Gimme Five – Philip Chesley

Philip Chesley, vice president for precision products at Intersil, talks to Steve Rogerson in our series of interviews for CIEonline. Chesley’s responsibilities at Intersil include power and precision analogue products for the automotive, aerospace and military markets.

As a sports car enthusiast, he has more than a business interest in the latest automotive trends. He is an avid student of the latest automotive innovations and works closely with customers to understand their vision for the future of the automotive industry.

Prior to his promotion in 2013, Chesley served in multiple positions of growing responsibility at Intersil including vice president and general manager of the high performance analogue products and product line director for the high reliability product line. He joined the company from Primarion, where he served for five years as founder and director of marketing and application engineering overseeing the digital control power business. Before this, he was director of marketing for Vivid Semiconductor, an analogue semiconductor provider focussed on the LCD market.

He holds an MBA from Duke University Fuqua School of Business on North Carolina and a BS degree from Brigham Young University in Utah. He spends his free time with his family, which includes six teenagers. They spend time boating and off-shore fishing, enjoying the Florida weather where they live. Never one to waste down time, he also likes to build state-of-the-art home theatre systems.

1. What challenges does the move to 48V in automotive create for power management ICs?

At 48V you have to have a lot of margin. You need a lot of headroom. In most automotive applications, the voltage needs to be greater, say, when you start the car, so you need a lot of headroom. A 48V system may need to handle up to 60 or 80V, but for very short periods. But the ICs need to handle that. So you are going to have to look at different process technologies. And though they have to work with higher voltages and drive higher currents, when the car is off you need low quiescent power. You can’t have a high draw on your battery. So that will affect how you design your regulator and ICs.

So we have to handle the high power and the low power when the car is turned off. These are doable. There is nothing that is breaking the laws of physics. It will require changes but there are no fundamental barriers.

2. Some justify the cost of motor racing in that they say it pushes the boundaries of technology and that feeds back into road cars. Does that really happen to any degree?

I think it does. If you look at Formula One racing, the top team is Mercedes. They are using hybrid technology and a lot of that technology will move down to road cars. The accuracy that is required for the cell balancing and the cell accuracy you can provide to get the amount of miles given the weight restrictions, those processes will fall into non-race automotive. The accuracy with which you measure the lithium-ion cells determines how far you can go. The more precision, the greater the distance.

3. You were one of the founders of Primarion. How did that come about and is founding your own company something you’d like to do again?

Primarion came about because some of the other founders were ex-Intel and recognised at the time the trend that microprocessors were drawing more current in a single processor system; we weren’t looking at multi-core at the time. So the power management needed to change, and Primarion was founded to solve that problem.

I would like to do something like that again but I tend to view Intersil a little like a start-up in that we are getting back to our basics. Intersil has a long history. When I joined ten years ago we were focussed on power management and precision analogue. But we started looking at and going into adjacent markets and took our eyes of our core competences. But today we are back to what we are really good at and are rebuilding that. We are re-engineering to what our competences were.

But I may be interested in a start-up in the future. It wasn’t a bad experience at Primarion so it didn’t turn me off the concept.

4. What was the biggest fish you’ve caught, and what was the biggest that got away?

The biggest I caught was a mahi-mahi fish, also known as a dolphin fish. It weighed about 45 pound.

The biggest that got away from me was a sailfish in Florida. I guess it was about 100 pounds. I was reeling it in – it was about an hour fight – and it went round the side of the boat and the propeller cut the line. I was disappointed after an hour’s work.

I do it for pleasure. I have my own boat. I enjoy the water. It is very peaceful whether I am on my own, with friends or with my kids. It is you against the ocean and I find that very peaceful. In a world where you are connected 24-7, some times it is nice to get away.

5. How narrow is the line between driver assistance and driver distraction?

I think it depends on the driver and their age. For younger drivers it can be more of a distraction and you have to be careful. A more experienced driver sees it more of an aid. Some view it as a distraction, some as an aid.

Most manufacturers are going down that path as they move towards self-driving cars. This will happen. In Europe, there is much more an acceptance of it. They are a few years ahead of the USA. We are just introducing things like start-stop and that has been in Europe for some time. But self-driving cars will happen.


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