ZF, Wolfspeed announce new semiconductor partnership

01 February 2023

Wolfspeed, Inc., a global supplier of silicon carbide semiconductors, and global powertrain and mobility specialist ZF have announced a strategic partnership that includes the creation of a joint innovation lab to drive advances in silicon carbide systems and devices for mobility, industrial and energy applications.

Future SIC factory The decommissioned coal-fired power plant in Ensdorf, Saarland, Germany, with a rendering of the planned 200 mm silicon carbide semiconductor factory by Wolfspeed and ZF. (Photo: ZF)

The partnership also includes a significant investment by ZF to support the planned construction of an advanced 200 mm silicon carbide fabrication facility in Ensdorf, Germany. Both the joint innovation lab and the Wolfspeed fabrication site are planned as part of the Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) for Microelectronics and Communication Technologies framework and are dependent upon state aid approval from the European Commission.

“These initiatives are a significant step towards a successful industrial transformation,” said Dr. Holger Klein, CEO of ZF. “They strengthen European supply resilience and, at the same time, support the European Green Deal and the strategic goals for Europe’s Digital Decade.”

Silicon carbide R&D center

The strategic partnership includes a joint research facility in Germany that will focus on real world e-mobility and renewable energy system level challenges. The goal of the collaboration is to develop breakthrough innovations for silicon carbide systems, products, and applications, covering the full value chain from chip to complete systems. Additional collaboration partners will be invited to participate in the innovation process, establishing an end-to-end European silicon carbide innovation network.

The R&D center will focus on innovation for silicon carbide systems and devices to meet specific requirements in all mobility segments including consumer, commercial, agricultural, and industrial vehicles as well as in the industrial and renewable energy markets. The collaboration is intended to drive improvements such as higher efficiency, increased power density and higher performances for electrification solutions.

Advanced fabrication facility in former power plant

In a separate announcement, Wolfspeed said it plans to construct a fully automated, highly advanced 200 mm wafer fabrication facility in Saarland, Germany. ZF intends to support this new construction by making a sizable financial investment in the hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for Wolfspeed common stock. As a part of this investment ZF will have a minority ownership position in the fabrication facility.

Wolfspeed will maintain all operational and management control rights in the new fab. ZF and Wolfspeed previously announced a strategic partnership in 2019 to create industry-leading, highly efficient electric drivelines with silicon carbide inverters, and these new initiatives represent the next generation of innovation for the partners.

“We have a strong partner by our side in ZF, which brings industry-leading experience in scaling components for electric mobility as well as the aptitude to accelerate innovation in silicon carbide systems and power devices,” said Gregg Lowe, president and CEO of Wolfspeed. “I am confident this partnership will lift silicon carbide semiconductor technology to a new level of global impact, supporting increased sustainability and efficiency efforts across a multitude of industries.,” said Gregg Lowe, president and CEO of Wolfspeed.

“Together, Wolfspeed and ZF combine expertise in power electronics and systems with a know-how in applications that is unparalleled in the industry,” said Stephan von Schuckmann, member of the ZF management board. “Wolfspeed brings its more than 35 years in silicon carbide technology, and at ZF we have a unique understanding of the overall systems across all sectors from passenger cars and commercial vehicles to construction machinery, wind power and industrial applications.

“The close cooperation between fab and R&D center will enable us to develop breakthrough innovations beyond state of the art for the benefit of our customers.”

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