Semikron heads for e-mobility

July 22, 2011 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Power semiconductor manufacturer Semikron GmbH throws the switches towards the growing business with hybrid and battery electric drives for cars. The company already has a track record with forklifts, boat drives and similar concepts - now it finds it is time to get on board of mainstream cars.

The company based in Nuremberg (Germany) runs a production line for power semiconductors. Insiders believe that it is one of the largest manufacturing facilities for bipolar power devices in Europe, perhaps in the world. The IGBTs, power transistors, thyristors and diodes are used for Semikron's product line of intelligent power modules, inverters and CIBs (Converter-Inverter-Brakes) for industrial, energy and vehicle applications.

Over the past years, the company has built up significant expertise for electric and hybrid drive vehicles, said Harald Jaeger, General Manager of Semikron's Automotive Systems division, in an interview with eeNews Europe. The power electronics systems manufactured under the brand name SKAI hitherto were designed for off-road vehicles such as forklifts, trucks, construction vehicles and large agricultural vehicles, Jaeger explained. "For forklifts alone, we have produced more than half a million systems," he said.

The company believes that now the time is right to address larger markets and benefit from the growth chances in the electric and hybrid electric passenger car markets. "Currently, this market is characterized by a lack of established structures - there is no established base of suppliers for electric powertrains yet, and new players are emerging", he said. "While many customers don't have long-term expertise in power electronics, we do."

Half a year ago, the company has launched a joint venture with Swiss-based engine control technology drivetek AG. This joint venture, SKAItek, is dedicated to developing motor control software for HEVs and electric vehicles. In addition, Semikron has acquired another technology expert company for hybrid and electric powertrains, VePoint. Now Semikron intends to leave its niche as vendor of power inverters and offer complete systems. Chief developer Reinhard Helldörfer sees the competencies of his company not only in power semiconductors but also in caps, coolers, inverters and system integration - and now, through its SKAItek activities, in designing intelligent motor controllers and the associated software.

The company already has designed a power electronics platform