Power Electronics

Demand for Power Semiconductors in the Automotive Industry Strengthens

Environmental regulations, the electrification of the powertrain, the need for efficient power management and the availability of new safety features are driving the global power semiconductor market in the automotive industry. The popularity of electric vehicles, which have a larger content for power semiconductors, is fueling installations. On the other hand, new trends like the idling-stop system will boost the use of semiconductor content within traditional fuel-based vehicles.

Recent analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Analysis of Global Power Semiconductors Market in the Automotive Industry, finds that the market earned revenue of $2.81 billion in 2012 and estimates this to reach $5.28 billion in 2018. Insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBT) and metal oxide semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) are chief contributors to revenues, and are replacing traditional solutions such as bipolar junction transistors and thyristors. Asia-Pacific and Europe will be key regions for market growth.

Rising incomes of the middle class in countries like India, China and Brazil have ignited vehicle sales, thereby spurring the need for power semiconductors used in these vehicles.

"Consumers are shying away from traditional gas guzzling automotives, preferring fuel-efficient vehicles due to the escalating costs of fuel," said Frost & Sullivan Measurement and Instrumentation Program Manager Aravind Seshagiri. "This has increased the deployment of power semiconductors in existing powertrain and engine control systems, as original equipment manufacturers look to improve performance and lower fuel consumption."

Stringent emission norms and mileage regulations have opened up opportunities for power saving chips. Emphasis on reducing switching losses for IGBT and switching on power requirements for MOSFETs in automotive environments where losses are induced by high temperature and electromagnetic interference, adds to the adoption of power semiconductors.

Although, while demand has gone up, it does not remain constant, making it difficult for semiconductor manufacturers to keep up with the steep variation. Moreover, it is hard to accurately forecast demand due to diverse consumer requirements. As a result, market needs are not completely addressed, thus lowering revenues. The lack of technical advancements in the field of power semiconductors has further slowed market expansion.

"With little technological progress in the power components sector, power semiconductor application areas are likely to be taken over by integrated circuits, especially in electric vehicles," noted Seshagiri. "New technologies like silicon carbide-based power electronics will also be key focus areas for innovation."

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