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Bosch to produce range-boosting microchips for EVs

Large  Small Date:2019-10-11  From:autonews
Note: DRESDEN -- Supplier Robert Bosch will begin production next year in Germany of a new generation of energy-efficient microchips specifically for use in electric vehicles.
DRESDEN -- Supplier Robert Bosch will begin production next year in Germany of a new generation of energy-efficient microchips specifically for use in electric vehicles.
The first samples from its 150-millimeter wafer plant in Reutlingen will then be delivered to potential customers and could then find their way into series production EVs three years later, according to Bosch executives.
The chips will use a different semiconducting material called silicon carbide designed to withstand the higher temperatures and voltages found in power electronics, the system responsible for routing electricity back and forth between the battery and the drivetrain.
Bosch declined to comment on customers for the microchips. The company is a key supplier to Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which are all expanding their EV lineups to counter Tesla.
While more complex to produce, the chips lower provide improved conductivity with 50 percent less energy lost in the form of heat.
"Silicon carbide semiconductors provide greater power for electrical propulsion," Bosch board member Harald Kroeger told reporters in Dresden. "For the driver that translates to six percent more range."
Growth opportunity
Bosch is positioning itself as a supplier of the full range of semiconductor products for the electric, connected and self-driving cars of the future.
The supplier estimates $370 worth of semiconductors are found on average in a vehicle and estimates EVs could more than doubling the total sum by adding a further $450. Another $1,000 will be packed into the future self-driving cars, making semiconductors a growth opportunity in a car industry struggling with stagnant sales.
Bosch believes the greater range should boost EV sales, citing statistics that indicate 42 percent of consumers would not consider a battery-powered car due to the limited range and the fear of being stuck without power.
Automakers could also use the greater electrical efficiency to reduce the battery and with it the price of the vehicle. The microchips' ability to withstand higher temperatures also means less of a need for complex cooling circuits that add weight and cost in the manufacturing.
"If you look at what 6 percent more range could mean for a manufacturer who has to shoulder the heavy costs for an EV battery that might be as big as 100 kilowatt-hours, we believe the added expense for a silicon carbide chip makes a lot of sense and we expect this technology to eventually prevail," Kroeger said.
He believes the demand will be high enough that Bosch will not be able to satisfy even its own demand and instead have to procure further SiC chips externally for use in its power electronics modules, for example its e-Axle electric drivetrain.
More than 50 microchips are found in a car, roughly nine of which Bosch estimates, and the share is expected to increase in the future as vehicles become more autonomous and connected with their environment.
The group is already is a major supplier of chips and is the largest manufacturer of micro-electromechanical systems, found in everything from smartphones to drones and fitness trackers.
Bosch is making its largest ever investment for an individual project, building a 300 mm wafer plant in Dresden for 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion). By packing more chips on one wafer, it expects greater scale effects.
Bosch ranked as the sixth-largest supplier on the $38 billion automotive semiconductor market last year with a share of 5.4 percent, according to Strategy Analytics.
The market leader was NXP on 12 percent, followed by German competitor Infineon on 11.2 percent. Infineon already runs a 300 mm chip plant in Dresden and is building a second.
Bosch ranks No. 1 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide original-equipment automotive parts sales of $49.5 billion in fiscal 2018.
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