I, I,

I_ are the
gating periods when the upper switches are tued on for each
leg of the inverter. In the SVPWM scheme, the stator curents
and the DC-link voltage are sampled at the peak and/or valley
of the PWM carrier. Therefore, the average stator current can
be measured, hence the accurate capacitor current can be
acquired. Furthermore, at the sampling instants, the capacitor
current does not fow to the inverter nor to battery since the
output of the inverter at the sapling instants is always the zero
vector, and the battery is isolated fom the inverter. Therefore,
the measured DC-link voltage is identical to the capacitor
voltage. It means that the capacitor voltage can be measured
accurately with the existing DC-link voltage sensor excluding
the voltage drop on the ESR )v_-v_).
Above estimation process explains how to estimate the
capacitance with the information of capacitor voltage and
curent. Then it is required to determine the extent of
capacitor current and estimation period. These values affect
the extent of voltage variation during the discharging, which
may have certain limitation in a given system. In addition, the
magnitude of the capacitor current may have to be lower than
Capac|torCurrent Contro||er
! (s) i
1: ['2(

L :
(R -L J

Fig. 6. Block diagram of the capacitor current control

specifc level. Therefore, the capacitor curent is needed to be
Since the capacitor current fows through the stator of the
motor during the discharge process, the capacitor current can
be derived fom the motor model. Voltage model of a
permanent magnet synchronous motor (PMSM) is shown in



) Vqs
,lqs +
Iqs +

dlds ,
where v ,v ,/ ,/ , Ld, Lq, R." , are the d and q axis
voltage, curent and inductance, stator resistance and fux
linkage by the permanent magnet of the motor, and the
rotational speed in electrical angle respectively. When the
DC-link capacitor is discharged, the motor is at standstill and
only the d-axis curent is applied. Then d axis voltage
equation in (4) can be simplifed as (5) and the instantaneous
power balance between the motor stator and the DC-link
capacitor holds as (6).
By substituting (5) into (6), relationship between the d-axis
current of the stator winding and the capacitor current can be
derived as the following,
3 1



'. '



___ Rf


Assuming the sign of the d-axis current is not changed
during this estimation process, the relationship between the
square of d-axis current and the capacitor current can be
regarded as a simple linear fnction. Considering this
relationship as a plant, a capacitor curent controller can be
devised as shown in Fig. 6. Under the condition that the
dynamics of the stator current controller is much faster than
that of the capacitor current controller, the stator curent
controller can be regarded as unity gain and the capacitor
current controller forms an outer loop of the stator current
controller. The capacitor current controller consists of an
DC link voltage (Vdc)
Stator phase resistance (R,)
d-axis inductace (Ld)
Switching period (T)
Rated stator current
Value [Unit]
300 [V]
0.265 [Q]
3.66 [mH]
100 [/sI
16 [Ans]
integrator and a pole as shown in Fig. 6. The location of the
pole, ], is detennined to cancel the zero in the plant, and the
integrator gain is set according to the closed loop bandwidth
of the capacitor current controller as shown in (8).

. 1


where ), ,

. 1
, and ] denote the integrator gain, the
bandwidth of the capacitor current controller, the pole of the
capacitor current controller, respectively. The bandwidth of
the capacitor current controller should be as small enough
compared to that of the stator curent controller. Then the
closed loop transfer fnction between reference and the actual
value of the capacitor current can be presented as simple a
low pass flter, as shown in (9).
The proposed scheme was validated through experiments
with a motor drive system. The drive system consisted of a
penn anent magnet synchronous motor and a three-phase
inverter using TGBTs. All the motor control and the
estimation of the capacitance were achieved with a
commercial DSP controller (TMS320F28335 of TJ

Parameters for the experimental system are shown in Table I.
The DC input of the inverter was supplied by rectifed three
phase utility, emulating battery of the electric vehicle, but the
input utility was disconnected during the capacitance
estimation process as mentioned before.
To verit the performance of the proposed method, both
electrolytic capacitor and MPPF capacitor were tested. Each
capacitor was installed at the DC-link of the inverter, one at a
time, and their capacitance values were estimated. The
bandwidth of the stator and the capacitor current controller
was set to 500 Hz and 50 Hz, respectively.
Fig. 7 shows the experimental waveforms during the
capacitance estimation of the MPPF capacitor. The DC-link
of the inverter was isolated fom the input utility and
capacitor current reference set to -0.16 [A] was applied for
80ms through the capacitor current controller. Fig 7 (a) shows
the stator and the capacitor current waveforms at the steady
; .

:c ,/a..
|.e .ia..,
Fig. 7. The DC-link ad motor phase current with the PWM patterns
(a) The motor phase current and the capacitor current in steady state
(b) Transient response of the capacitace estimation
state in the several switching periods. The capacitor current
was measured only for the monitoring purpose and was not
used for the estimation itself It can be seen that the capacitor
current varies as a staircase and the magnitude and the
duration of each step is determined by the stator current and
the PWM switching states as shown in Fig. 5.
Fig 7 (b) shows the transient response during the estimation
process. The capacitor curent reference was applied at 60ms
in a step manner. The capacitor curent followed the reference
well. Transient oscillation around 60 ms seemed to be caused
by imperfect pole-zero cancelation of the capacitor curent
controller due to inaccurate motor parameters. Since the
capacitor current was almost constant, the DC-link voltage
was decreased with a constant slope. The d-axis current was
controlled to make the capacitor curent follow the reference.
The estimated capacitance settled in reasonably short time,
namely, less than 10ms.
567 [IlF]
556 [IlF]
410 []
404 [IlF]
The estimation for the electrolytic capacitor was achieved
in same condition as the case of the MPPF capacitor and the
estimated and measured values for two capacitors were
shown in Table IT. Difference between the measured and
estimated ones seemed to come fom measurement error of
the DC-link voltage and/or stator curent sensors. Regardless
of errors, the accuracy of the estimation is suffciently high
enough for the condition monitoring of the capacitor.
This paper proposes a condition monitoring scheme of DC
link capacitor in a drive system for electric vehicles. The
proposed method takes the capacitance as an indicator of
degradation, which is suitable for both electrolytic and MPPF
capacitors. The degradation of the capacitor is decided by the
estimated capacitance value. For the capacitance estimation,
DC-link capacitor is discharged through the traction motor for
a short period. The proposed method does not require any
additional hardware or any circuit modifcation of the drive
system for the monitoring. Instead, it utilizes the existing
sensors and the control structure to control the capacitor
discharging current. Experimental results show better than 2%
accuracy of the estimation performance with the proposed
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