The United States has lagged behind China and Europe in the production and adoption of electric vehicles, particularly from 2017 to 2020, according to a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation. However, an important piece of the puzzle in which the United States has supremacy is the production of semiconductors, which are used in everything from smartphones to computers to electric vehicles. Now, this could strengthen that grip.
SK Siltron CSS, a unit of South Korean semiconductor wafer maker SK Siltron, on Wednesday announced plans to invest $300 million and create up to 150 skilled, well-paying jobs in Bay County, in Michigan, a few hours north of Detroit, the nation’s premier auto manufacturing haven. The wafer maker already has a presence in nearby Auburn, so the new plant will more than double its workforce. Over the next three years, SK Siltron says its investment will provide advanced materials manufacturing and R&D capabilities for electric vehicles.
SK Siltron CSS managing director Jianwei Dong told Reuters, which first broke the news, that the $300 million investment “would help develop a domestic electric vehicle supply chain based in Michigan, because we have our end customers in nearby communities.”
The new investment comes amid an ever-growing lineup of new electric vehicles and electrification investments from U.S. automakers, including legacy companies General Motors and Ford, as well as Tesla and upstarts such as Rivian.
It also joins the sticky pot of China-US trade wars
China owns the world’s electric vehicle production, producing 44% of all vehicles made from 2010 to 2020, but the United States has stifled semiconductors, consistently preventing China from acquiring other manufacturers of chips. According to the ICCT report, strong policies that invest in electric vehicle production and drive demand have proven successful in China and Europe. The Biden administration’s call for $174 billion in funding to expand electric vehicle subsidies and charging networks could help the country catch up.
“As we move toward a more sustainable future, it’s important that we create strong new supply chains in the United States to support our businesses and the end consumer,” said the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Gina M. Raimondo in a statement. “The automotive industry has a tremendous opportunity with the rise of the electric vehicle, and we are excited to see companies like SK Siltron CSS expand to help support the transition to a green future.
The SK Siltron CSS expansion has yet to be approved by state and local authorities, the company said, although it is unlikely to meet much resistance. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation said the state is trying to attract jobs related to electric vehicles, spending nearly $9 billion in investments over the past two years and creating more than 10,000 jobs for the transition to vehicles. electrical. SK Siltron said that by working with state and local agencies to find employees, 70% will be skilled workers and the rest will be professional engineers.
A wafer is a thin slice of semiconductor used to make integrated circuits, which essentially help make semiconductor chips smaller and faster. The wafer serves as the foundation upon which the rest of the semiconductor is built, making it a crucial ingredient for the entire process. Electric vehicles need semiconductors because they allow batteries to operate at higher voltages, drive the powertrain, and support modern car features such as touchscreen interactivity.
SK Siltron’s insert is made of silicon carbide, which can handle higher powers and conduct heat better than normal silicon, the company says.
“When used in EV system components, this feature can allow more efficient transfer of electricity from the battery to the motor, increasing an EV’s range by 5% to 10%,” the company said. company in a press release.
The wafers can also be used in 5G communications equipment, and Dong told Reuters the company is also considering additional investment.