Posts

– Tesla Model 3 production is ramping up, together with the production of Silicon Carbide MOSFETs used in its inverter.
– We investigated ST Microelectronics production capacity and compared it to Tesla’s production objectives.
– It look likes a shortage is slowly growing in the SiC MOSFET market, and it’s here to last.


To follow the EV market, follow Tesla

Tesla has been a subject on this website and in the Power Electronics community since the first release of the Roadster and the Model S. The interest is growing as it seems the company is holding a large part of the Electric Vehicle market. They drive innovation and participate, if not define the trends. Tracking Tesla’s technology choices is tracking a big part of Electric Vehicle market technology.

The Model S was a first and very interesting Electric Vehicle. We already pointed out the special strategy of Tesla, that highly participated in the company’s success. They are not making Electric Cars for ecologic reasons, but rather make EV because it gives awesome performances to a car. They just happened to be an alternative to fossil fuel. Model S is a great example. With an almost 600 hp and a 0 to 100 km/h in 4,4 s for the “slowest” model, down to 2,4 s for the best one, It accelerates faster than Lamborghinis (yes, all of them!). But still, the Tesla Model S has 5 more seats than Lamborghinis…

The Leap: From Si IGBT Discrete to SiC MOSFET Custom Module

This first mass produced EV from Tesla has been well analyzed on our side: It uses discrete IGBTs, produced by Infineon, and we wrote a long article on the technology choices. They are using discrete components to drive the motor with a car that requires up to 1500 Amps peak. Then came Model X, the luxury SUV from Tesla. It used similar components and topologies compared to Model S, at least on the power conversion side. Tesla’s management decided to stick to what was working. It was probably a safe move to release quickly a second mass market car, and be sure to reduce production issues.

Model 3, on the other side, is expected to be the first accessible EV car with long range. It has been presented as the first “ICE” killer car (ICE: Internal Combustion Engine). For the later, Tesla’s technical team went for a completely new design. Our analysis article detailed very well the power modules, and components used (SiC MOSFET from ST Microelectronics). Tesla is already ramping up production, with more or less success. We believe they had to put some innovations on the table, and bet on the production price to drop with volume. That’s what drove them into custom made power modules with Silicon Carbide MOSFETs. No one, in the EV market, took the risk to integrate SiC at motor drive level, before Tesla and its Model 3.

Boschmann AG sintered modules - Similar to ST Microelectronics SiC modules for Tesla
Example of a AG sintered module
Similar to ST Microelectronics SiC modules for Tesla Model 3
Source: Boschmann

Investors, early buyers, competitors, suppliers and market analysts are all watching closely the Model 3 production numbers every week. PntPower is no exception to this rule. We have made our homework of analyzing Tesla’s production numbers. But one thing stroke us: How can the SiC MOSFET production follow Tesla’s needs? They reached their target of 5,000 cars produced every week by Q4-2018, each using 24 modules of 2 SiC MOSFETs. We had to compare it to ST Microelectronics production capacity.

Tesla is eating all ST Microelectronics SiC MOSFET production capacity

Following Tesla’s production is actually easy, as many investors watch closely any moves from the manufacturer (together with the SEC…). Bloomberg has a full page, auto-updated, dedicated to Tesla model 3 production status. According to that page, Model 3 is currently produced at a peak rate of about 4,500 units/week (as of Q4 2018).

Tesla Model 3 inverter, showing the SiC MOSFET power modules from ST Microelectronics

A Model 3 has one main inverter that requires 24 power modules, each of which based on two Silicon Carbide MOSFET dies. These MOSFETs are made by ST Microelectronics fab in Catania, Italy, but we will come back to it later. It is a total of 48 SiC MOSFET dies in each car.

This means Tesla need 3 Million SiC MOSFET dies every quarter to keep its production rate of Model 3, as of early January.

Now, ST Microelectronics is producing 650V/100A Silicon Carbide MOSFET from it’s fab in Catania, Italy. We took the hypothesis of a 4 mm x 4 mm die size. This matches a current density of 6.25 A/mm². They are produced on 6 inches wafers (150 mm), which is a recent fab improvement from ST Microelectronics. We believe this improvement date matches the production start for the Gen. 2 SiC MOSFET that equip Tesla electric cars. Thanks to a marvelous tool (Die Per Wafer Calculator) that every semiconductor market analyst knows very well, we can estimate the number of dies per wafer at 702. These dies are not all good, as nobody has a 100% yield, especially in manufacturing SiC MOSFET. We have to insert a bit of hypothesis here. Let say that 75% of these dies are good dies. This is already quite an optimistic figure. We based our estimation on the production capacity of ST Micro Catania: 30,000 wafers/week, including 6 in. and 8 in. production lines. The SiC line is on 6 in. wafers only. According to our sources, it’s 800 wafers/week until Q3-2018 and will ramp-up at 1000 wafers/week by Q4-2018. We estimate that 85% of this production was dedicated to Tesla in Q2 2016, in order to stock MOSFETs for Elon Musks optimistic production ramp-up back then. We known ST Microelectronics has to make some devices for other customers time to time…

Based on these numbers:

  • ST Microelectronics produced 3,420,000 SiC MOSFET modules thanks to their ramp-up
  • Tesla Model 3 production consumed 2,950,000 SiC MOSFET modules

We can easily see that, without a stock of power modules, Tesla would be quite a tight supply-chain. But mostly, Tesla’s ramp-up relies mainly on ST Microelectronics’ ramp-up, and Catania fab better be efficient, and quickly, in order to extend the reach of ST Microelectronics to other potential automotive customers

We expect ST Microelectronics and Tesla to have signed a contract during the first Model 3 design phases. They most certainly started stocking dies from the first day they knew they would need it. A main objective for them must have been to secure as much as possible. This buffer stock became their comfort mattress for any slow down in production or breach in the supply-chain. We also expect Tesla to rely partially on a second source (with a contract that might be less advantageous) to ramp-up production. This second source appears to be Infineon. But these are assumptions and even if Infineon say they are second source, we still find it difficult to integrate a different SiC MOSFET die, knowing the technology is new. A different supplier would mean driving and design tweaks.

Tesla drives the SiC MOSFET market

Summarizing all this, we do not see how Tesla’s current need for SiC MOSFET does not affect the market. There is no other way than a growing tension in supplying SiC MOSFETs to customers, and we expect it to benefit to every manufacturer in the field. Customers unable to get a SiC MOSFET from ST Microelectronics or Infineon will go to their second or third choice. It will help everyone fill their lines, and invest in larger capacity. Don’t be surprise if SiC MOSFET manufacturers smiles look more authentic than before: The power is on their side now (so to speak…).

Don’t be surprise if SiC MOSFET manufacturers smiles look more authentic than before: The power is on their side now (so to speak…).

Searching for clues

The market analysis consulting job is not only about throwing forecast about sun, rain and wind, based on assumptions from looking at the sky… We also need to evaluate the confidence we have in our estimations or hypothesis. Here we used large estimations of yield and needs, to thicken the confidence in the conclusion.

But there are other signs or clues we can follow here. A first one, is to go to a distributor website (Mouser.com, Digikey.com, Arrow.com, FutureElectronics.com). You can check for yourself, and see what is the status. At the date of publication, only one SiC MOSFET from ST Microelectronics was listed as available: 1200V/12A SCT10N120. It’s a Generation MOSFET among the first MOSFETs to be produced. We believe these stocks dates from before the Tesla-ST Microelectronics deal.

Renesas Electronics Corporation announced its new 100kW class inverter solution. It’s designed to drive 100kW motors for Hybrid and electric vehicles (EV and HEV) in a 3.9 liter volume.

It’s delivered as a kit which includes:

  • Power Semiconductors: IGBTs, Diodes and other components
  • Microcontrollers
  • Control Software

All manufactured and supplied by Renesas. The objective is to shorten the development time for engineering and design teams. Renesas claims it could help reduce prototyping time of up to 50%.  A 50kW solution already existed since 2014. It’s now completed with this new 100kW high power kit.

Source

Semiconductor presented its cutting-edge silicon carbide (SiC) technology at the first race of the new 2016/2017 Formula E season in Hong Kong. At the start of season three, the leading Japanese semiconductor manufacturer started sponsoring and officially partnering with the Venturi Formula E team. The exciting collaboration between ROHM and Venturi in Formula E highlights the key to success in the all-electric racing series – power management. The challenge of Formula E is to find the most efficient way of using the energy provided by the battery and applying it on the road. To do this, ROHM developed new power device technology using silicon carbide. This material can withstand much higher electric fields than conventional silicon, which results in extremely low losses of power and higher temperature resistance. Thus, ROHM and Venturi hope to gain an edge over the competition while also pushing forward the development of new technical solutions to increase power conversion efficiency.

SiC silicon carbide Rohm power electronics formula E electric car

SiC technology at a glance – making power electronics smaller, stronger and faster

Silicon carbide is a compound of silicon and carbon. It is produced using a crystal growth process of sublimation and exposure to high temperatures of about 2,000°C. Using this technology in power devices, ROHM, a leader in SiC applications, has achieved lower power consumption and more efficient operation. There are several benefits compared to conventional silicon:

SMALLER – System miniaturisation means reduced size and weight, which allows for improved weight distribution in motorsports and less power consumption in general.
STRONGER – Devices with SiC can work with higher voltages and currents, which increases power density and reduces switching losses even under high temperatures.
FASTER – The ultimate outcome of ROHM’s partnership with Venturi. The best performance and maximised probability of speed.

Sponsorship and technology partnership embodies the commitment to future development ROHM has been a leading developer of advanced SiC products and SiC power devices in particular. It was the first company in the world to manufacture the SiC MOSFET in 2010. In the automotive sector, an increasing number of EVs and inverters are adopting the use of SiC, and ROHM has already had an overwhelming market share of on-board chargers for rapid charging.

ROHM is also an industry leader in system LSI, with a large lineup of AEC-Q-approved ASIC and ASSP products, including LED drivers, motor drivers and gate drivers optimized for engine control units (ECUs), as well as standard discrete components such as transistors, diodes, and general ICs.

For the first time ever, ROHM Semiconductor has become a global sponsor for the brand. This partnership is a big step for the world-leading semiconductor manufacturer, which is based in Kyoto, Japan, and exemplifies their commitment to further development of power and energy management systems. Bringing SiC technology to Formula E and to e-mobility in general is an important step in changing drive technology. Furthermore, ROHM is taking an active role in revolutionising energy policy. When the presentation with Venturi illustrates how effective the new technology works, SiC power devices will make their way into serial production and benefit both industry and society as a whole.

To share and promote the Formula E partnership, ROHM decided to create a special website for clients, employees, motorsport fans and decision makers from electronic industries to showcase the latest news about Formula E along with special background information on the partnership and SiC technology generally.

source

After Cars, Energy storage, Solar: What future for ‘Tesla Group’?

You could not have missed this last news : Tesla announced their willingness to acquire SolarCity. We already presented our analysis of a series of news from the Electric car world, where Tesla first, then several other main competitors released their plan to offer home batteries. Now Tesla is entering in the solar energy business. What’s at stake ?

Tesla is, at first, an electric car manufacturer. That’s a fact. But as a part of their strategy, they are currently building what they call their « Gigafactory ». A manufacturing site for Lithium-Ion battery able to reach up to 85GWh of packs or cells per year, by 2020. Panasonic partnered with Tesla to do so. They invested tens of billions of yen (1.5 to 3 billion USD) in the project ; which should be completed next year.

Elon Musk also revealed the Powerwall last year. It’s already available in the US. The idea is to reuse old Tesla car batteries and refurbish them to use it as a home storage system. Audi, BMW, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz now have the same plan…

Back then, when only Tesla and Mercedes-Benz had made their announcement, we released our analysis to our readers. The theory was to make a parallel between mass transportation vehicle companies and personal transportation vehicle companies. Alstom, Siemens, Bombardier, General Electric are all trains and tramway makers. Their main activity is to make transportation systems, but they also provide energy production systems through alternators or steam turbines, and also renewable energy systems. They also help transport electricity by making grid and T&D conversion systems. Just looking at the last Alstom division says it all: Alstom Transport, Alstom Grid, Alstom Energy. This happened because the core requirement to build these systems is mastering power electronics. Energy’s core competency is power electronics. So these guys, mastering Megawatt range power electronics, developed all the surrounding businesses they could.

Electric car industry moving to energy storage and production

Now let’s look closer to lower power electronics. Tesla is making electric cars, which is a small transportation system, and uses one of the core needs for that: power electronics (plus battery). They could use the same batteries and power electronics for other things: store energy at home (Tesla PowerWall), produce energy (SolarCity), propose new ways to consume energy…

That’s what is currently happening. All car makers are taking steps into storing and producing energy at home. Why car makers? They are the only ones which will produce power electronics systems at such high volumes in the future. None of the other power electronics system makers like PV inverter makers, UPS, motor drive makers or any other, can announce a production of 500,000 units/year as Elon Musk did about Tesla.

We shared this theory because we want to have your feedback about it. So share your thoughts and make us all go forward! What do you think is next for Tesla and the other car makers?

Faraday Future, the new Electric Vehicle start-up today announced to have developed and filed patents for high power density inverter. They claim to have increased power density by 20% to 30%.

The FF Echelon inverter patent is the first one to be approved and credited to Faraday Future: U.S. patent #9,241,428 B1

The Inverter was developed by the startup in-house engineering, and led by Senior Director of Electric Drive Silva Hiti.

“Condensing the number of transistors and other complex components enhances the inverter’s overall stability and dependability,” explained Silva Hiti, “allowing us to accomplish far more, with fewer materials.”

The official announcement states that FF team managed to minimize the number of components, both mechanical and electrical pieces, in order to achieve smaller size and higher reliability at the same time. They state that un-even sharing of current across electric components cause higher stress. An issue they solved by having less components to monitor and share current across.

Faraday Future FF Echelon power inverter

This design and method is opposite to the one used by Tesla when they designed and manufactured the first versions model S. As showed and explained in an article we published, Tesla preferred to use proven technology in its inverter, even if the number of IGBTs was high. Tesla used TO-247 discrete packaging for their power semiconductor devices, and managed to monitor and track current in each of these components.

Most Hybrid car manufacturer prefer to use power modules. Toyota designs and manufacture its own power modules and integrates them in the inverter, when most competitors will use Infineon, Mitsubishi Electric, or Danfoss power modules especially designed for electric and hybrid cars.

 

 

Update 20/05/2016:

Nissan partnered with Eaton to integrate used EV batteries in home storage systems. Their solutions integrates the charger, the inverter and can operate as a UPS, as a storage for PV inverters or with energy from the grid, etc.

Update 25/11/2015:

Audi also announced they will re-use batteries for fast chargers or to store and deliver renewable energy during demand peaks. So if you are wondering what all electric car makers are going to do with used batteries, just read below.

 

Well, actually, every big carmaker better not stay just a carmaker to stay big. Some, like Tesla and Mercedes-Benz figured that out. They went on the home battery market, which is to be part of the future of electrical grid or Smart-grid. You don’t naturally make the connection between the smart grid and car markets. Though, and I’m going to tell you why, they are deeply connected.
Which means? Both need to focus on power electronics.

The keys to the electric car market

Let’s think about what are the components and skills to make an electric car.

  1. The energy source: Battery or Hydrogen

The battery is your fuel tank. It’s expensive, bulky, and is the limiting part for your car’s autonomy. Thus everybody talks about it (and they are right) and tries to improve it. Tesla proved it establishing a battery factory.

  1. The conversion

You convert the battery energy into speed, through an electric motor but also some power electronics conversion systems (Point the Gap’s expertise, in case you are wondering…). There is room for improvement here as well, and it’s on-going with the wide bang gap semiconductor revolution. (GaN and SiC semiconductor).

  1. The control (software part)

You also need some smart software to make all these stuff run smoothly together. This is a key part in electric car now. Tesla and many other are working on this control and software revolution of cars: GPS improvements, self-driving, auto-updates adding functionalities to old models…

Carmakers, Train makers. It’s all about transportation energy

Yes, after all, they are both electrical systems made for ground transportation of people and merchandise.

What is essential for a train maker?

  1. The conversion

    • Power electronics is the exact first key thing you need to make a train. High speed train paved the way to innovation in electric traction.
  2. The control

    • Because at 300km/h, you better have some automation in case of emergency. France and Japan did very well on that. Never ever a man died during a high-speed train derailment.
  3. The energy source: Overhead power lines, ground power lines, but no batteries

    • Or maybe just some battery, because you cannot drive a train on battery, but you surely need some comfort in it, and battery is needed for that, during power outlets.
    • But why are battery not so important for a train? Maybe just because it’s energy autonomy is impossible with todays technology. They still are operating with energy sources of a type: overhead for trains and tramways, sometimes ground power lines for metro.

So these two businesses are quite similar in terms of needs. They are just not at the same power level: Kilowatts compared to Megawatts.

Now that we admitted that there are similarities here, let’s dig deeper into train manufacturers.

Electric car and mass transportation: pillars of Smart-grid

Question 1: Cite three train makers?

Yes: Alstom, Siemens, maybe Bombardier, or ABB. As you wish… Mitsubishi, Kawasaki if you live in Japan, CSR (China Southern Railway) if you are Chinese.

Question 2: What’s the link between these companies?

Train market is far to be the sole activity.

All major train makers are not only making trains, but also all sorts of different electric conversion systems at similar power: Electricity transport and distribution, Photovoltaic inverters, Large motor drives, etc…

And these companies have a clear investment strategy into the smart-grid trend and all the current revolutions reshaping the electricity conversion and consumption world. They are deeply involved in smart-grid:

These are only a few examples of how much investment in R&D, projects and time, is made by transportation companies into Smatgrid. The car market, one of the biggest transportation market existing, is no exception.

What is currently happening in the car market will result in something similar to the train market: Major car manufacturers will be also major players of the power electronics world, at their own power range (Kilowatt range rather than Megawatt for train), and will be part of the smart-grid revolutions we are living right now.

Tesla just proved that, by releasing home-batteries, and connecting the car market to the energy market. It’s not their last move, I can tell you. They teamed up with the microinverter company Solaredge in order to build their Powerwall’s conversion part.

Mercedes Benz picture announcing the home battery.

Mercedes Benz picture announcing the home battery.

Mercedes-Benz (Daimler group) did the same a few days ago, announcing their own home battery during Intersolar. By the way, how funny, a car maker making announcements during a solar energy fair…

BYD, the chinese leader in electric car, is also involved in much more businesses, and starting to manufacture their own power semiconductor. Same with General Motors and their fab in Kokomo, IN, and Toyota developing Silicon Carbide devices.

  • Alstom, ABB and Siemens: Smart-grid for transport and distribution of electricity.
  • Tesla, Mercedes-benz, Mitsubishi: Smart-grid for electricity consumption.

The picture is almost complete. Now let’s get things done.