Wolfspeed, a leading company in Silicon Carbide technology, has joined forces with ZF in a strategic partnership that involves the creation of a joint innovation lab to develop Silicon Carbide systems and devices for mobility, energy, and industrial applications.
Silicon carbide technology is approaching the electric bus market. An increase in the e-powertrain’s efficiency is the main advantage brought by the adoption of such technology. For instance Yutong and Solaris (even in the latest unveiled Urbino 15 LE Electric) have announced they are using SiC technology at the inverter level.
ZF will also invest in the construction of the world’s most advanced 200mm Silicon Carbide device manufacturing facility in Ensdorf, Germany, as part of the deal. Both the joint innovation lab and the device manufacturing facility are part of the Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) for Microelectronics and Communication Technologies, pending approval from the European Commission.
In late 2022 Wolfspeed also got a $500 million investment from BorgWarner.
ZF – Wolfspeed: also commercial vehicles in the spotlight
The joint research facility in Germany is set to focus on real world e-mobility and renewable energy system level challenges. “The goal of the collaboration is to develop breakthrough innovations for Silicon Carbide systems, products, and applications, covering the full value chain from chip to complete systems. Additional collaboration partners will be invited to participate in the innovation process, establishing an end-to-end European Silicon Carbide innovation network”, partners say.
The R&D center will focus on innovation for Silicon Carbide systems and devices to meet specific requirements in all mobility segments including consumer, commercial, agricultural, and industrial vehicles as well as in the industrial and renewable energy markets.
Wolfeed wafer manufacturing facility gets ZF investment
As separately announced, Wolfspeed plans to construct a fully automated 200mm wafer fabrication facility in Saarland, Germany. ZF intends to support this new construction by making a sizable financial investment in the hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for Wolfspeed common stock. As a part of this investment ZF will have a minority ownership position in the fab. Wolfspeed will maintain all operational and management control rights in the new fab. ZF and Wolfspeed previously announced a strategic partnership in 2019 to create industry-leading, highly efficient electric drivelines with a Silicon Carbide inverter, and these new initiatives represent the next generation of innovation for the partners.
“These initiatives are a significant step towards a successful industrial transformation. They strengthen European supply resilience and, at the same time, support the European Green Deal and the strategic goals for Europe’s Digital Decade,” said Dr. Holger Klein, CEO of ZF.
“We have a strong partner by our side in ZF, which brings industry-leading experience in scaling components for electric mobility as well as the aptitude to accelerate innovation in Silicon Carbide systems and power devices. I am confident this partnership will lift Silicon Carbide semiconductor technology to a new level of global impact, supporting increased sustainability and efficiency efforts across a multitude of industries,” said Gregg Lowe, president and CEO of Wolfspeed.
“Together, Wolfspeed and ZF combine expertise in power electronics and systems with a know-how in applications that is unparalleled in the industry. Wolfspeed brings its more than 35 years in Silicon Carbide technology, and at ZF we have a unique understanding of the overall systems across all sectors from passenger cars and commercial vehicles to construction machinery, wind power and industrial applications. The close cooperation between fab and R&D center will enable us to develop breakthrough innovations beyond state of the art for the benefit of our customers,” says Stephan von Schuckmann, Member of the ZF Board of Management.