EV Industry Accelerates Shift to Silicon Carbide

Automotive suppliers Bosch, Infineon, and Onsemi have reinforced their positions in the burgeoning market for the high-power silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductors that are crucial for faster EV charging systems.

Bosch will invest $1.5 billion to convert TSI Semiconductors, of Roseville, Calif., which Bosch acquired, from its current role producing application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) on 200-millimeter silicon wafers in its 108,000 square-foot clean room to making the same size wafers using silicon carbide. The first SiC chips are scheduled for 2026. The company adds that the full scope of the planned investment depends on the federal funding that is available from the CHIPS and Science Act and subsidies from the state of California. Details of the acquisition of TSI were not released.

“With the acquisition of TSI Semiconductors, we are establishing manufacturing capacity for SiC chips in an important sales market while also increasing our semiconductor manufacturing, globally,” said Stefan Hartung, the chairman of the Bosch board of management. “The existing clean-room facilities and expert personnel in Roseville will allow us to manufacture SiC chips for electromobility on an even larger scale.”

Demand for SiC chips is growing by 30 percent a year, according to Bosch. In addition to allowing faster charging, the greater efficiency of SiC power electronics can boost EV driving range by 6 percent compared to traditional silicon-based power electronics, the company said.

Infineon Technologies

Meanwhile Infineon Technologies AG announced a collaboration with Schweizer Electronic AG on an innovative way to further increase the efficiency of SiC chips. The partners are developing a solution to embed Infineon’s 1200 V CoolSiC chips directly onto printed circuit boards (PCB), increasing the range of electric vehicles and reducing the total system costs. Tests on an embedded 48-volt MOSFET on a PCB resulted in a 35 percent increase in performance.

InfineonSchweizer_cooperation_application_1.jpeg

This rendering depicts how an Infineon silicon carbide semiconductor will be directly integrated into Schweizer Electronic’s printed circuit boards.

“Our joint goal is to take automotive power electronics to the next level,” said Robert Hermann, Product Line Head Automotive High-Voltage Discretes and Chips, of Infineon. “The low-inductive environment of a PCB allows clean and fast switching. Combined with the leading performance of 1200 V CoolSiC devices, chip embedding enables highly integrated and efficient inverters that reduce overall system costs.”

Onsemi

And Onsemi landed a long-term supply agreement (LTSA) contract with electric mobility brand ZEEKR to provide its EliteSiC SiC power devices to increase the powertrain efficiency of ZEEKR’s smart electric vehicles for improved performance, faster charging speeds, and extended driving range. ZEEKR will adopt Onsemi’s EliteSiC MOSFET with enhanced electrical and mechanical performance and reliability.

“A reliable supply chain is critical to business success and, after significant investments in our SiC end-to-end supply chain, Onsemi can offer this strategic value to customers,” said Hassane El-Khoury, president and CEO, Onsemi. “This agreement will help our continued ramp of SiC operations, enabling us to offer industry-leading power devices that help our customers deploy the most efficient and highest-performing EVs on the market.”

The North American market for battery-electric vehicles is expected to grow to more than 6.2 million by 2031 with plug-in hybrids accounting for another 1.4 million, predicts Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for E-Mobility at Guidehouse Insights. Improving the efficiency of these vehicles and reducing their charging time at public DC fast-charging stations is important, which is driving SiC adoption, he added.  

“Improving the power conversion efficiency by 8 or 9 percent means a corresponding improvement in range from the same battery capacity or the ability to reduce the capacity while maintaining the range.” Abuelsamid pointed out. “This is going to be crucial in making BEVs more affordable in the coming years.”

Charging speed is nearly as important as driving range for consumers. “That efficiency advantage is particularly important as we move to higher-voltage architectures which also support faster charging speeds,” he said. “Those faster charge speeds will be really important for those who don’t have access to charging at home and will be relying on public charging. The companies that make power conversion devices like Bosch and Wolfspeed will be significantly expanding their SiC production capacity this decade to meet the demand from the growing EV market,” Abuelsamid concluded.

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