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Date: 24-08-14

WBG to replace silicon in automotive power semiconductor fully by 2020

Wide band gap (WBG) compound semiconductor materials such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) are expected to displace silicon as early as 2020, according to Lux Research.

Though wide bandgap devices are expensive initially to purchase, but in long-term the compound semiconductor material is profitable where it has saved US$ 6000 in battery cost in the Tesla S model, according to Lux Research.

“Efficient power electronics is key to a smaller battery size, which in turn has a positive cascading impact on wiring, thermal management, packaging, and weight of electric vehicles,” said Pallavi Madakasira, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, “Silicon vs. WBG: Demystifying Prospects of GaN and SiC in the Electrified Vehicle Market.”

“In addition to power electronic modules, opportunities from a growing number of consumer applications – such as infotainment and screens – will double the number of power electronic components built into a vehicle,” she added.

The other findings reported by Lux research includes:
Power saving threshold lower for EVs. At 2% power savings, if battery costs fall below $250/kWh, SiC diodes will be the only economic solution in EVs requiring a large battery, such as the Tesla Model S. However, for plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs), the threshold power savings needs to be a higher 5%.

SiC ahead in road to commercialization. SiC diodes lead GaN in technology readiness and will attain commercialization sooner, based on the current Technology Readiness Level (TRL). Based on the TRL road map, SiC diodes will be adopted in vehicles by 2020.

Government funding is driving WBG adoption. The U.S., Japan and the United Kingdom, among others, are funding research and development in power electronics. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Power Electronics and Electric Motors is spending $69 million this year and defining performance and cost targets; the Japanese government funds a joint industry and university R&D program that includes Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

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