Presented by Infineon

The motor vehicle industry is in the middle of a revolution, rapidly transforming from being largely electromechanical to being largely electronic. The semiconductor content in vehicles has been gradually increasing for quite some time, but in recent years demand for automotive-grade integrated circuits (ICs) and devices has increased exponentially with the rapid growth in driver assistance, multimedia, convenience features, and crucially, the growing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) and the broader trend of vehicle electrification.

Today’s automobile might contain anywhere from 1,400 to over 3,000 individual semiconductor devices depending on the type of vehicle and its features, and that number is rapidly growing as automakers add more processors, controllers, sensors and other devices. We estimate the value of power devices alone in each EV has increased from roughly $200 a few years ago to over $500 or $600 today, and still growing fast.

Take a closer look at the new types of semiconductor components in electric vehicles, the most important of which are power semiconductors, especially the inverter at the heart of electric vehicles. As for driver assistance, leading-edge ICs and sensors are making advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) possible, including features such as lane-change warnings, collision avoidance, and automated cruise control in limited circumstances.

The incorporation of ever more sophisticated digital dashboards and in-cabin entertainment systems also increases the auto industry’s reliance on semiconductors.

Changes in the market

The skepticism that greeted modern EVs when they were introduced more than 20 years ago is rapidly being eroded by rising fuel prices, the need (and desire) for more sustainable means of transport, and the expansion of vehicle charging infrastructure.

In response, governments are continuing to roll out policies and measures to encourage EV adoption. Two recent examples include the Biden Administration earmarking an initial $5 billion to help build EV charging infrastructure in 35 U.S. states, while the important market of California said it will ban the sales of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles starting in 2035.

EV and autonomous vehicle (AV) start-ups may have paved the way, but now all the major automotive companies are building EVs and most are experimenting with AVs. To increase acceptance of these new vehicles, auto makers must drive down costs, and must also build and maintain trust.

What happens next

To build on the initial success of EVs and emobility, vehicle electronics must be demonstrated to be secure and reliable. Power devices will perform key roles in creating those assurances.

Most charging stations for EVs supply AC (alternating current) power (more expensive and higher-power fast-charging stations supply DC power), and EV motors use AC. However, EV batteries utilize DC (direct current) power, and EVs therefore require onboard chargers to convert source AC to DC to recharge batteries and inverters to convert battery DC to AC for vehicle motors and propulsion.

EV batteries are made of multiple battery cells connected in series and in parallel. Electronic battery management systems (BMS) are critical to monitor and balance the charge of individual battery cells in a pack, to ensure safe operation and a long lifetime of the EV battery pack.

Efficient power conversion and BMS improve overall EV performance, charging speed and battery life. Those qualities also directly affect range — how far a vehicle can go on before requiring a recharge.

Driver assist and autonomous driving

The industry is also focusing on ADAS features, relying on highly available systems which require dependable electronics and systems which always sense, always compute, always act and are always connected and powered.

Demonstrating performance, reliability and safety will be key to earning the trust of the public. High-quality components that consistently deliver the best performance over the lifetime of a vehicle are prerequisites for the effectiveness and reliability not only of safety features but all automotive functions.

This will allow EV makers to confidently assure their vehicles are safe, reliable, durable, while also assuaging range anxiety.

A technology partner who can deliver dependable electronics is the foundation for consumer trust. Indeed, as the automotive leader in dependability, quality leader and functional safety, Infineon delivers the dependable electronics which critical systems need to rely on. The company also offers dependable semiconductors for many applications in the vehicle: from high-power IGBTs, and SiC, to dependable driver assistance systems, secure networking and safe microcontrollers.

Trust also extends beyond the quality and reliability of the products Infineon provides; being a consistent supplier of these products also counts. In order to meet such high-quality requirements, the company’s automotive chips are evaluated with the most rigorous standards from design to mass production. After all, both customers and consumers must have complete faith that these products can be relied upon, and that users will be safe in motor vehicles now and in the future.

Mathew Anil is Marketing Director, VMO at Infineon Technologies.

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