[News] Is this China Automaker Building a Team for In-House SiC Power Chip?

2023-11-24 Semiconductors editor

Recent reports suggest that Li Auto, a Chinese new energy vehicle company, is currently building a team in Singapore dedicated to the R&D of SiC power chips. On LinkedIn, Li Auto has posted five recent job openings in Singapore, including roles like General Manager, SiC Power Module Failure Analysis/Physical Analysis Expert, SiC Power Module Design Expert, SiC Power Module Process Expert, and SiC Power Module Electrical Design Expert.

In terms of power devices, electric drive systems in current 400V models typically employ Si IGBT, while 800V models mostly utilize SiC MOSFETs. This choice enables higher power density, leading to smaller and lighter equipment.

SiC, known for enhancing the driving range of electric vehicles and improving charging efficiency, finds widespread application in components like main inverters, on-board chargers, and DC/DC converters.

Recognizing the potential, Li Auto is among the many new energy vehicle makers incorporating SiC into their products.

As of August last year, Li Auto had launched the construction of power semiconductor R&D and production base in the Suzhou High-tech Zone. The base aims to initiate sample production in the first half of 2023, officially beginning full-scale production in 2024, with an ultimate annual capacity of 2.4 million SiC power modules. This marks Li Auto’s strategic move into the independent industry landscape for the next generation of high-voltage electric drive technology.

To achieve higher efficiency on the high-voltage platform, Li Auto is opting for SiC power modules over traditional IGBT. At the 2023 Auto Shanghai in April, Li Auto unveiled an 800V fast charging solution featuring an 800V high-voltage electric drive system built on SiC technology, enabling a 10-minute charge for a range of 400 km.

Li Auto’s next-gen SiC power module, integrating multiple components into the motor controller design, compresses the controller’s volume to within 4L, boasting a high power density of up to 62 kW/L. This reduces the volume and weight of the electric drive system, further optimizing the vehicle’s spatial layout and energy consumption.

In addition to Li Auto, the all-new NIO ES6, also showcased at the 2023 Auto Shanghai, incorporates SiC power modules and is equipped with a the second generation high-efficiency e-drive platform.

Furthermore, Hongqi, FAW Group’s premium auto brand, latest electric E202 SUV debuted at the 2023 Auto Shanghai. Based on the FMEs architecture 800V SiC charging platform, it requires only 5 minutes of charging for a range of 300 km.

Notably, Huawei recently introduced the new DriveONE 800V high-voltage SiC motor platform, focusing on better performance for electric vehicles. With high-voltage SiC technology, this motor platform achieves a rotation speed of up to 22,000 rpm and a maximum efficiency of 98%. Huawei’s latest SiC motor release is anticipated to open a new page in the electric vehicle industry.

The integration of SiC power devices into electric vehicles represents a significant trend in the development of the new energy vehicle industry. Leading automakers are poised to invest more resources in the research and development of related products, ultimately attaining independent control over core technologies.

(Image: Li Auto)