[News] Xiaomi Begins Trial Production of 50 Prototype Cars per Week

According to Taiwan media, UDN, an insider close to Xiaomi’s automotive venture, Xiaomi’s car project is currently in the trial production phase, which has been underway for less than a month. Currently, Xiaomi is producing approximately 50 prototype cars per week.

As reported by Interface News, trial production is one of the most crucial steps before mass production. It allows for testing the smooth operation of production line equipment, process integration, worker proficiency, and comprehensive product quality checks. If issues arise during the testing of the prototypes, they will be investigated and production lines will be fine-tuned accordingly. Conversely, if the prototypes perform well in testing, it demonstrates that the production lines are generally qualified for large-scale production.

A senior figure in the automotive industry stated that the trial production phase for a new car model typically takes around four months, with full production capacity being reached in six months to a year. However, these timelines may vary based on sales demand and production line adjustments.

Reuters reported that Xiaomi’s electric car production application has already received approval from China’s government, with the next step awaiting relevant approvals from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Insiders suggest that Xiaomi’s car project is expected to receive MIIT approval in the next two months, with the latest approval likely to be granted by year-end. Once approved, Xiaomi can commence mass production.

Currently, Xiaomi’s car factory in Beijing’s Yizhuang district is actively recruiting workers on a large scale, aiming to hire around 100 employees. The average salary is between 6,000 and 7,000 Chinese yuan per month, with an 8-hour workday and weekends off, allowing for flexible start dates.

A recruitment service provider for Xiaomi’s car factory revealed that the hiring criteria for permanent employees are stringent. Candidates without relevant experience have a slim chance of success, and even workers with previous experience at companies like Mercedes-Benz or Tesla may be eliminated due to insufficient interview preparation. The majority of positions have an age limit of under 28, with a minimum educational requirement of completing a vocational school or higher. Exceptional candidates may have some flexibility in these requirements.

The same supplier also mentioned that this recruitment phase is just the initial preparation for Xiaomi’s car project. Towards the end of the year or early next year, Xiaomi’s car factory will undergo a much larger-scale recruitment effort. During that time, the working hours and rest schedule at Xiaomi’s car factory may see corresponding adjustments.

Xiaomi Group’s President recently stated during a Q2 financial report meeting that Xiaomi’s automotive venture has just completed its summer testing, and progress has been exceptionally smooth. Xiaomi’s goal of commencing mass production in the first half of 2024 remains unchanged. As of now, the automotive project is progressing exceptionally well, surpassing initial expectations and plans.


EVs to Uncover the Gold Mine for High-Value PCBs

From foundational propulsion systems to cutting-edge autonomous driving, new technologies in modern electric vehicles(EVs) are increasingly leaning on advanced PCBs.

In a state-of-the-art electric vehicle, chips on PCB control a broad range of functions from safety alerts to convenience systems. As additional components like communication, camera, sensor, and battery charging modules join the network, the collective value of PCB is set to rise dramatically.

TrendForce’s study suggests that electric vehicle penetration was at 18% of the global vehicle sales of 80.98 million in 2022. By 2026, it’s estimated to climb to 41% of 92.85 million global vehicle sales. This surge is expected to propel automotive PCB production value from $9.2 billion in 2022 to $14.5 billion in 2026, a 12% CAGR.

Notably, it’s not just quantity but also the average value per vehicle that’s seeing significant growth in PCB use. The rising battery capacity continues to drive PCB usage growth. The average PCB value for an all-electric vehicle is estimated to be a hefty 5 to 6 times that of a traditional gas-powered car. Key contributors to this are Battery Management Systems (BMS) and autonomous driving systems, which are greatly enhancing the overall worth of automotive PCBs.

BMS Embraces FPC as Standard

The electric control system, which makes up over half the value of a vehicle’s PCB, is now experiencing a technical transformation. One of the significant factors affecting the widespread adoption of EVs has been ‘range anxiety.’ Beyond enhancing battery energy density and increasing charging infrastructure, there’s a critical objective to lighten vehicles.

This focus is particularly relevant to the battery, which comprises a third of an electric vehicle’s weight.

In the key BMS systems, the use of FPCs (Flexible Printed Circuits) to replace traditional wiring harnesses is considered a major solution, mainly because FPCs reduce weight and space usage by more than 50% compared to harnesses and also perform better in terms of heat dissipation and design flexibility.

Based on a rough estimate, a mainstream vehicle battery pack requires 7 to 12 battery modules, each including 1 to 2 FPCs, putting the overall value of FPCs at approximately $60 to $210.

Currently, FPCs have a penetration rate of about 20% in BMS. However, as major automotive battery manufacturers like Tesla, CATL, and BYD continue to adopt and set FPCs as the mainstream specification, it is expected that by 2026, the proportion of FPC usage will reach 80%, further enhancing the PCB value content in the electrical control system.

Autonomous Vehicles to Fuel the HDI Demand

Advancements in autonomous driving technology are leading to an increased need for PCBs due to the rise in in-vehicle cameras and radar. Key applications like millimeter-wave radars and LiDAR necessitate advanced PCBs as carriers.

It is said that Tesla may reintroduce millimeter-wave radar, highlighting that this technology remains an indispensable component of autonomous vehicles. The PCB layer count for mainstream 77GHz millimeter-wave radar reaches 8 layers, adopting high-frequency CCLs.

The precision of LiDAR is about ten times that of millimeter-wave radar, which allows for accurate 3D modeling of information about the external environment of the vehicle, hence it is mainly used in L3 and above-level vehicles.

LiDAR primarily uses HDI (High-Density Interconnector), with each LiDAR module requiring about 4 PCBs. Compared to traditional 4 to 8-layer in-vehicle PCBs, the price of HDI is more than three times higher.

For Level 3 and above autonomous systems fitted with LIDAR, the HDIs used can cost tens of dollars. Although LiDAR’s adoption rate is currently slow due to regulatory and technical barriers, its high value offers significant potential for related components.

Another emerging trend is the development of smart cockpits, which comprise the Cockpit Domain Controller (CDC), in-vehicle infotainment system, driver information display system, Head-Up Display (HUD), dashcam, and so on. As the functions become more complex, there is a need for PCBs with higher wiring density and narrower line width and spacing, which will further drive the demand for HDI boards.

In summary, the incorporation of high-value PCBs in both the BMS and autonomous driving systems is still in its infancy. As cars become more intelligent and aim to serve as a ‘third living space,’ we can expect more innovative applications in the automotive industry, thereby providing exciting opportunities for the PCB sector.


Toyota Established SiC Wafer R&D Company to Gain Dominance in the EV Market

Since the 1980s, Toyota collaborated with Denso to conduct research on SiC. In 2014, SiC inverters were installed in Toyota’s Prius and Camry hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) for driving and on-road testing, confirming a 5-10% improvement in energy efficiency. After this successful testing, Toyota adopted SiC in its hydrogen fuel cell buses that were put into formal operation in 2015 and 2018. At that time, the cost of SiC chips was higher than it is now, so Toyota continued to primarily use Si-IGBT inverters in its hybrid vehicle models.

Model 3 SiC Inverter Sparks Toyota’s Concerns About Electrification

In 2017, the Model 3, equipped with SiC inverters, became the best-selling battery electric vehicle (BEV) on the market due to its high performance and long range. It also contributed to the surge of new BEV sales, which exceeded 1.2 million vehicles in 2018. Since then, many automakers have targeted SiC as the basis for next-generation BEV drivetrain systems, while Toyota continued to adhere to its hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) strategies. According to TrendForce, the total new sales of PHEVs and BEVs is estimated to reach approximately 10.63 million vehicles in 2022, while Toyota’s sales in this sub-market are only close to 100,000, accounting for about 1% of the market share, far behind BYD’s 19% and Tesla’s 15%.

In the current EV industry, BEVs and PHEVs have become the mainstream, while HEVs may gradually shrink in the future market. Pressures from the changing market have forced Toyota, which has not fully focused on BEVs and PHEVs in the past, to rethink its overall electrification strategy and accelerate the production capacity and technological layout of key components, such as SiC.

Toyota aims to sell 3.5 million electric vehicles by 2030, and has demonstrated its commitment to electrification through the establishment of a SiC wafer manufacturing technology research company. SiC chips have the potential to improve energy efficiency in electric vehicles, but their high cost is currently a challenge due to low SiC wafer yields in the manufacturing process. QureDA Research’s Dynamic AGE-ing technology could help improve wafer yields and lower chip costs. If successful, this technology, combined with Toyota’s market presence, could enhance the competitiveness of Toyota’s electric vehicles and give them a chance to compete for a leading position in the future electric vehicle market.

(Image credit: Toyota LinkedIn)


2022 Global Automotive MCU Market Grows 11.4% YoY to Reach US$8.286 Billion

The global new energy vehicle (NEV) industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two years, especially in Chinese markets where 6.46 million NEVs were sold in 2022 — an impressive 89.5% YoY growth. The penetration rate of NEVs jumped from 14.3% in 2021 to 25.6% in 2022.

The global automotive MCU industry has also grown hand in hand, largely in part due to the explosive growth of NEVs and their tight supply-demand relationship. In 2022, the global automotive MCU market generated US$8.286 billion in revenue — an 11.4% YoY growth. Looking ahead to 2023, the market is predicted to grow 4.35%, reaching a value estimation of US$8.646 billion as a result of continued market expansion and technological advancements in the NEV industry.

Automotive MCUs to undergo a technological and demand revolution

More advanced NEVs will demand higher processing power from MCUs, requiring them to bear heavier performance loads. Foundries such as NXP, Renesas, and Infineon are working to improve the performance of their automotive MCUs through a two-pronged approach: Upgrading the manufacturing process and testing out new forms of storage to prevent a performance bottleneck.

Demand for automotive MCUs will be significantly boosted in the short term as NEVs become more intelligent, functional, complex, and comfortable. In the long-term, the electrical architecture of NEVs plans to shift from a decentralized to a more centralized design, consolidating multiple functions into one domain controller. While this will increase performance loads for MCUs, it also means a fewer number will be needed.

Chinese automotive MCU market experiences boom as domestic production ramps up in the face of a global shortage

China’s automotive MCU market has rapidly expanded in the past three years due to two factors: First, a global shortage has provided Chinese manufacturers an opportunity to break into the market. Especially since China is the world’s largest producer of NEVs, which translates to a higher demand for MCUs than any other region. In the past year alone, 16 Chinese manufacturers have launched their own MCUs; while some are currently in the certification process, others have already entered production.

Second, in the midst of a domestic production boom, an increasing number of Chinese automakers have switched to using domestic MCUs. Domestic NEVs account for more than half of China’s market share, providing Chinese MCU manufacturers with more opportunities to cooperate with Chinese automakers. A number of Chinese automakers have even begun investing in domestic MCU manufacturers.

Over the past three years, the rapid expansion of China’s automotive MCU industry has helped them gain a competitive edge within the market. In the mid- to long-term, China’s MCU market will continue to grow thanks to ramped up domestic production and a thriving NEV market.


Tesla Plans to Reduce SiC Content by 75% for Its Next EV Platform, so New Package Solution and Trench MOSFET Could Be Crucial in Achieving This Feat

Tesla recently announced that its next-generation EV platform will reflect a 75% reduction in SiC components, though this reduction will be made without compromising vehicle performance and safety. This announcement is one of the very few specific details that Tesla has provided to the public about its plan for the development of its future vehicle models. Therefore, it has also trigger a variety of speculations across the automotive industry. According to TrendForce’s investigation, Tesla does not appear to have much confidence in the stability of the supply chain for SiC components. In the past few years, Tesla has been forced to initiate several recalls for the Model 3. One official reason given for the recalls was that the inverters of some of the Model 3 had power semiconductor components with minor manufacturing differences. As a result, these inverters could malfunction after a period of operation and would not able to perform the regular task of current control. This explanation directly points to a quality issue with the SiC components that Tesla has procured for its vehicles.

Additionally, a production capacity crunch for substrates has been the most significant challenge in the development of the market for SiC components. The major suppliers for SiC components and SiC substrates such as Wolfspeed, Infineon, and STMicroelectronics are currently adding a lot more production capacity. At the same time, Tesla is proceeding with the strategy of diversifying its suppliers for SiC components in order to minimize the risk of disruptions in the supply chain.

SiC components are certainly a key category of automotive electronic components that EV manufacturers like Tesla are going to consider when building their future vehicle models. Therefore, in the context of technological advancements, TrendForce believes that Tesla could adopt a hybrid SiC-Si IGBT package for the inverter of its next-generation EV platform. However, switching to such solution will entail disruptive innovations at the engineering and design levels, so this transition will raise many challenges. Also, regarding SiC MOSFETs that have been a critical part of today’s EVs, TrendForce anticipates that their mainstream structural design will transition from planar to trench. Currently, Infineon, ROHM, and BOSCH are the main suppliers for trench SiC MOSFETs.

On the whole, the hybrid SiC-Si IGBT package and trench SiC MOSFETs are technologies that can substantially reduce the total cost of SiC components for a vehicle. They also reduce the complexity and cost of an entire vehicle platform. These benefits, in turn, can help raise the penetration rate of SiC components in the low-end and midrange segments of the EV market. On the other hand, the widening adoption of SiC components could affect the market share of Si IGBTs.

In the market for automotive SiC components, Tesla has been acting as a major indicator of demand and product development trends. Therefore, the semiconductor industry has been paying close attention to this carmaker’s activities. Since Tesla has so far given very few details about its next-generation EV platform, TrendForce says more observations are needed to determine the reasons behind the reduction in SiC content.

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