Less Silicon Is Needed in Silicon Valley’s Solution to the EV Question

Semiconductor companies are lobbying electric vehicle manufacturers to abandon traditional silicon processors in favor of materials that will improve efficiency, easing users’ “range anxiety,” and making recharges as rapid as a gas station fill-up in the future. However, there isn’t currently a consensus on which route to take. The front-runner is silicon carbide, with the gallium nitride emerging as a serious challenger.

What exactly are these brand-new materials? As the name implies, silicon carbide is a compound of two elements: silicon and carbon. It also performs better as a power converter, which means that processors that use the material can transmit energy around with less loss. Gallium nitride, like silicon carbide, is composed up of nitrogen and gallium has a particular advantage over regular silicon. Its supporters claim that it might cut charging duration in half.

Choosing the appropriate technology has never been more important than now, as the car industry faces its most significant shift in almost a century. Manufacturers all around the world are rushing to eliminate internal combustion engines, and perhaps even gasoline-powered icons like Ford’s Mustang and GMC’s Hummer are getting battery-powered versions.

Chips have become increasingly important to how a vehicle works over time, affecting everything from the motor to the airbags. This has been painfully evident this year, as carmakers have been forced to reduce output and leave dealer lots vacant due to a lack of silicon. Getting manufacturers on board with emerging technologies, on the other hand, is vital to taking electric vehicles to the next level.

“For the carmakers, it’s a steep learning curve,” said Jean-Christophe Eloy, CEO of Yole Développement, which is a semiconductor analysis firm based in France. “A good battery, inverter, and electric motor aren’t enough to make a good electric automobile.” The good news, according to Eloy, is that Tesla Inc., which pushed the industry to adopt Electric Vehicles in the first place, may be able to assist with this shift as well.

Tesla is one of the early consumers of STMicroelectronics NV’s silicon-carbide chips, according to Eloy. Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, has hailed the technology as a significant benefit of his vehicles.

Watts of power can be squeezed into the battery far more quickly with silicon carbide, reducing charge times. As a car accesses the energy required to propel motors, there is less leakage – wasted power — which allows for greater ranges. Silicon carbide is expected to account for more than 30 percent of the market in the electric-vehicle power chips by 2025, according to Infineon Technologies AG, the world’s largest chipmaker. According to Stephan Zizala, head of Infineon’s automotive high-power solutions department, “Silicon carbide can deliver a big advantage, literally a 5% – 10% boost in range.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *