STMicroelectronics, a global semiconductor leader that serves clients across a wide range of electronics industry applications, has won a contract to supply silicon carbide (SiC) power electronics to Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, operating as an alliance, for the next generation of advanced onboard chargers in their upcoming electric vehicles (EVs).
What is Silicon Carbide (SiC)?
SiC is a high-performance power-semiconductor technology containing silicon and carbon that offers a whole host of exciting prospects for smart and sustainable mobility. It occurs in nature, albeit extremely rarely, as a mineral moissanite, and has been mass-produced synthetically since 1893 when it was used as an abrasive.
High energy efficiency, great temperature performance, inherent reliability, and the overall small size of STM's SiC electronic components make use in EVs the most attractive application for them.
More Compact and Efficient On-Board Chargers
Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi has plans to use these SiC power electronics to build more company and efficient high-power onboard chargers that will cut battery charging time, increase driving range, and make EVs an overall more attractive alternative for consumers.
Slow charging time is a major bugbear for current owners of electric vehicles, with many consumers commenting that the standard six-to-twelve-hour charging time and relatively short driving range, particularly in EVs at the latter end of the charging time spectrum, is not good enough—it is thought that this is one of the main reasons why many are hesitant to make the switch from conventional cars to battery-powered alternatives.
The Renault ZOE. An EV that, with ST's SiC power semiconductors, can recharge in only one hour. Image credit: Renault UK.
Onboard chargers are different, however. These are used in EVs to facilitate charging from roadside charge points where a driver's own, home-based charging system is unavailable. The time it takes the vehicle to recharge at these locations is determined by on-board chargers' power ratings. Current EVs have an on-board charging power rating of 3kW – 9kW.
“As the pioneer and global leader in zero-emission electric vehicles, our objective remains to be the number one provider of mainstream mass-market and affordable EVs around the world…. The small size, lightweight, and high energy efficiency we can achieve using ST’s SiC technology in our OBC, combined with the increased battery efficiency, will enable us to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles by reducing charging times and extend the range of our EVs.”
As the "pioneer" of EVs, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi has already created a 22kW on-board charger for the Renault ZOE, a model that can recharge fully in around one hour.
By using STM's SiC power semiconductors in upgraded onboard chargers, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi can, in theory, further reduce metrics such as weight, size, and cost while boosting energy efficiency, driving range, and cutting charge times.
They will also give EV designers more freedom to style and optimize their vehicles.
STMicroelectronics is a French-Italian global semiconductor leader that delivers intelligent, energy-efficient products that power consumer, commercial, and industrial products. It is Europe's largest semiconductor chip maker based on its revenues that surpassed 9 billion in 2018.