General Motors Co. is taking a step toward organizing a network of suppliers capable of feeding material, including silicon, for use in its future battery-electric vehicles.
GM signed what it describes as a “strategic supplier agreement” with Wolfspeed Inc. to develop and provide silicon carbide power device solutions for the automaker’s future electric vehicle programs. The company’s silicon carbide devices are expected to enable GM to install more efficient EV propulsion systems that will extend the range of its rapidly expanding EV portfolio, GM said in a statement.
The silicon carbide will specifically be used in the integrated power electronics contained within GM’s Ultium Drive units in its next-generation EVs, according to GM.
As a part of the agreement, GM will participate in the Wolfspeed Assurance of Supply Program which is intended to secure domestic, sustainable and scalable materials for EV production.
“Our agreement with Wolfspeed represents another step forward in our transition to an all-electric future,” said Shilpan Amin, GM vice president, Global Purchasing and Supply Chain.
“Customers of EVs are looking for greater range, and we see silicon carbide as an essential material in the design of our power electronics to meet customer demand. Working with Wolfspeed will help ensure we can deliver on our vision of an all-electric future.”
Wolfspeed building New York factory
Wolfspeed, formerly Cree Inc., is building a factory outside Utica, New York, which will be ready early next year, which will be the source silicon carbide material.
“Our agreement with GM further demonstrates the automotive industry’s commitment to delivering innovative EV solutions to the market and using the latest advances in power management to improve overall vehicle performance,” said Gregg Lowe, CEO of Wolfspeed.
“This agreement ensures long-term supply of silicon carbide to GM to help them deliver on their promise of an all-electric future,” said Lowe, who two years ago, according to the company’s website, began positioning the company as supplier for the burgeoning market for electric vehicles. The company’s strategy included selling off assets to finance construction of the factory near Utica.
The silicon carbide power devices will be produced at Wolfspeed’s Mohawk Valley fabricating plant in Marcy, New York, which is the world’s largest silicon carbide fabrication facility.
Paul Jacobson, GM’s CFO, said during a recent conference organized by RBC capital, GM was moving to vertically integrating its production of batteries both with closer relations its battery maker, LG Chem subsidiary LG Energy, and other kinds suppliers to protect against shortages such as the dearth of semiconductors that has crippled much of the auto industry this year.
Tesla’s strategy praised
Just this week, Adam Jonas, the lead automotive analyst for Morgan Stanley, observed Tesla’s ability to fashion its own chips allowed it to produce more sophisticated vehicles and to set a production record during the third quarter.
Jonas points out that Tesla’s in-house development allows it to produce vehicles that are much more sophisticated than those using run-of-the-mill chips and parts that are shared by most automakers.
Lowe said the widespread adoption of silicon carbide as an industry standard semiconductor for transportation supports the automotive industry’s rapid transition to clean energy vehicles. The material enables greater system efficiencies that result in longer EV range while lowering weight and conserving space, he said.