Renesas to buy SiC wafers from Wolfspeed

The Japanese semiconductor company Renesas Electronics and the US silicon carbide specialist Wolfspeed have signed a supply contract for silicon carbide wafers. A down payment of two billion dollars has already changed hands.

Renesas has secured the supply of silicon carbide wafers from Wolfspeed, starting in 2025, for ten years. The partners did not disclose the purchase volume or the total value. However, what is public is that Renesas has made a down payment of two billion dollars and ordered 150- and 200-mm SiC wafers. It also says the “agreement supports adoption of silicon carbide in automotive, industrial and energy markets.” And both sides state that the need for more efficient semiconductors in all automotive and industrial applications is increasing significantly, “spurred by the growth of electric vehicles and renewable energy.”

Renesas Electronics needs the chips, among other things, for a recently announced cooperation with Nidec in the field of electric axles. The duo plans to combine Nidec’s electric motors and components with Renesas’ semiconductor technology. That will create an “X-in-1” system that includes both the electric motor and the power electronics. The companies plan to initially rely on silicon carbide semiconductors and later switch to gallium nitride to reduce the size and cost further. Gallium nitride, like silicon carbide, converts energy more efficiently than conventional silicon-based chips.

But back to the deal with Wolfspeed.

Initially, shipments from 2025 onwards will include the aforementioned 150mm silicon carbide wafers. Once Wolfspeed’s John Palmour Manufacturing Center for silicon carbide (JP) in North Carolina is fully operational, it will also deliver 200-mm specimens to Renesas.

“The wafer supply agreement with Wolfspeed will provide Renesas with a stable, long-term supply base of high-quality silicon carbide wafers. This empowers Renesas to scale our power semiconductor offerings to better serve customers’ vast array of applications,” says Hidetoshi Shibata, president and CEO of Renesas. “We are now poised to elevate ourselves as a key player in the accelerating silicon carbide market.”

Gregg Lowe, president and CEO of Wolfspeed, adds that with the growing demand for silicon carbide in the automotive, industrial and energy sectors, “it’s critically important we have best-in-class power semiconductor customers like Renesas to help lead the global transition from silicon to silicon carbide.” He said Renesas’ 2 billion dollar contribution would help support Wolfspeed’s ongoing capacity-building projects, including completing the “JP” plant in North Carolina.

The multi-billion dollar facility is expected to increase Wolfspeed’s current silicon carbide production capacity at its Durham campus in North Carolina by more than ten times. According to the company, the plant will primarily produce 200mm silicon carbide wafers, which are 1.7 times larger than 150mm wafers.

The result is “more chips per wafer and ultimately, lower device costs”.

Wolfspeed is also planning a production plant for silicon carbide semiconductors in Saarland, Germany, in cooperation with ZF. The highly automated 200-mm wafer plant will be the company’s first production facility in Europe. Wolfspeed and ZF are also jointly tackling the construction of a research and development centre for silicon carbide power electronics in the Nuremberg metropolitan region.,


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