Wolfspeed, ZF join forces to advance SiC technology

Wolfspeed, ZF join forces to advance SiC technology

Business news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

As reported earlier, SiC market leader Wolfspeed and automotive supplier ZF have now officially announced an agreement to establish an innovation centre for the development of silicon carbide systems and components for mobility, industrial and energy applications as part of a strategic partnership.

The partnership includes a financial participation by ZF in the planned construction of a 200-mm silicon carbide semiconductor manufacturing facility in Ensdorf, Saarland, Germany. According to current plans, this will be the world’s largest fab for SiC semiconductors to date. The investment sum was not disclosed, but according to industry observers it is expected to be several billion euros.

Both the joint research centre and the Wolfspeed fab are an integrated part of the “Important Project of Common European Interest – IPCEI” for microelectronics and communication technologies”, which is awaiting state aid approval from the European Commission. “These initiatives are an important step towards a successful industrial transformation. They strengthen the resilience of European supply chains while supporting the European Green Deal and the strategic goals of Europe’s Digital Decade,” comments ZF CEO Holger Klein.

Medium-term goal: Establishment of a European SiC technology network

The R&D centre will focus on electromobility and renewable energy topics. The aim of the collaboration is to develop breakthrough innovations for silicon carbide systems, products and applications across the entire value chain from chips to complete systems. Other collaboration partners are invited to join the innovation process to build a comprehensive European silicon carbide network. The collaboration is expected to lead to improvements such as higher efficiency, greater power density and higher performance for electrification solutions.

ZF intends to support the planned new building with a three-digit million euro amount in exchange for Wolfspeed ordinary shares. As part of this investment, ZF will receive a minority stake in the factory in Ensdorf. Wolfspeed will have control and operational management of the new factory.

Both companies have already been working together since 2019 in a strategic partnership to develop highly efficient electric powertrains with SiC inverters – the new initiative takes the cooperation to a new level for the partners.

ZF is already one of the largest employers in the German state of Saarland. In Saarland’s capital Saarbrücken, ZF runs a transmission production which however is heavily affected by the decline of vehicles with combustion engines. Also in the nearby city of Saarlouis, carmaker Ford is currently in the process of winding down its production activities for compact cars. For these reasons, the semiconductor production with about 1000 jobs comes as a saviour in the need. The decision also reflects a new determination by the EU and Germany to bring critical semiconductor manufacturing back to Europe.

Related articles:

Wolfspeed, ZF plan world’s largest SiC production line

Wide bandgap semiconductors make increasing inroads to electromobility

ST to build silicon-carbide substrate factory in Italy

EU to model Critical Materials Act on CHIPS Act

Automakers “aggressively” on search for SiC components

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