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NowCar BEV Silicon Carbide Chip

The Auto Industry Calls for Silicon Carbide Chips

Written By, Jordan R

It feels like not too long ago, the auto industry was hit with the semiconductor chip shortage, a small but large part of future lineups for many automakers. With battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) as the new craze, automakers made deals with third parties to secure their share. The new hunt begins in 2024, with automakers buying up silicon carbide microchips for BEVs, said to reduce charging times and even increase the all-electric range (AER) of a BEV.

There are no real numbers yet, and the results are small for now – only a 6-percent increase in range is the estimate. However, McKinsey and Co. reported in October 2023 that the global demand for silicon carbide across industries is intended to grow. It’s a more expensive option, but silicon carbide chips may become the new thing automakers are fighting over soon. At the moment, the supply is limited, and several North American auto companies have already signed on supply contracts to secure an investment in silicon carbide chips.

Also according to McKinsey, such silicon carbide chips can already be found in BEV powertrains, inverters, DC-DC converters, and on-board chargers. So, it’s not like silicon carbide chips are just some magical thing that came out of nowhere. Automakers and engineers are now just learning the additional benefit of having silicon carbide chips to power their BEVs. There’s a lot of speculation so far.

“ [They offer] higher switching frequency, thermal resistance and breakdown voltage, [resulting in longer vehicle ranges and increased efficiency,]” – McKinsey

The Hyundai Motor Group and Kia have also been getting in on the action, signing a multiyear sourcing deal with Infineon to secure the manufacturing of silicon carbide chips through 2030. The Kia Corp alone wants to have released 14 BEV models by 2027, and so far, the automaker is showing a lot of promise. So far, we’ve seen the Kia EV6, Kia EV9, Kia EV5 BEV, and the EV3 and EV4 concepts. There have been some rumors about a Kia EV8 that will bring back the Stinger sports car as a BEV. It would be a nice revival after the Stinger ended with the Kia Stinger Tribute Edition.

Mitsubishi Electric and Japanese supplies have agreed to invest $1 billion in Coherent Corp. for a quarter of all silicon carbide business. Sometimes, it feels like Mitsubishi Electric is the brains of the operation. Known for investing in autonomous driving technology, Mitsubishi Electric has also designed zero-energy projects, like the Mitsubishi Electric SUSTIE Building site. If the company is investing in silicon carbide chips now, it’s a sign that these could become the real deal over the next few years

If that isn’t convincing enough, the U.S. Department of Energy agreed to lend $544 million to SK Siltron CSS, a subsidiary of South Korean tech conglomerate SK Group in February 2024. SK Siltron will be expanding its silicon carbide semiconductor wafer plant in Michigan, and is spurring the supply of silicon carbide producers in the country. That’s a pretty big investment, making it one of the world's five largest producers of silicon carbide wafers, according to the Department of Energy Loan Programs Office.

Silicon carbide chips. You learn something new every day. You can learn more about BEVs and car tech when you follow us on NowCar social media.

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