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Introduction to Automotive Ignition Systems

Introduction to Automotive Ignition Systems

As the cost of gasoline rises and environmental concerns about vehicle exhaust attracts more and more attention, the auto industry is accelerating research on development of new power-train systems with less fuel consumption, higher power density, and enhanced robustness. Being an important part of the power-train system, the ignition system contributes significantly to the system’s efficiency, exhaust pollution reduction, and robustness.


Thanks to the development of high-voltage high-current power switches by the semiconductor industry, the vulnerable mechanical switches have been replaced by more reliable, high-power semiconductor devices. By using dual tower coils, the distributor can be removed. Using “on plug” type coils, the high-voltage connection wires can be eliminated. The most recent technology trends are integrating the ignition Insulated-Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) into the ignition coil and integrating the IGBT’s control IC with diagnosis and protection functions into the single igniter module to make a more compact and simple ignition system.

Devices with high clamping voltages and high energy density handling capability (in most cases IGBTs), are desirable as increasing demand for better Miles-Per-Gallon (MPG) engines operating at higher compression ratios need higher sparking voltage and more energy to ignite a lean air- and-fuel mixture.