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The Silicon Carbide Race Begins

semiengineering.com
6 min read
fairly difficult
As SiC moves to higher voltages, BEV users get faster charging, extended range, and lower system costs
The growing adoption of silicon carbide (SiC) for a variety of automotive chips has reached the tipping point where most chipmakers now consider it a relatively safe bet, setting off a scramble to stake a claim and push this wide-bandgap technology into the mainstream.

SiC holds great promise for a number of automotive applications, particularly for battery electric vehicles. It can extend driving range per charge compared with silicon, reduce the time it takes to charge a battery, and contribute to the overall efficiency equation by providing the same range with lower battery capacity and less weight. The challenge now is to reduce the cost of manufacturing these devices, which is why SiC fabs are migrating from 6-inch (150mm) to 8-inch (200mm) wafers.

"These compelling benefits are leading to mass SiC adoption in BEVs, which brings SiC manufacturing cost reductions due to economies of scale," said Victor Veliadis, executive director and CTO for the PowerAmerica Manufacturing USA Institute, which was formed by the U.S. Dept. of Energy to accelerate adoption of SiC and GaN power electronics. "It is the major volume application that SiC manufacturers are focusing on, and it is fueling their manufacturing expansions. It is also the reason many newcomers are entering the SiC field, and why we are seeing the intense competition for BEV design wins."

SiC is being inserted in several EV systems, including the traction inverter, the DC-DC converter, and the on-board charger, according to Veliadis, a professor of electrical engineering at North Carolina State University, which manages PowerAmerica. The technology also can help reduce the time it takes to charge a BEV.

"High-voltage SiC power devices are also key in enabling the fast-charging infrastructure that will lift the last major barrier in wide EV consumer acceptance," he said. "SiC is highly efficient at the high voltages, enabling fast battery charging times that are comparable to filling the tank of…
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