Jochen Hanebeck, CEO of Infineon, pointed out the central importance of power semiconductors not only for electromobility, but for the entire process of decarbonization. Used in the generation and conversion of electrical energy through to the charging infrastructure and, of course, in the vehicles themselves, they are crucial to the efficiency of this value chain and thus to the quality of energy generation and consumption.
Save the date: 28th Automobil-Elektronik Kongress
On June 18 - 19, 2024 the International Automobil-Elektronik Kongress in Ludwigsburg will take place for the 28th time. For many years, this networking conference has already been the meeting place for the top decision makers in the electrical/electronics sector; now it additionally brings together the automotive executives and the relevant high-level managers of the tech industry in order to jointly enable the holistic customer experience which is needed for the vehicles of the future. Despite this heavily increasing internationalisation, the Automobil-Elektronik Kongress is still characterized by the attendees to be a kind of “automotive family reunion”.
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Although silicon devices currently still dominate applications, silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) are increasingly coming to the fore. These two technologies, collectively referred to as wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors, enable higher efficiencies and thus lower energy losses. But the equation "GaN is better than SiC, and SiC is better than silicon" would be too simple; each of these three technologies has a different profile and is therefore suitable for different applications. For example, silicon is now three to four times cheaper than SiC and GaN and will remain competitive in many applications where it is not important to squeeze out maximum efficiency and minimum form factor. SiC features better switching performance - resulting in better efficiency and higher power density. Finally, GaN offers even higher switching performance. On this basis, systems can be built that are characterized by higher efficiency and lower system costs. In somewhat simplified terms, the areas of application can be delineated as follows: Silicon has (and will continue to have) its domain in cost-sensitive applications such as IGBTs for secondary-axis drives and around small batteries. SiC is more likely to be seen in the area of traction inverters, while GaN can play out its advantages in the medium and long term in the area of on-board chargers (OBCs). The advantages of WBG components are also offset by disadvantages. For example, their manufacturing process is significantly more complex than that of silicon components, which makes them more expensive.
Beyond power conversion, the new E/E architectures based on zone and domain computing will create new application fields for power semiconductors: In-vehicle power distribution. Here, too, such components will be indispensable, Hanebeck said.