Power electronics value chain launched to kick-start robust UK supply chain
- New value chain launch sets to breakdown ‘mystery’ of semiconductor manufacturing
- The UK can achieve manufacturing demands if industry, finance, and government work together
- Availability of semiconductors already posing a problem for UK automotive OEMs
- No UK end-to-end supply chain to meet needs of automotive manufacturing sector
- Electric vehicles use 30% more chips than ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles, meaning shortage will impact on 2030 manufacturing targets
A new report outlining the end-to-end manufacturing process of power electronics in electric vehicles has been launched by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) with an accompanying insight report to put a spotlight on what focus is needed to onshore an end-to-end supply chain in the UK and meet the predicted demand for 2.3 million inverters needed per annum for UK manufactured passenger cars and vans.
Currently, the UK imports most of its semiconductors with key materials and components, from Taiwan and Singapore, and the impact is already being felt in reduced availability which, in recent months, has led to UK automotive manufacturing temporarily shutting down.
Over the past 18 months, parts and component supply issues have hit the automotive sector hard with waiting times for new car delivery currently at an all-time high. The APC’s latest value chain report identifies the process of semiconductor manufacture to stimulate power electronics manufacturing growth in the UK.
Bhavik Shah, Technology Trends Consultant at APC, is keen to point out that by using compound semiconductors, the UK has a real chance of being able to onshore its own robust end-to-end supply chain. He says:
“Semiconductors are a vital part of power electronics, and power electronics are fundamental to electric vehicles, particularly high-power inverters. If we are to meet manufacturing targets of electric-only vehicles on sale post-2030, we need to act now to onshore our supply chain. We are urging industry, government, and the investment community to come together and use this document to anchor the journey to creating a robust UK semiconductor supply chain. We have identified that with a focus on silicon carbide and gallium nitride semiconductors, then we have a credible chance of achieving this. Our message is we can do this, this is how we do this, but we must work together, and we need to act fast. The clock is ticking.”
Silicon Carbide is the preferred front-runner for future electric vehicle power distribution, control, and supply management. It is cost effective when its benefits are applied across the powertrain system, providing power efficiency gains, and reducing the size of motors and the battery pack.
Steve Lambert, Head of Electrification at McLaren Applied, was consulted as part of the value chain project and he welcomes the final report saying:
“The UK is great at the power electronics design level and there is a fantastic opportunity for local manufacturing. The market is healthy and there is demand so we now need to build the capability to do this here by investing in skills and training. The demand is for high-quality, high-performance mid-volume market – high-quality components for niche applications. This is where the UK can succeed. It will give us the differentiated products we need and, as well as providing a reliable supply to the UK-based automotive OEMs, it offers a significant export opportunity.”
APC is already funding two large-scale collaborative R&D projects that shine a light on how to kick-start the supply chain. ‘ESCAPE is a £19 million project led by McLaren Applied and ‘Future BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles)’ is led by BMW. Both collaborative R&D projects are looking to develop silicon carbide inverters and are key to developing opportunities to build capability in the UK supply chain for power electronics with a real-world solution at the core.
The APC’s Technology Trends team have worked closely with key industry and academic stakeholders to ensure the final value chain document accurately reflects key stages of the manufacturing process to support industry and government growth in the supply chain. Mr. Shah added: “The additional insight report details the gaps and opportunities in the UK for compound semiconductor manufacturing and recommends key priorities for the UK to secure its electric vehicle power electronics future. We are incredibly grateful to the sector for inputting into this.”
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