EV’s increase demand on semiconductors and electronic components
17 July 2023
The average electric vehicle has in excess of 3,000 electronic components, more than double that of a non-electric vehicle.
Increasing technology in vehicles was already increasing the demand for electronic components, with trends such as the ‘connected car’, increased used of ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) and infotainment systems. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of chips used in automobiles increased by an average of 40%. However, with the clock ticking on the internal combustion engine car, electric vehicles are set to dramatically increase the automotive sectors hunger for more and more electronics. As EV's transition from early adopters to the early majority, this shift creates greater demand for electronic components especially semiconductors.
The electric vehicle age and the surge of new technologies.
The integration of more and more electronics in vehicles was already being driven by automotive industry trends with the automotive sector being forced to rethink its product range because of electrification. There is a wave of new technologies entering the automotive sector towards autonomous vehicles and the ‘Internet of Moving Things’ (IoMT), which includes Car-to-Car (C2C) and Car-to-Infrastructure (C2I) communication (providing a view of traffic conditions and potential hazards).
Semiconductor devices found on autonomous electric vehicles. (Source: IDTechEx)
Inside the vehicle, data is transferred via various buses and protocols: CAN for routine functions, MOST for multimedia, and FlexRay for critical controls like braking and steering. Ethernet cabling is used for communication, with lighter two-wire unshielded cables for cost efficiency.
Semiconductor wafer value in the average vehicle today, and in 2033. (Source: IDTechEx)
The value of MCUs within vehicles is going to continue to grow.
This will contribute to a wafer revenue CAGR of 9.4%, but much of the growth is going to be driven by growing semiconductor demand within advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), autonomous vehicles (AV) and vehicle electrification. Not only will these new components require additional MCUs, but the advanced and intensive processing undertaken in automated driving is seeing the adoption of more cutting-edge semiconductor technologies into the vehicle.
High-power motors in electric vehicles pose challenges too. The battery's DC bus generates AC for traction motors through high-frequency switching. Switched-mode converters down-convert the bus voltage for ancillary equipment. IGBTs maintain efficiency but SiC-based devices offer higher frequency operation, reducing size and weight but increasing EMI at higher frequencies.
OEMs seek to extend EV range by using more efficient silicon carbide inverters. Two factors drive this shift: transitioning to 800V architectures reduces wastage and increases efficiency, benefitting silicon carbide. Even at 400V, silicon carbide outperforms silicon, interesting players like Tesla, despite challenges with its existing 400V supercharger network.
Will purchasing an EV soon feel like shopping for a new laptop?
Yes, according to a report from research firm IDTechEx, “Semiconductors for Autonomous and Electric Vehicles 2023-2033”, the company’s senior technology analyst James Jeff said, “In the future, automakers like Mercedes and BMW will be selling vehicles with marketing like Nvidia inside or Mobileye inside, just like a laptop might be bought that says Intel inside today. The automakers will become system integrators, like how Lenovo buys CPUs from Intel or AMD, memory from various suppliers, and screens from LG and put them together into its own packaging. Automakers will buy an electric powertrain from one company and an autonomous system from another and bundle it into their branded packaging.”
As cars heavily rely on semiconductors, consumers might become more concerned about the chips used in autonomous vehicles (AVs) or electric vehicles (EVs) before making purchasing decisions.