E-mobility drives demand for power semiconductors

October 03, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Environmental legislation and the electrification of the powertrain are the main demand drivers of the global demand for power semiconductors for automotive use. Additional factors are the need for power management and new safety features. New technology trends such as stop-start systems in micro hybrid vehicles also increase the demand. A study from market research and consulting company Frost & Sullivan has details on how the market will develop. The global hot spots for this development are the Asia/Pacific region and Europe.

According to the study, the global market for automotive power semiconductors grew to 2.81 billion US dollars; by 2018, the market watchers expect a volume of 5.28 billion dollars. Within this market, IGBTs and MOSFETs play the dominating role - and even more so in the next years when they increasingly displace bipolar transistors and thyristors. Regions where this demand will grow the fastest are the Asia/Pacific countries along with Europe. But in emerging markets India, China and Brazil, the rising income of the middle class also leads to growing demand for cars, and in particular for more sophisticated vehicles with a higher content of power semiconductors. "Triggered by rising fuel prices, consumers turn away from gas guzzlers and increasingly prefer more fuel-efficient cars", explains Frost & Sullivan Program Manager Aravind Seshagiri. "For this reason, the deployment of power semiconductors in existing powertrain control systems has increased, driven by new concepts aiming at higher engine power at lower fuel consumption".

Though the demand in general is increasing it is subject to significant fluctuations. This makes it difficult for power semiconductor manufacturers to keep pace with the changing requirements and to predict the future demand. And also the technological progress in these power components is not sufficient, the market researcher believes. Due to the the lack of suited power switches, the control functions in many applications probably will be increasingly implemented in integrated circuits instead, says Seshagiri. This holds true in particular for electric vehicles. In addition, innovative technologies such as Silicon-carbide based power components will be a focus topic for research and development.