Bosch is one of the largest suppliers of components to automobile manufacturers in the world. While many of its products include hardware like ignition coils and fuel injection systems, a big part of its focus is on control systems for anti-lock brakes, dual clutch transmissions, and electric steering systems. As the interest in electric cars continues to rise, Bosch is devoting more resources to designing controls for electric motors, charging systems, and battery management systems.
Bosch manufactures millions of silicon semiconductors a week at its factory in Reutlingen, about 25 miles outside Stuttgart. There, conventional 150 mm and 200 mm silicon discs are converted into semiconductors. Now Bosch has announced it is building a factory in Dresden, where it will use 300 millimeter silicon carbide disks to make a new kind of semiconductor. What’s the big deal? Using larger discs drives down the cost of manufacture and the new chips transmit electricity about 6% more efficiently than conventional chips.
Greater efficiency has several benefits for electric cars. It means a car can travel about 6% further on a single charge. That can make consumers happy — 6% more range means 265 miles for a car currently rated at 250 miles — or it can allow companies to decrease the size of the batteries they need to get the range their cars need to be competitive. Smaller batteries also cost less, which means companies can lower the selling price of their electric cars to boost sales. Greater efficiency means less electricity is lost to heat during charging and driving. Less heat means smaller cooling systems, which can also save manufacturers money.
According to SlashGear, the new silicon carbide semiconductor design has better electrical conductivity than existing chips, thanks to more carbon atoms being packed in during the manufacturing process. That means the electronics can achieve higher switching frequencies while also losing less power in the form of heat.
The new factory in Dresden won’t be churning out those new chips until next year and it will take a year or two for the newly designed chips to begin showing up in production cars. But any improvement that extends range or lowers costs is welcome as the electric car revolution moves forward.