The demand for new energy vehicles increases, and power semiconductors usher in new opportunities for development

Silicon carbide (SiC) is a man-made material that is widely used. It has special properties such as high hardness, high temperature resistance, wear resistance, thermal shock resistance, corrosion resistance, good electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity and electromagnetic wave absorption. In addition, it is widely used in metallurgy, chemical industry, ceramics, aerospace and other industrial sectors. The application of silicon carbide in new energy vehicles mainly includes charging modules, on-board chargers, compressors, converters, motor drives and other components.

In new energy vehicles, power devices are the main components of electric drive systems, and play a leading role in their efficiency, power density, and reliability. At present, the electric drive part of new energy vehicles is mainly composed of silicon-based power devices. With the development of electric vehicles, higher requirements have been placed on the miniaturization and light weight of electric drives.

Power devices for new energy vehicles are in great demand

Among power device products, MOSFETs and IGBTs are the core of automotive electronics. MOSFET products are the most widely used products in the power device market, accounting for 35.4% of the power semiconductor discrete device market; IGBT is the fastest growing product in power devices, accounting for 25% of the total market, and it is an indispensable part of new energy vehicles. For semiconductor devices, downstream demand is quite strong.

Compared with traditional fuel vehicles, new energy vehicles use more power devices. According to analysis, in traditional diesel locomotives, the installed value of power semiconductors is US$71, accounting for 21% of the total value of automotive semiconductors; for hybrid vehicles, the value of power semiconductors newly added on the basis of traditional combustion vehicles is US$354, It accounts for 76% of the total value added; on pure electric vehicles, the value of power semiconductors is $387, accounting for 55% of the total value of automotive semiconductors.

The sales of new energy vehicles have grown rapidly, and the downstream market demand is considerable. In 2007, the total domestic production of new energy vehicles was 2,179, and in 2017, the domestic production has reached 819,991, with an astonishing compound annual growth rate of 93%, and the year-on-year growth has been stable at more than 50% . The sales of new energy vehicles increased from 15,736 in 2011 to 61,856.99 million in 2018, an increase of 392 times.

Charging piles are indispensable supporting equipment for new energy vehicles. The power devices used in charging piles are mainly MOSFET chips and IGBT chips. It is reported that by 2020, the number of domestic charging and replacement stations will reach 12,000, and the number of charging piles will reach 4.5 million.

SiC wafers are in short supply, and international manufacturers are increasing

The hot market demand has driven SiC wafer manufacturers to increase their investment. In early 2019, Cree spun off the lighting business and focused on the compound semiconductor RF and power application market to meet the market demand for 5G communications and new energy vehicles. In the same year, it announced that it would spend US$1 billion to expand silicon carbide production capacity. In recent years, Japan’s Showa Denko has expanded the production of silicon carbide wafers three times. ROHM also announced that it will invest 60 billion yen (about 560 million US dollars) by March 2026 to increase the production capacity of SiC power semiconductors by 16 times. . Germany’s X-Fab, Taiwan’s Universal Crystal, Jiajing, and Hanlei have also invested in new silicon carbide production lines.

In order to strengthen the self-production rate of key semiconductor materials, in 2019 ST completed the overall acquisition of Norstel, a Swedish SiC wafer manufacturer, and SK Siltron also announced that it would acquire DuPont’s SiC wafer business for $450 million.

It is worth mentioning that due to the high technical and capital thresholds of SiC, and the current slow growth of single crystals and unstable quality, the yield of SiC wafers produced is not high and the cost is relatively high. Manufacturers are generally at a loss.

The United States, Japan, and Europe started early in the SiC field. The 6-inch silicon carbide substrate has been mass-produced, and the 8-inch silicon carbide substrate has been successfully developed. Cree alone accounts for about 40% of the SiC substrate market.

According to industry insiders, domestic SiC substrate manufacturers are mainly Tianke Heda, Hebei Tongguang, Shandong Tianyue, and Zhongke Energy Saving, etc. The products are mainly 4 inches, and 6 inches are still in the research stage, and the quality is relatively weak. In terms of epitaxy, domestic manufacturers mainly include Dongguan Tianyu, Han Tiancheng, etc. Some companies have been able to provide 4- and 6-inch silicon carbide epitaxial wafers. Epitaxial wafers for devices of 1700V and below are relatively mature, but for high-quality epitaxial wafers The mass production technology of thick epitaxy is mainly possessed by a few foreign companies such as Cree and Showa Denko.

Domestic power semiconductors break through the dawn

IGBT is the core device of new energy vehicle motor control system and charging pile. The growth of new energy vehicle market will definitely drive the development of power semiconductors. Although my country is the world’s largest semiconductor consumer, the semiconductor market demand accounts for about 40% of the global market, but the domestic production rate of various semiconductor devices and chips is very low.

The products of power semiconductor companies in mainland China are mainly concentrated in the low-end field. The localization rate of various power semiconductor devices and power ICs is less than 50%, and there is huge room for import substitution. At present, the mainstream third-generation semiconductor materials in China are actively deployed in the field of silicon carbide and silicon nitride. The former is mostly used in high-voltage applications such as smart grids, rail transit, etc.; the latter has greater applications in high-frequency fields such as 5G communications. .

In terms of silicon carbide, domestic companies have gradually formed a complete industrial chain, which can produce a new generation of silicon carbide power semiconductors; in terms of gallium nitride materials, the international market is also in the initial research stage, and the market pattern is still unclear. Schools, research institutions, companies and manufacturers have carried out a lot of research and have many patented technologies.

According to relevant data, as of the end of 2018, international manufacturers such as Kerui and Toshiba have the largest number of gallium nitride patents in the world, but Chinese companies have also occupied a place.

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