From ternary lithium batteries to lithium iron phosphate batteries, as a phenomenal brand in the field of new energy vehicles, Tesla’s every move will have a profound impact on the industry. In 2018, Tesla popularized the third-generation semiconductor material silicon carbide. After 4 years, when the entire industry chain was looking forward to the landing of silicon carbide, Tesla threw out a plan to reduce the use of silicon carbide transistors by 75% “The “Sky Thunder”…
”Our next-generation platform will reduce silicon carbide by 75%.” Tesla, with a total market value of more than 600 billion U.S. dollars, made the entire automotive and technology circles in a cold sweat with a few words on the investor event day.
In 2018, Tesla took the lead in applying silicon carbide on Model 3, which is regarded as the vane of silicon carbide on the car. According to the report of “GaN World”, according to this estimate, if silicon carbide is adopted step by step, an average of 2 Tesla’s pure electric vehicles will need a 6-inch silicon carbide wafer. In 2021, the total annual production capacity of silicon carbide wafers in the world will be 400,000-600,000 pieces. Combined with the industry’s average yield rate of about 50%, the global effective production capacity of silicon carbide wafers in 2021 will only be 200,000-300,000 pieces. Tesla’s global sales in 2022 will exceed 1 million vehicles, which means that if the total annual production capacity of silicon carbide wafers in the world cannot grow explosively, the demand of Tesla alone will not be able to meet, let alone Tesla. After La took the lead in using silicon carbide, many car companies expressed that they would follow up.
In 2020, BYD will apply its self-developed silicon carbide MOS to the four-wheel drive version of the Han EV, and at the end of 2022, car companies’ pursuit of silicon carbide will reach a small climax. In September 2022, Xiaopeng Motors’ G9 flagship SUV will officially
launch Launched on the market, the G9 is equipped with an 800V high-voltage silicon carbide platform, and its main selling point is super fast charging.
In September 2022, Wei Rui Electric Vehicle Technology Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of JK Smart, officially released the 600kW supercharging technology, and mass production has been achieved.
In November 2022, Nezha Auto released the “Haozhi Strategy 2025”, including the three major technology brands of Haozhi Supercomputer, Haozhi Electric Drive, and Haozhi Extended Range.
Car companies are the main consumer market for silicon carbide, and according to the market research agency Yole Développement, many car manufacturers continue to conduct research on the main inverter (Inverter), on-board charging unit (OBC) and DC/DC converter based on silicon carbide components. Verification, ready to be installed on the car models launched in the future. The automotive silicon carbide component market will maintain a rapid growth pace. It is estimated that by 2025, the market size will reach US$1.5 billion, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38% between 2019 and 2025.
Faced with such a market with great potential, companies related to the global semiconductor industry chain have deployed one after another. Giant Onsemi has acquired silicon carbide maker GTAdvanced Technologies (GTAT) for $415 million. This transaction will enable ON Semiconductor to better secure and increase the supply of silicon carbide to meet the market’s rapidly growing demand for silicon carbide solutions, including EV, EV charging and energy infrastructure. Infineon signed a supply contract (two-year contract) with the Japanese wafer manufacturer Showa Denko to supply various silicon carbide materials including epitaxy, through which Infineon can obtain more substrates, To meet the growing demand for silicon carbide type products. STMicroelectronics (ST), which is also actively deploying silicon carbide, announced the manufacture of the first batch of 8-inch (200mm) silicon carbide wafers, and the quality of the first batch of 8-inch silicon carbide wafers is very good, which has great impact on chip yield and crystal position. Error bugs are very low.
However, when the global semiconductor industry chain was positively optimistic about and invested heavily in the silicon carbide industry, Tesla threw out amazing news at the investor conference not long ago-“In its next-generation power platform, the expensive silicon carbide It is a key component. But Tesla has found a way to reduce the amount of silicon carbide by 75% without affecting the performance and efficiency of the vehicle.
” The stock price of the factory plummeted in response, and the status of the rising “star of tomorrow” of silicon carbide began to be questioned. Whether the industry will be subverted has become the focus of attention of the industry.
The unshakable silicon carbide megatrend
”For wide bandgap semiconductors, I think the industry should have a consensus in terms of technology and overall.” Regarding the market prospect of wide bandgap semiconductors, Cao Yanfei, senior vice president of Infineon Technologies and head of the Greater China region of the Automotive Electronics Division, said Jiemian News reporter said that the industry has used wide bandgap semiconductors such as silicon carbide in the automotive field for two or three years. The basic consensus is that silicon devices still occupy a very large share in automobiles, and they are still very optimistic in the medium and long term.
Silicon carbide, gallium nitride, etc. are called wide-bandgap semiconductor materials. The bandgap width (bandgap) refers to the minimum energy that can make valence electrons unbound, and is an important parameter of semiconductors. The wider bandgap allows the material to operate at higher temperatures, higher voltages and faster switching frequencies than conventional semiconductor materials.
In fact, silicon carbide has been hailed as the “star of the third generation of semiconductors”. It has significant advantages in terms of bandgap width, breakdown electric field, thermal conductivity, electron saturation rate, etc., and can meet the requirements of modern industry for high power, high The demand for voltage and high frequency is mainly used to make high-speed, high-frequency, high-power and light-emitting electronic components. The downstream application fields include smart grid, new energy vehicles, photovoltaic wind power, 5G communication, etc.
In the field of new energy vehicles, silicon carbide is especially in line with the fast charging needs of electric vehicles. At present, the cruising range of electric vehicles has generally reached more than 500 kilometers, which can basically meet the travel needs of most people, but the problem of charging and supplementing energy is still the biggest obstacle to the popularization of new energy vehicles. In the past two years, car manufacturers have collectively set their sights on 800V high-voltage fast charging. At present, the mainstream products of electric vehicle fast charging, that is, traditional silicon-based IGBT power devices, are approaching the limit of material characteristics, and the next-generation semiconductor material silicon carbide is a better material, especially at high voltages above 800V, the performance advantages are more obvious.
The 800V high-voltage system usually refers to the system with a voltage range of 550-930V in the high-voltage electrical system of the vehicle. Compared with the 600V platform, under the same charging power, the working current is smaller, which saves the size of the wiring harness, reduces the internal resistance loss of the circuit, and improves charging efficiency and Safety rate; under the same current condition, the 800V platform can greatly increase the total power and significantly increase the charging speed, and has become a new solution for fast DC charging. For DC fast charging piles, upgrading the charging voltage to 800V will bring about a huge increase in the demand for silicon carbide power devices in charging piles. Compared with the MOSFET/IGBT single-tube design of 15-30kW, the silicon carbide module can increase the power of the charging module to more than 60kW, and compared with the silicon-based power device, the silicon carbide power device can greatly reduce the number of modules and has the advantage of small size .
According to CASA Research data, the penetration rate of silicon carbide power devices in photovoltaic inverters will be 10% in 2020. With the increase of photovoltaic voltage level, the penetration rate of silicon carbide power devices will continue to increase, and it is expected to reach 85% penetration in 2048 Rate.
In addition to the huge demand in the field of new energy vehicles, semi-insulating silicon carbide devices are also “the powerful heart of the 5G era”. The application of 5G communication base stations requires higher peak power, wider bandwidth and higher frequency, which puts forward higher requirements for microwave radio frequency devices, and gallium nitride radio frequency devices prepared on semi-insulating silicon carbide substrates are used in high frequency bands. The excellent performance makes it a candidate technology for base station applications in the 5G era.
According to Yole Development’s forecast, the global RF device market will exceed US$25 billion in 2025. In the RF device market with a power of more than 3W, GaN RF devices are expected to replace most of the silicon-based LDMOS share, accounting for about 50% of the RF device market.
From the point of view of technology changes and demand changes in the terminal consumer market, even if the news that Tesla’s next-generation drive unit will reduce silicon carbide by 75% will have a certain impact on the entire industry, the impact is short-term after all. The strategic significance of high-tech industries such as automobiles, industry and communications is of great significance, and all countries and regions in the world are striving to promote related development work.
The third-generation semiconductor battle behind silicon carbide
At present, the main factor restricting the large-scale commercial application of silicon carbide devices is high cost, the difficulty of manufacturing silicon carbide substrates and low yield rate are the main reasons. The global silicon carbide market presents a tripartite pattern of the United States, Europe, and Japan. Thanks to the first-mover advantage, the global silicon carbide substrate market is dominated by companies such as the United States, Japan, and Europe. Among them, Wolfspeed (formerly CREE), II-VI (II-VI), and silicon carbide have leading technologies and high market share. Crystal (ROHM), etc., the above three companies have a combined global market share of more than 90%, of which Wolfspeed is the only one, with a substrate market share of more than 60%, and domestic leading companies only occupy a small amount of global silicon carbide. Substrate market share. From the perspective of the silicon carbide device market, STM (STMicroelectronics) and Infineon (Infineon) account for more than 50% of the global silicon carbide power device market share.
However, my country started late in the field of silicon carbide, and there is still a certain gap between domestic manufacturers and foreign leaders in silicon carbide substrate products. Domestically, 4-inch silicon carbide substrates are mainly used. Only a few companies such as Tianyue Advanced and Roshow Technology have achieved sales of 6-inch substrates, while many international first-line manufacturers have achieved stable supply of 6-inch silicon carbide substrates. Wolfspeed, Infineon and Rohm are actively deploying 8-inch silicon carbide substrate production lines, and mass production is just around the corner.
In addition to technology and market competition among enterprises, various countries have also thrown out various plans to compete for the right to speak in the field of third-generation semiconductors, such as the European SPEED plan, MANGA plan, the US SWITCHES plan, NEXT plan, Japan’s new generation Power electronics projects, etc., are intended to promote the landing of a new generation of compound semiconductors through government funding and corporate investment.
However, as early as 2016, China’s “13th Five-Year Plan” included silicon carbide as a key project, and then four departments including the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Development and Reform Commission included silicon carbide substrate technology as a key breakthrough field. At the same time, China is also vigorously promoting the development of the silicon carbide industry, and state-owned assets continue to support domestic manufacturers in project financing. The industrial chain enterprises are also actively “grouping” to cooperate to jointly promote the development of my country’s silicon carbide industry. For example, the most frequent automaker in the field of silicon carbide is BYD. Since 2022, it has jointly invested in Zhanxin Electronics and Tianyu Semiconductor with SAIC Group, and increased the C+ round financing of Yiwen Electronics; Xiaopeng Motors and its venture capital platform Xinghang Capital have strategically invested in Zhanxin Electronics; GAC Capital has increased its investment Geely Holdings and Boyuan Capital invested in Core Energy Semiconductor; Ningde Times also has a layout for silicon carbide, which invested in a silicon carbide substrate company in June last year and re-invested in Tianke; semiconductor leader Weihao Chuangxin It invested in Qinghe Epistar in the field of silicon carbide power devices.
With the efforts of many enterprises, the gap between my country’s silicon carbide industry and international giants is gradually narrowing. In October 2022, Keyou Semiconductor achieved a breakthrough of 40mm in the thickness of 6-inch silicon carbide crystals, and then announced in December that a silicon carbide single crystal with a diameter of more than 8 inches was produced through a resistance crystal growth furnace designed and manufactured by itself. Jingsheng Electromechanical announced in August 2022 that the first N-type SiC crystal was successfully released, and it is expected to achieve small batch production in the second quarter of 2023. China is the largest market for power semiconductors in the world, accounting for more than 40% of the world market share. In the next-generation power device track, the domestic silicon carbide industry is expected to quickly catch up.