Friday, May 24, 2024

Silicon carbide chips, Bosch direction

After a development lasted several years, Bosch is starting the mass-production of silicon carbide power semiconductors (SiC).
Small, powerful and extremely efficient, chips will be increasingly used in new vehicles. Bosch, in fact, will supply silicon carbide power semiconductors to customers worldwide, both under the form of single chips and mounted in power electronics or complete solutions such as eAxle. Designed to be efficient, the overall system formed by electric motor, gearbox and power electronics allows obtaining a maximum 96% efficiency degree.
Harald Kröger, member of the Board, stated: «Concerning silicon carbide semiconductors, a bright future is looming. We aim at becoming world leaders in the mass production of these indispensable components for electric mobility».
To supply on a large scale SiC chips, Bosch has developed its own highly complex manufacturing process.
The demand for powerful silicon carbide semiconductors is rising worldwide. The market research and consulting company Yole estimates that every year the entire SiC market will score an average 30% growth until 2025, reaching 2.5 billion dollars. Let us go more into technical details: the secret of the performances of SiC chips is a tiny carbon atom that is integrated into the high-purity silicon crystalline structure, generally used for the production of semiconductors, conferring particular physical features to the matter.

Battery EV second life

Man holding in hand power cable supply ready to plugged in into charging port.

One of the outstanding challenges in the electric mobility sector is the recycling of the lithium-ion batteries that power the motors of Ev and hybrid cars. In this scenario, Pioneer project, stemmed from the collaboration between Enel X and Rome Airports, establishes that the worn-out batteries of electric cars will be still used in the storage system of the photovoltaic plant in Fiumicino airport.
It is a 30 MW solar park, which will be accomplished by 2024, whose 10 MWh storage system will be used to absorb the excess of energy produced by the plant and to satisfy the eventual evening peaks of the airport’s energy demand. «For the first time – affirmed Francesco Venturini, managing director of Enel X – a large industrial site like Airport of Fiumicino will avail itself of an energy storage system that will use second life batteries coming from electric cars. We will exploit an innovative modular design to optimize integration costs and to make the use of batteries of automotive derivation flexible».
The combination of this accumulation system with the photovoltaic plant will bring benefits to the whole electric mobility chain, sharing in extending batteries’ service life, according to circular economy principles that allow further reducing batteries’ carbon dioxide footprint with the same storage capacity, due to their bigger use.

Wireless batteries in electric Lotus?

Collaborations that express technological revolution and innovation are more and more frequent in the field of electric motors. In one of the latest partnerships, Analog Devices and Lotus are likely to be protagonists, committed to the implementation of a wireless battery management system (wBMS). With the elimination of 90% of the wiring equipping the car, the design freedom would increase and, at the same time, it would be possible to reduce by 15% the physical sizes of the battery pack and consequently the overall car weight. And all this without any kind of performance loss. The system is managed by a central unit that dialogues with the various battery modules by means of a wireless system.
Benefits should be mirrored on all future electric Lotus models, probably starting from the electric Type 132 SUV whose release on the market is expected in 2022.
«Lotus has a stellar reputation for building high-performance, long-lasting race and road vehicles, and many reach classic status,” said Roger Keen, General Manager of E-Mobility Group at Analog Devices. “Together, we’ve reimagined what is possible and developed a game-changer for the electric vehicle industry: a new ultralightweight powertrain architecture and a wireless battery management system that enables peak performance as well as a more sustainable environment for a healthier planet».
Finally, the floor is given to Richard Lively, Director, Propulsion and Chassis Engineering Lotus Cars: «We worked closely with Analog Devices to integrate wBMS into our new Lightweight Electric Vehicle Architecture (LEVA), which will be the basis for all future Lotus EVs. “The removal of the wire harness for wBMS ensures that Lotus can offer a lightweight solution that optimizes performance and is consistent with our brand of delivering powerful performance cars with exceptional handling».

The charging cable without control box

Recently, the Bosch giant has stated generating a turnover exceeding one billion Euros with electromobility and they expect to reach 5 billions within 2025, with the related driving assistance business growing by 40%. «Within 2035 – declared Stefan Hartung, member of the Board and president of the Mobility Solutions sector of Bosch – we foresee that 60% of all vehicles of new registration worldwide will be electric cars.
The company’s good ranking in the sectors of electro-mobility and of autonomous driving is helping the company to stand out successfully in this market context, where Bosch is investing not only in electric battery propulsion systems but also in fuel cell propulsion systems and is involved in projects by customers in Europe, China and United States. The latest technological novelty it has presented concerns a new flexible recharge cable for electric cars, provided with integrated control and safety technology and type-2 and household plug adapters. When you recharge with a 230-volt socket, too, you can give up the standard control box, which means it weighs less than three kilos, about 40% less than conventional charging cables. Besides, to free drivers from the task of looking for a place where recharging the vehicle while travelling, Bosch web-based recharge service offers the access to more than 200,000 recharging spots in Europe, including the problem-free payment and invoicing.

Wires for electric motors: a new standard for the coating

It is called Tau, it is a Turin start-up in electric mobility and advanced materials and it collected 6.75 million Euros of funding for its innovative wire for electric motors, with the target of developing and implementing state-of-the-art technologies starting from 2022, able to accelerate the transition to the Factory of the Future for e-mobility chain manufacturers.
The round involved a variety of international investors, including a consortium of two Middle-Eastern sovereign wealth funds, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and a German investment manager.
The start-up is specialized in wires and components for electric motors, with applications in the automotive, energy and agriculture sectors, and it has developed the DryCycle technology, which defines a new standard of wire coating. Through the strict use of solvent-free polymers, the solution eliminates the release of noxious VOC and greenhouse gases, whereas a simplified production process minimizes the use of resources, decreasing the energy consumption and wastes. LILIT technology by Tau provides the quality control to assure the reliability of the polymeric insulation in the magnetic wire and in electric steel.
The vision of Tau consists in doubling the power of electric motors in a determinate size and the funds of the recent capital increase will be used precisely to accelerate the development of new products, to enlarge the range of high-performance wires and to increase the industrial production, to provide global manufacturers of electrical cars, buses, trucks, aircrafts and ships starting from the beginning of 2022.

Innovative semiconductors for electric mobility

The increase of OEM partnerships in the ambit of the electric vehicle production is the tangible proof of the market’s neat direction. News, on the other hand, unceasingly confirm several manufacturers’ conversion will towards a global electric offer.
Concerning this, one of the latest news regards the Swiss STMicroelectronics that has undertaken a collaboration in the e-mobility sector with Renault Group and the British Arrival developer. With Renault, the collaboration focus is the development, the production and the supply of STMicroelectronics products and associated packaging solutions for the power electronics of Renault Group’s electric vehicles. The brand target is reaching higher ranges, lower battery costs and improvements in recharge processes.
In its turn, STMicroelectronics is releasing components based on innovative materials like silicon carbide and gallium nitride: if silicon is replaced by silicon carbide in semiconductors, switching times decrease and the operation at higher temperatures is possible, too.
«ST is at the forefront of the development of advanced power semiconductors enabling the mobility industry to move to electrified platforms. With higher-efficiency products and solutions based on advanced materials such as Silicon Carbide and Gallium Nitride, we will support Renault Group’s strategy for its next generation of electric and hybrid platforms,” said Jean-Marc Chery, President and Chief Executive Officer, STMicroelectronics. “ST and Renault Group share a common vision for more sustainable mobility. This partnership will be another step forward in the progressive decarbonization process initiated by the mobility industry and its supply chain».

Microelectronics: Smart Factory project authorized by Mise

Selected by EU for the high technological impact in the ambit of the call ECSEL JU 2018, (Electronics Components and Systems for European Leadership), the project represents the bearing pillar of the European industrial strategy in the electronics field.
It is called “MADEin4”, Italian project presented by STMicroelectronics, FCA Italy, Comau, Turin Polytechnics and CNR Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems, which aims at improving the manufacturing productivity, in conformity with the targets established by Industry 4.0 plan, by means of innovative techniques and tools that allow managing and monitoring industrial processes in real time, assuring precision and accuracy in product implementation phases.
For the implementation of this research and development project in the sector of microelectronic productions, the Minister for the Economic Development Giancarlo Giorgetti has then signed the decree that authorizes the Agreement for innovation with Lombardy and Sicily Regions.
Consequently, STMicroelectronics, FCA Italy and Comau will succeed in enhancing not only competitiveness but also efficiency of production systems in the sites of Catania, Agrate (Monza and Brianza) and Grugliasco (Turin), besides granting workers’ employment.
The agreement provides for an overall investment of over 18.7 million Euros, for which Mise allocates 5.6 million Euros in subsidized loans while about 4 million Euros derive from European funding.

Crisis of microchips, what repercussions for automotive and industry?

Everyone deemed it as official news: the shortage of semiconductors is triggering serious problems in the European and United States automotive sector, with consequent delays or even production stops in some factories, including the manufacturing lines of electric vehicles.
Moreover, it seems that in recent months costs have risen for the producers of smartphones and satisfying the demand for even common household appliances, such as refrigerators and microwave ovens, has become difficult.
Let us take a step backward: currently, microchips are fundamental components for manifold products, not only computers, smartphones and electronic devices in general, but also for automotive and the household appliance industry (which, through innovation, have added new sensors, internet connections and other “smart” functions).
The shortage started last December because, owing to the pandemic, a production slowdown and a tiring of global provisioning chains occurred, while simultaneously the demand for electronic appliances (then of microchips) increased, to overcome the forced lockdown at best.
First the automotive industry was struck and it is still the most damaged because necessary microchips are less sophisticated and expensive than those equipping appliances such as smartphones and computers, which benefit from higher margins, too.
In April, Ford shut down six factories in the United States for several weeks owing to the microchip shortage, and also General Motors, Nissan and Stellantis slowed down or interrupted the production. In the household appliance world, the President of Whirlpool in China revealed that in March the company could satisfy 90% of the demand and there is the great fear that the chip famine, with the strict gain margins, the long lifecycles of white goods and the stagnant estate market make the appliance prices soar. A great doubt shared by the automotive industry, too.

The trump card of semiconductors

The choice of semiconductors is a key factor for higher efficiency, comfort and convenience of electric vehicles. Witnessed by 3Ccar (Integrated Components for Complexity Control in affordable electrified cars), project by the Department of Information Engineering of University of Pisa in collaboration with the primary European players in the sectors of semiconductors and automotive, such as Infineon (project leader), NXP, Daimler and BMW.
The project is aimed at developing new technologies to increase electronic cars’ competitiveness on the market and to favour the growth of the electric mobility, in order to decrease polluting emissions decisively and to protect the environment, especially the urban one.
Well, recent news issued by 3Ccar: an after-sale diagnostic system in the automotive sector and technologies based on semiconductors promise a better integration of automotive systems, as well as monitoring and constant updates to avoid failures.
Exactly in line with the target of the university project, then increasing comfort and making electric cars more convenient, while paving the way to connected and automated cars.
«The project – explained Reiner John of Infineon Technologies – coordinator of 3Ccar – has studied three essential components of electric vehicles: the propulsion group, the battery and fuel cell systems and has fully redesigned them to include highly innovative semiconductors able to increase their energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness and reliability. Afterwards, it has connected these components through the functional, thermoelectric, electromechanical, electronic and nanoelectronic integration. Compared to standard battery packs, the 3Ccar system is cheaper along the whole lifecycle because embedded microcontrollers allow each cell to know its present status and to communicate with its colleagues and other car devices. If a problem occurs, the cell simply uncouples from the cluster and the car goes on running».
It is a crucial partitioning to achieve more sturdiness, user-friendliness, higher failure-proof redundancy, cost reduction and simplified maintenance, not depending on suppliers.

Interchangeable batteries? Teaming up for the electric propulsion

In the context of the Paris Agreement on Climate and of the transition towards the electric mobility, three big players have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of a Consortium of Interchangeable Batteries for motorcycles and light electric vehicles. They are Honda, KTM, Piaggio and Yamaha Motor, convinced that a standardized system of interchangeable batteries will enhance the broad use of light electric vehicles and will share in the management of a more sustainable lifecycle management of the batteries used in the transport sector.
The goal of the Consortium, which will start its activities in May 2021, will consist in defining the standardized technical specifications of the interchangeable battery system for vehicles belonging to the “L” category; mopeds, motorcycles, tricycles and quadricycles. The 4 founder members of the Consortium, working with all concerned companies and national, European and international standardization bodies, will be involved in the definition of international technical standards.
“The global electrification effort to reduce CO2 emissions on a planetary scale – declared Noriaki Abe | Managing Officer, Motorcycle Operations, Honda Motor Co., Ltd – is in acceleration phase, especially in Europe. For the widespread adoption of electric motorcycles, problems like the transfer distance and recharge times, must be taken into account, and interchangeable batteries are a promising solution».