The traditional method of extending electronic devices’ battery life via reducing power consumption and increasing battery capacity has now reached its limits. In response, the fast charging industry is now looking to adopt fast chargers equipped with GaN chips as the latest mainstream solution that can further improve device battery life, with the demand for GaN chips recently seeing a progressive rise as well. At the 2021 Global Third Generation Semiconductor Fast Charging Industry Summit, major Chinese GaN solution supplier Innoscience announced the release of four GaN chips used in fast chargers: INN650D150A, INN650DA150A, INN650D260A, and INN650DA260A. All four chips have a maximum voltage of 650V, while their package dimensions mainly range from DFN 8×8 to DFN 5×6.
Established in 2015, Innoscience specializes in GaN chip design and manufacturing. The company’s GaN on Si process technology makes it one of the leading third-generation semiconductor IDMs in China. As geopolitical tensions escalate between China and the US, accelerating the development of domestic semiconductor supply chains has now become one of the top priorities for China. More specifically, due to the heavy usage of third-generation semiconductors such as SiC and GaN across the telecom, energy, and EV industries, the Chinese government has been aggressively fostering the growth of companies specializing in these semiconductors, with Innoscience becoming one of the leading suppliers chosen by the government.
GaN fast chargers released by Chinese brands at the moment, such as the Meizu GN01 and ROCK RH-PD65W, all feature GaN chips manufactured by Innoscience. Given China’s continued push for domestically manufactured semiconductor substitutes, Innoscience is expected to seize considerable shares in the rapidly growing GaN fast charging market in China.
Navitas and Power Integrations possess the greatest competitive advantages in the global GaN fast charging chip market
Founded in Ireland, IC design company Navitas has seen its GaN chips widely adopted in GaN fast chargers in recent years. For instance, Xiaomi’s 65W GaN charger contains Navitas’ NV6115 and NV6117 GaN chips, while Lenovo’s Thinkplus 65W charger also contains Navitas’ NV6125 GaN chips. At the moment, Navitas solutions are used by major brands including Xiaomi, OPPO, Lenovo, ASUS-Adol, and Dell, as well as by peripheral manufacturers including Anker and Baseus. TrendForce estimates that Navitas GaN chips reached a 50-60% share in the GaN charger market in 2020, making Navitas the largest supplier of GaN charger chips in the world.
Power Integrations, a US-based IDM, specializes in power semiconductor devices and possesses relatively mature GaN chip integration technologies. Power Integrations manufactures products with relatively smaller PCBA dimensions due to their reduced number of discrete components. By adopting Power Integrations’ GaN chips, charger manufacturers are in turn able to reduce the size of their chargers in order to deliver solutions that are more mobile and more convenient, making these chargers a perfect fit for fast charging needs of smartphones and notebook computers.
TrendForce, therefore, holds a positive outlook towards Power Integrations’ future potential. Power Integrations’ GaN chips are primarily used in peripherals manufactured by Aukey, Ugreen, IINE, and Remax, although they will likely enter the smartphone and notebook markets in the future due to Power Integration’s competitive advantage in technological integration.
As the pace of electrification accelerates in the global automotive market, and various governments worldwide implement subsidy policies that encourage consumer EV purchases, sales of new energy vehicles（NEV, which includes BEV/PHEV/FCV）are continuing to rise as well. NEV sales for 2021 are projected to reach 4.35 million units, a 49% increase YoY.
Due to the vast scale of the Chinese market, as well as domestic policies favorable for the growth of BEV/PHEV/FCV, various NEV brands have quickly emerged in China in recent years, such as BYD Auto, Aion（formerly GAC NE）, and BAIC BJEV. At the market’s peak, NEV manufacturers in China once numbered in the hundreds, although that number has since dwindled somewhat, as the intense competition resulted in declining sales and market shares for many automakers, including BAIC and JAC.
Four rising stars among emerging NEV manufacturers in China include NIO, XPeng, Lixian（or Li Auto）, and Weltmeister, all of which have been shipping tens of thousands of mass production vehicles each year. In particular, while NIO, XPeng, and Lixiang registered significant growths in the past few years, Weltmeister also ranked number two in terms of sales in 2019, though it fell to fourth place in 2020 as it delivered fewer vehicles compared to the top three competitors last year.
In light of the aforementioned four automakers’ current expansions, TrendForce has summarized several key aspects of their growths, including the following:
1. Autonomous Driving Technologies: Autonomous driving is not only part and parcel of these automakers’ core competencies but also a reflection of what consumers and investors expect of the automotive industry. In pursuing advanced autonomous driving technologies, the four automakers have been adopting increasingly powerful processors and computing platforms, with Nvidia being the most common partner among emerging NEV manufacturers. Remarkably, XPeng stands out as the only player making a noticeable effort to develop in-house chips.
2. LiDAR: LiDAR is integrated into an increasing number of vehicles in response to the growing demand for advanced self-driving functionalities. Although LiDAR remains out of reach for vehicles in certain price segments, autonomous driving sensors including LiDAR are no longer limited to flagship models since new NEV models’ E/E architectures are expected to be compatible with OTA updates.
LiDAR sensor demand from NEV manufacturers has significantly increased because only by pre-installing hardware ahead of time in their vehicles can automakers enable autonomous driving functionalities as a paid subscription service through OTA updates later on.
3. Battery-swapping: Battery-swapping are relatively attractive for the Chinese NEV industry for several reasons: First, battery-swappable vehicles are excluded from China’s NEV subsidy limits*; second, automakers can now afford to lower the retail price of vehicles by turning batteries into a subscription service; finally, it’s much convenience for driver because battery swapping is faster than battery charging.
For instance, NIO’s entire NEV lineup is compatible with both battery charging and battery swapping. NIO has been pushing its BaaS（battery as a service）and second-gen battery swap stations since 2020. On the other hand, Weltmeister and XPeng are also making their respective battery-swapping strategies.
4. Capacity Expansion and Overseas Strategies: The aforementioned four automakers all place a heavy emphasis on both expanding their production capacities and growing their overseas market shares. Their capacity expansion efforts include building in-house production lines, acquiring other facilities, or jointly funding automotive production with OEMs/ODMs. Regarding overseas expansion, their primary destination is the European market, which is relatively favorable to NEVs.
For instance, NIO and XPeng choose Norway as their first target market in Europe. However, while the European automotive market is conducive to the growth of NEVs in terms of both policies and cultures, competition among automakers is also correspondingly intense. In addition, most European countries prefer either domestic brands or other European brands. Therefore, Chinese automakers must prioritize gaining consumer trust via establishing a trustworthy brand image.
*China’s subsidies for NEV purchases are restricted to NEVs with a retail price of CN¥300,000 and under. However, NEVs with swappable batteries do not fall under this restriction.