2 February 2023
ZF invests in Wolfspeed to support construction of largest SiC device fab
Wolfspeed Inc of Durham, NC, USA and Germany-based ZF Friedrichshafen AG (one of the world’s largest suppliers to the automotive industry) have announced a strategic partnership that includes the creation of a joint innovation lab to drive advances in silicon carbide (SiC) systems and devices for mobility, industrial and energy applications. The partnership also includes a significant investment by ZF to support the planned construction of the world’s largest 200mm silicon carbide device fabrication plant in Ensdorf, Germany.
Both the joint innovation lab and the Wolfspeed device fab 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,” says ZF’s CEO Dr Holger Klein. “They strengthen European supply resilience and, at the same time, support the European Green Deal and the strategic goals for Europe’s Digital Decade.”
Wolfspeed and ZF partner on 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 will drive improvements such as higher efficiency, increased power density and higher performances for electrification solutions.
ZF to invest in Wolfspeed for next-gen 200mm SiC fab
Wolfspeed plans to construct a fully automated 200mm wafer fabrication facility in Saarland, Germany. ZF intends to support this new construction by making a sizable financial investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for Wolfspeed common stock. As a part of this investment, ZF will have a minority ownership stake in the fab. Wolfspeed will maintain all operational and management control rights. Previously, in November 2019, ZF and Wolfspeed (then called Cree) announced a strategic partnership to create highly efficient electric drivelines with a silicon carbide inverter, 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,” says Wolfspeed’s president & CEO Gregg Lowe. “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,” he adds.
“Together, Wolfspeed and ZF combine expertise in power electronics and systems with a know-how in applications that is unparalleled in the industry,” claims ZF’s board member Stephan von Schuckmann. “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,” he adds. “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.”