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Infineon to expand share in car market with Dresden fab

26 Sep 2014  | Junko Yoshida

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Automotive chip companies, such as Infineon Technologies, Freescale, STMicroelectronics or NXP Semiconductors, share one common goal these days: Get Renesas and grab major design wins from leading Japanese carmakers like Toyota Motors.

Once impossible, closely working with Japan's leading automakers is fast becoming a reality to some of non-Japanese automotive chip companies, because Renesas—the world's No. 1 automotive chip vendor—has begun losing its grip in recent years.

 Jochen Hanebeck

Jochen Hanebeck at Infineon

Infineon is no exception. Jochen Hanebeck, president of Infineon's automotive division, told EE Times that the German chip company, ranked sixth on the Japanese automotive market in revenue in 2010, has climbed up to third place in 2013.

Infineon, whose focus is on powertrain, safety and body in cars, has a broad automotive product portfolio. It ranges from power to MCUs and sensors. All in all, though, the German chip company is banking on its expertise in MCUs and power semiconductors to expand the company's presence in the global automotive market. Infineon's secret weapon could be its Dresden facility, where the company runs one of the most highly-automated 200mm fabs and bringing its home-grown 300mm "thin" wafers on line in producing power semiconductors.

Infineon's Dresden site offers the industry's first high-volume fab for power semiconductors.

The initial use of the 300mm thin wafers in Dresden will be the production of power semiconductors for home appliances. In several years, though, the same facility will start making power semiconductors for automotive, said Hanebeck.

When asked about the company's plan for silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductors, Infineon said that the SiC development for hybrids and other vehicles with an electrified powertrain is under way at the company's fab in Villach in Austria. For the time being, the company has no plans to make SiC in Dresden.

48V systems proposed to meet CO2 emission goal

Clearly, "semiconductors are indispensable" for future cars to reach CO2 emission target, Hanebeck explained. Features such as dual clutch, tyre pressure and start stop all demand the increased semiconductor content inside a car, which will, in turn, help internal combustion engine cars to reduce CO2 emissions to a certain degree.

Hanebeck explained that when using all the innovative technologies, small cars (with gasoline engine) could realise 90g/km CO2 emission by 2020, meeting Europe's 95g/km CO2 goal.

The bad news, though, is that neither medium nor luxury gasoline engine cars could meet the European CO2 emission target by 2020, he noted.

 CO2 reduction potential

CO2 reduction potential for EU Cars (Source: Infineon)

The question then becomes whether meeting the EU regulations means a majority of EU cars must go electric by 2020.

Infineon believes there is a third way.

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