Since the 1980s, Toyota collaborated with Denso to conduct research on SiC. In 2014, SiC inverters were installed in Toyota’s Prius and Camry hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) for driving and on-road testing, confirming a 5-10% improvement in energy efficiency. After this successful testing, Toyota adopted SiC in its hydrogen fuel cell buses that were put into formal operation in 2015 and 2018. At that time, the cost of SiC chips was higher than it is now, so Toyota continued to primarily use Si-IGBT inverters in its hybrid vehicle models.
Model 3 SiC Inverter Sparks Toyota’s Concerns About Electrification
In 2017, the Model 3, equipped with SiC inverters, became the best-selling battery electric vehicle (BEV) on the market due to its high performance and long range. It also contributed to the surge of new BEV sales, which exceeded 1.2 million vehicles in 2018. Since then, many automakers have targeted SiC as the basis for next-generation BEV drivetrain systems, while Toyota continued to adhere to its hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) strategies. According to TrendForce, the total new sales of PHEVs and BEVs is estimated to reach approximately 10.63 million vehicles in 2022, while Toyota’s sales in this sub-market are only close to 100,000, accounting for about 1% of the market share, far behind BYD’s 19% and Tesla’s 15%.
In the current EV industry, BEVs and PHEVs have become the mainstream, while HEVs may gradually shrink in the future market. Pressures from the changing market have forced Toyota, which has not fully focused on BEVs and PHEVs in the past, to rethink its overall electrification strategy and accelerate the production capacity and technological layout of key components, such as SiC.
Toyota aims to sell 3.5 million electric vehicles by 2030, and has demonstrated its commitment to electrification through the establishment of a SiC wafer manufacturing technology research company. SiC chips have the potential to improve energy efficiency in electric vehicles, but their high cost is currently a challenge due to low SiC wafer yields in the manufacturing process. QureDA Research’s Dynamic AGE-ing technology could help improve wafer yields and lower chip costs. If successful, this technology, combined with Toyota’s market presence, could enhance the competitiveness of Toyota’s electric vehicles and give them a chance to compete for a leading position in the future electric vehicle market.
（Image credit: Toyota LinkedIn）
The global new energy vehicle (NEV) industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two years, especially in Chinese markets where 6.46 million NEVs were sold in 2022 — an impressive 89.5% YoY growth. The penetration rate of NEVs jumped from 14.3% in 2021 to 25.6% in 2022.
The global automotive MCU industry has also grown hand in hand, largely in part due to the explosive growth of NEVs and their tight supply-demand relationship. In 2022, the global automotive MCU market generated US$8.286 billion in revenue — an 11.4% YoY growth. Looking ahead to 2023, the market is predicted to grow 4.35%, reaching a value estimation of US$8.646 billion as a result of continued market expansion and technological advancements in the NEV industry.
Automotive MCUs to undergo a technological and demand revolution
More advanced NEVs will demand higher processing power from MCUs, requiring them to bear heavier performance loads. Foundries such as NXP, Renesas, and Infineon are working to improve the performance of their automotive MCUs through a two-pronged approach: Upgrading the manufacturing process and testing out new forms of storage to prevent a performance bottleneck.
Demand for automotive MCUs will be significantly boosted in the short term as NEVs become more intelligent, functional, complex, and comfortable. In the long-term, the electrical architecture of NEVs plans to shift from a decentralized to a more centralized design, consolidating multiple functions into one domain controller. While this will increase performance loads for MCUs, it also means a fewer number will be needed.
Chinese automotive MCU market experiences boom as domestic production ramps up in the face of a global shortage
China’s automotive MCU market has rapidly expanded in the past three years due to two factors: First, a global shortage has provided Chinese manufacturers an opportunity to break into the market. Especially since China is the world’s largest producer of NEVs, which translates to a higher demand for MCUs than any other region. In the past year alone, 16 Chinese manufacturers have launched their own MCUs; while some are currently in the certification process, others have already entered production.
Second, in the midst of a domestic production boom, an increasing number of Chinese automakers have switched to using domestic MCUs. Domestic NEVs account for more than half of China’s market share, providing Chinese MCU manufacturers with more opportunities to cooperate with Chinese automakers. A number of Chinese automakers have even begun investing in domestic MCU manufacturers.
Over the past three years, the rapid expansion of China’s automotive MCU industry has helped them gain a competitive edge within the market. In the mid- to long-term, China’s MCU market will continue to grow thanks to ramped up domestic production and a thriving NEV market.
Tesla recently announced that its next-generation EV platform will reflect a 75% reduction in SiC components, though this reduction will be made without compromising vehicle performance and safety. This announcement is one of the very few specific details that Tesla has provided to the public about its plan for the development of its future vehicle models. Therefore, it has also trigger a variety of speculations across the automotive industry. According to TrendForce’s investigation, Tesla does not appear to have much confidence in the stability of the supply chain for SiC components. In the past few years, Tesla has been forced to initiate several recalls for the Model 3. One official reason given for the recalls was that the inverters of some of the Model 3 had power semiconductor components with minor manufacturing differences. As a result, these inverters could malfunction after a period of operation and would not able to perform the regular task of current control. This explanation directly points to a quality issue with the SiC components that Tesla has procured for its vehicles.
Additionally, a production capacity crunch for substrates has been the most significant challenge in the development of the market for SiC components. The major suppliers for SiC components and SiC substrates such as Wolfspeed, Infineon, and STMicroelectronics are currently adding a lot more production capacity. At the same time, Tesla is proceeding with the strategy of diversifying its suppliers for SiC components in order to minimize the risk of disruptions in the supply chain.
SiC components are certainly a key category of automotive electronic components that EV manufacturers like Tesla are going to consider when building their future vehicle models. Therefore, in the context of technological advancements, TrendForce believes that Tesla could adopt a hybrid SiC-Si IGBT package for the inverter of its next-generation EV platform. However, switching to such solution will entail disruptive innovations at the engineering and design levels, so this transition will raise many challenges. Also, regarding SiC MOSFETs that have been a critical part of today’s EVs, TrendForce anticipates that their mainstream structural design will transition from planar to trench. Currently, Infineon, ROHM, and BOSCH are the main suppliers for trench SiC MOSFETs.
On the whole, the hybrid SiC-Si IGBT package and trench SiC MOSFETs are technologies that can substantially reduce the total cost of SiC components for a vehicle. They also reduce the complexity and cost of an entire vehicle platform. These benefits, in turn, can help raise the penetration rate of SiC components in the low-end and midrange segments of the EV market. On the other hand, the widening adoption of SiC components could affect the market share of Si IGBTs.
In the market for automotive SiC components, Tesla has been acting as a major indicator of demand and product development trends. Therefore, the semiconductor industry has been paying close attention to this carmaker’s activities. Since Tesla has so far given very few details about its next-generation EV platform, TrendForce says more observations are needed to determine the reasons behind the reduction in SiC content.
Foxconn (Hong Hai Precision Industry) and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) have agreed to jointly establish an electric vehicle (EV) brand named Ceer. PIF is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and Ceer will operate as a joint venture of the two parties. As the country’s first EV brand, Ceer will target not only the home market but also the wider regional markets of the Middle East and North Africa.
Saudi Arabia represents largest car market in the Middle East. The country’s new car sales totaled 580,000 vehicle units for 2021. This year, however, has seen a decline with the figure for the first three quarters coming to 290,000. Until now, Saudi Arabia has no home-grown car brand, and there is no carmaker indigenous to the Middle East. Presently, Toyota and Hyundai are the two main automotive groups operating in Saudi Arabia. The former’s and latter’s market shares in the country come to 34% and 18% respectively. Also, since Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s major oil producers and has kept gas prices low for its citizens, the conditions of its car market give an absolute advantage to vehicles powered by fossil fuels. Up to recently, Saudis have had no real incentives to invest in the development of electric cars and the build-out of the supporting infrastructure. In terms of “green” offerings, the Saudi car market so far has only received hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) from a few automotive brands (i.e., Toyota, Lexus, and Hyundai). Among countries in the Middle East, Israel is currently the leader with respect to EV availability.
Even though Saudi Arabia continues to build its wealth primarily through the exportation oil, it is now driven by government policies and the momentum of reform to develop a domestic EV industry. For instance, the Saudi government is promoting electrification for at least 30% of the vehicles operating in the country’s capital Riyadh by 2030. However, this target is not mandatory. Turning to the creation of a home-grown EV brand, this joint venture with Foxconn is also among a series of actions taken by the Saudi government to reduce carbon emissions, adopt green energy, and reform the country’s economy. More measures need to be implemented to support the growth of a domestic EV industry. After all, the Saudi Energy Ministry just completed the regulatory framework for EV charging stations this August.
Among EV brands and startups, the most noticeable ones tend to come from the US and China because these two countries are the world’s major car markets and possess enormous domestic demand. On the other hand, opportunities are also brewing for new entrants in the emerging markets that are promoting vehicle electrification. The UAE, for example, has a local EV startup named Al Damani that begun small-scale production this June. TOGG, which is another newly formed company, commenced production on Turkey’s first EV this October.
Commenting on the formation of Ceer, TrendForce said it is very difficult for EV startups to grow their businesses especially if they are operating in countries without an existing automotive industry. Usually, these new companies will have to poach talents from the more established automotive companies and obtain licenses for certain key technologies. Ultimately, they will have to draw enough support from the automotive supply chain in order to have a chance to push their vehicles to the mass production stage. Additionally, while dealing with the complexity of vehicle assembly, startups will have to quickly scale up production in order to control their costs. All of these challenges have to be overcome by rising EV manufacturers that are located in emerging markets.
Total global sales of NEVs (new energy vehicles) for the first three quarters of 2021 (January-September) reached 4.2 million units, with BEVs in particular accounting for 2.92 million units, a 153% YoY growth, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Total sales of PHEVs, on the other hand, reached 1.28 million units, a 135% YoY growth. Compared to the overall automotive market, whose growth has been constrained by the ongoing semiconductor shortage and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales of NEVs still remained relatively strong.
Regarding BEV sales, Tesla comfortably took the leadership position with a 21.5% market share. The automaker’s sales volume for the first three quarters of this year already surpassed its sales volume for 2020. Taking second place on the top 10 list, Wuling Hongguang was able to maintain its high volume of sales due to not only low retail prices, but also a gradual expansion of its target markets from tier-three and tier-four cities to tier-one and tier-two cities in China. This shift would seem to indicate a corresponding expansion of and shift in Wuling Hongguang’s customer base. BYD and Volkswagen took third and fourth places, respectively, with the latter aggressively consolidating its BEV offerings into the ID. Family this year. Vehicles in the ID. Family have accounted for nearly all of Volkswagen’s BEV sales since 3Q21. Despite the rapid growth of the BEV market, competition has been intensifying after traditional automakers began releasing their own BEV models at a faster pace while emerging automakers also began delivering vehicles.
It should be noted that, although the global semiconductor shortage has not damaged the NEV market to the same degree as it did the traditional ICE vehicle market, the NEV market is not entirely immune to the resultant supply-side issues. In addition, China’s power rationing and pandemic-generated transportation/logistics disruptions likewise affected automakers’ manufacturing operations to various degrees. Taken together, these aforementioned factors became some of the underlying causes responsible for the shifts in NEV automakers’ market shares.
Regarding PHEV sales, BYD put up a remarkable performance by leapfrogging to second place in the rankings, and this can primarily be attributed to the release of BYD’s DM-i vehicles, which feature a super hybrid technology aimed at reducing fuel consumption. Thanks to the DM-i vehicles, BYD’s PHEV sales began skyrocketing in 2Q21, and the automaker was able to overtake several European automakers with respect to total PHEV sales for the first nine months of 2021. Much like the BEV market, despite the growths in most automakers’ sales volumes, companies will find it increasingly difficult to raise their PHEV market share.
Looking ahead to the NEV market’s future, TrendForce believes that, as traditional global automakers gradually kick off mass production of vehicles based on the battery electric platform, more and more new BEV models will be released to market at an accelerated pace. Furthermore, the next one to three years will serve as the key timeframe for emerging automakers as well as new entrants that crossed from other industries to achieve mass production. Therefore, there remains much potential for changes to occur within the rankings of NEV automakers’ sales and market shares.
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