Wolfspeed Completes Research to Demonstrate the Superiority of Silicon Carbide for Energy Efficiency


Wolfspeed and the Biophysical Economics Institute (BPEI), a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the natural sciences into economic analysis and decision making, have announced the completion of a pioneering study that demonstrates the superior performance of Silicon carbide vs traditional Silicon semiconductor devices in electric cars.

When Silicon carbide is used in the powertrain of an electric vehicle, it delivers a 13:1 energy savings vs the incremental energy invested, as compared to traditional silicon chips. This significant energy conservation allows for longer range, lighter weight and faster charging – all of which foster lower long-term energy usage and enhanced environmental sustainability.

The study, led by BPEI partner Hedgerow Analysis, uses BPEI’s proprietary Energy Saved on Energy Invested (ESOI) metric, which allows for an apples-to-apples comparison of energy efficiency across applications and industries, taking into account the long lifespan of many advanced technologies. This analysis quantifies the energy saved over an equipment’s life cycle vs. the incremental energy used in its production – with Silicon carbide as an illustrative use case. ESOI, a concept based in the natural sciences, offers corporations, industry organizations and non-profit groups an objective standard, based on measurable energy and material flows, for evaluating the energy efficiency of any technology.

“These methods represent a reliable, rigorous metric to quantify environmental, social and governance benefits,” said Dr Charlie Hall, BPEI board member and co-chair, advisory board. “ESOI-anchored decision making allows us to maximize the potential of our precious natural resources, paving the way for a more effective energy transition.”

Key findings of the Study

  • Replacing Silicon insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) with Silicon carbide metal-oxide semiconductor field effect transistors (MOSFETs) produces substantial energy savings for electric vehicles.
  • The lifetime energy savings from employing Silicon carbide MOSFETs are many times the incremental energy required to produce these devices.
  • The ESOI for 400 V vehicles is approximately 7:1 vs a typical EV sedan (400 V Silicon carbide MOSFET vs 400 V Silicon IGBT).
  • The ESOI of an 800 V Silicon carbide implementation in an EV sedan is 13:1 (800 V Silicon carbide MOSFET vs 400 V Silicon IGBT) – an 85 % increase vs the 400 V Silicon carbide MOSFET, due to reduced chip surface area and corresponding energy invested.
  • The ESOI gain is greater for fleet vehicles, such as taxis and delivery vans, with higher duty cycles.
  • This analysis underscores the potential for large fuel savings based on intelligent location of manufacturing hubs. Wolfspeed’s operations in upstate New York, which offers ample clean energy via hydroelectric power, has the potential to substantially increase the ESOI of this technology.

“We believe the next generation in power semiconductor technology will be driven by Silicon carbide,” said John Palmour, Chief Technology Officer at Wolfspeed. “These study results reinforce the superiority of Silicon carbide and the direct impact a more energy-efficient technology has on the reduction of carbon emissions, which has a positive impact on the environment. As the world shifts to a more sustainable future, it will need efficient materials to power it.”

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