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This paper presents a low-cost bidirectional isolated dc-dc converter, derived from dual-active-bridge converter for the power sources with variable output voltage like super capacitors. The proposed converter consists of push-pull-forward circuit half-bridge circuit (PPFHB) and a high-frequency transformer; this structure minimizes the number of the switching transistors and their associate gate driver components. With phase-shift control strategy, all the switches are operated under zero-voltage switching (ZVS) condition. Furthermore, in order to optimize the converter performance and increase efficiency, optimal design methods and criteria are investigated, including coupled inductors design, bidirectional power flow analysis, harmonics analysis, and ZVS range extension. Based on all the optimal parameters, higher efficiency can be achieved. Finally, prototypes are built in laboratory controlled by digital signal processor for comparison purpose. Detailed test results verify the theoretical analysis and demonstrate the validity of optimization design method.