Overview of the Auto Chip Industry

Infineon, NXP, and Renesas were the leading automotive semiconductor manufacturers worldwide in 2020. Infineon’s market share was estimated at around 13.2 percent. The total market in 2020 was sized at around 35 billion U.S. dollars.

In February, a winter storm in Texas caused blackouts at NXP Semiconductors, which is a major provider of automotive and mobile phone chips. In March, there was a fire at a semiconductor plant in Japan operated by Renesas, one of the car industry’s biggest chip suppliers. In August, factories in Malaysia have been abandoned as national lockdowns were introduced to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

This article provides deeper dive into the Auto chip industry. It gives background to understand who and what is involved in the global chip shortage as it relates to cars and especially electric cars.

There are five distinct categories of car chips or incorporated circuits (ICs, for example, general and extraordinary reason rationale ICs, microcontrollers, DRAM, simple ICs and blaze.

The top automotive chip companies
Infineon Technologies (13-14% market share)
NXP Semiconductors (11% share)
Renesas Electronics (8-9% share)
Texas Instruments Incorporated (8% share)
STMicroelectronics (7% share)
Robert Bosch GmbH
ON Semiconductor
Cree
Other Auto Chip Companies

In 2020, 440 billion dollars’ (385 billion euros) worth of semiconductors were sold worldwide, an increase of around 7 percent over 2019 (source: World Semiconductor Trade Statistics [WSTS]). In 2020, semiconductors for automotive applications accounted for 10.6 percent of the global semiconductor market.

Worldwide, the average value of the microelectronics per vehicle will have grown from 138 dollars (120 euros) in 1998, to 559 dollars (489 euros) in 2018, to 685 dollars (600 euros) by 2023 (source: ZVEI). According to the experts, most of this growth will be due to driver assistance systems, infotainment, and powertrain electrification.

Bosch has built a new 1 billion euro ($1.2 billion) semiconductor plant in Dresden, Germany over the last two years and production started July, 2021.

Semiconductors account for some 80 percent of innovations in new vehicles (source: ZVEI). They can be found, for example, in the powertrain, in the cockpit, and in the infotainment and driver assistance and safety systems.

While every car rolling off the production lines worldwide in 2016 had on average nine Bosch chips on board, this figure had risen to 17 chips by 2019.

New Automotive Chips – Gallium Nitride (GaN)

Semiconductors for power systems and other EV (electric vehicle) components will work better with materials with a wider bandgap. GaN has a wider bandgap, is better for high power applications, and can be 3x times smaller compared to Si (Silicon) based systems. GaN power systems in EVs can give faster charging and longer range.

GaN systems can reduce the weight and size of power electronics by one-third and in inverters efficiency improvements of more than 70% can be achieved compared to today’s inverters. There are alternatives to GaN, like gallium oxide and aluminum oxide which might be competitors in the turbocharged chip market.

GaN can be 100 times quicker than silicon, doesn’t lose energy and with its increased speed it is lighter, smaller, cheaper. GaN for phones are already in their second generation for phones and charges them 3 times faster. If you look at the manufacturing process, the chip is 5 times smaller and that means every time you make a wafer it is 5 times smaller that means you get 5 times as many.

Navitas Semiconductor, GaN Systems, Power Integrations, Texas Instruments TXN, Infineon and STMocroelectronics are GaN leaders.

Silicon Carbide Chips

Applied Materials is the world’s largest maker of tools for making semiconductors. They announced new machines designed for chips made from silicon carbide.

Silicon Carbide will be more efficient and lighter in weight than standard silicon chips for transmitting power from a car’s battery to its motors, helping improve range. Companies like Cree Inc and ON Semiconductor Corp are investing in making the chips.

Silicon carbide chips are difficult to manufacture because the material is very hard. Because silicon carbide is so hard, chipmakers could polish smaller wafers that is 150 millimeters (5.91 inches) wide without getting defects somewhere on the surface. Regular silicon wafers are 12 inches wide.

Applied’s new tool will help chipmakers polish wafers that are 200 millimeters (7.87 inches) wide. Going from 6 inch to 8 inch wafers increases the number of chips on a wafer by 69%. If you could go to 12 inch wafers for silicon carbide then this would be a 125% increase.

Infineon View of Auto Chips

Infineon has a recent quarterly report that describes more details of the auto chip market.

Renesas Fire Impact

Here is the Renesas quarterly report.

SOURCES- Infineon, reuters, forbes, Statistica, Bosche, Renesas
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com